Patch Tuesday alert: Get your system locked down.

With all the problems we’re having, the last thing you need is a bum patch throwing your system (or your family's systems) for a loop. Take a couple of minutes right now and make sure you have Windows automatic updating set to pause. Tell your friends, too.

patch on top of Windows logo
Thinkstock/Microsoft

Patch Tuesday arrives tomorrow, April 14, later in the month than usual. Microsoft has had a truly wretched series of patches going out the chute on Patch Tuesdays. 

In spite of what you’ve read and all those Chicken Little cries of impending doom, we haven’t seen a single bonafide emergency security patch in more than a year.

To be sure, we’ve seen a bunch of dire warnings that simply never came true. We've also seen more than our fair share of buggy patches. Don't believe it? Here’s a detailed list going back almost three years.

We see the same pattern, over and over again. Microsoft releases patches that aren’t adequately tested. Screams of pain ensue. Microsoft fixes some of the patches, doesn’t fix others. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. 

There's a simple solution. Just avoid knee-jerk automatic updating, wait, and see what happens while crowdsourced beta testing runs its course.

You have to patch sooner or later. But it’s foolish to put yourself in the front lines.

Blocking automatic update on Win7 and 8.1

Those who paid for Win7 Extended Security Updates should be cautious about installing patches immediately. Those who didn’t will either ignore the patches (large majority there), or wait to see if free alternatives appear — and 0patch has filled in several cracks. We’ll be covering both intently on AskWoody.com.

If you’re using Windows 7 or 8.1, click Start > Control Panel > System and Security. Under Windows Update, click the "Turn automatic updating on or off" link. Click the "Change Settings" link on the left. Verify that you have Important Updates set to "Never check for updates (not recommended)" and click OK.

Blocking automatic update on Windows 10

By now, almost all of you are on Win10 version 1903 or 1909. Not sure which version of Win10 you’re running? Down in the Search box, near the Start button, type winver, then click Run command. The version number appears on the second line.

If you’re using Win10 1803 or 1809, I strongly urge you to move on to Win10 version 1909. If you insist on sticking with Win10 1809 (hard to blame ya!), you can block updates by following the steps in December’s Patch Tuesday warning. Be acutely aware of the fact that Microsoft won’t be handing out any more security patches for 1809 Home or Pro after the May Patch Tuesday. One month to go.

In version 1903 or 1909 (either Home, Pro, Education or Enterprise, unless you’re attached to an update server), using an administrator account, click Start > Settings > Update & Security. If your Updates paused timer is set before May 4 (see screenshot), I urge you to click Resume Updates and let the automatic updater kick in — and do it now, before noon in Redmond on Tuesday, when the Patch Tuesday patches get released.

1909 pause updates to 5 4 20 Woody Leonhard/IDG

If Pause is set to expire before the end of April, or if you don’t have a Pause in effect, you should set up a patching defense perimeter that keeps patches off your machine for the rest of this month. Using that administrators account, click the Pause updates for 7 days button, then click it again and again, if necessary, until you’re paused out into late April or early May.

If you see an Optional update available (you can see one in the screenshot), DON’T click Download and install. You’ll be bit by those bugs soon enough.

Don’t be spooked. Don’t be stampeded. And don’t install any patches that require you to click “Download and install now.” 

If there are any immediate widespread problems protected by this month’s Patch Tuesday — a rare occurrence, but it does happen — we’ll let you know here, and at AskWoody.com, in very short order. Otherwise, sit back and watch while our usual monthly crowdsourced patch watch proceeds. Let’s see what problems arise.

We’re at MS-DEFCON 2 on AskWoody.

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