Check to make sure you have Windows updates paused

Patch Tuesday is here. While we aren’t expecting any big surprises, it would behoove you to ensure that Windows has been set to wait until the dust clears. Yes, you have to patch eventually. No, you don’t have to patch immediately.

Broken window with Windows 10 logo

With everything else you have on your work-from-home plate, the last thing you need is a surprise patch that doesn’t … quite … work … right. Spare yourself the drama, and sit on the sidelines while we all crowdsource patch beta testing. 

We haven’t seen one, single emergency patch in well over a year. Contrariwise, every month, we see odd reports of problems — some of them quite obscure, some of the head-whackingly simple. You might get bit. You might not. But why take the risk?

In spite of the glittery headlines and frantic cries of impending doom, you don’t need to patch right away. Make Windows hold off for a bit, and wait to see what mayhem ensues.

General, if unofficial, consensus says that Microsoft won’t release its next version of Windows, Win10 version 2004 (or 20H1 or May 2020 Update) until later in the month. We’ll stumble across that bridge when we come to it. In the interim, get updates locked down and go back to whatever counts as “normal” in your life.

Tell your friends to batten down the hatches, too.

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

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 the 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 warningMicrosoft has officially extended support for Win10 version 1809 Pro, Home and Education until Nov. 10, so you still have some life left. Still, the writing's on the wall. 

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 June 8 (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 6 8 20 Woody Leonhard/IDG

If Pause is set to expire before the end of May, 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 early June. (Note that the next Patch Tuesday falls on June 9.)

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. Fortunately, this should be the last time you ever seen one of those "optional, non-security, C/D Week" disasters-waiting-to-happen.

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

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, 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.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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