Windows Update keeps your system patched and safe.
In Windows 10, however, Microsoft also uses Windows Update to deploy undesired feature updates and major upgrades to the operating system. This can overburden limited Internet connections because Windows Update will download gigabytes of data. Since updates are applied automatically, restarts could also strike at inconvenient times.
Learning how to manage Windows Update will put you in control of your updates. Here we have compiled all of the hidden settings and tweaks that can help you keep interruptions, and surprising changes caused by Windows Update, at bay.
Tip: Update to Windows 10 Pro
Several of the tips below are not available to Windows 10 Home users. If at all possible, upgrade to Windows 10 Pro because it offers additional features in regards to controlling Windows Update. You can buy the upgrade or apply an existing Windows 7 or 8 Pro product key to your current Windows 10 Home installation. Unfortunately, Windows 10 Pro is not a free upgrade.
As an intermediary step, given you’re running Windows 10 version 1511 (November Update), you can use Microsoft’s free product key for upgrading to Windows 10 Pro to quickly go from Home to Pro edition. However, this still requires proper activation, for example with a Windows 7 Pro key.
If you’d like to try that, here is Microsoft’s Windows 10 Pro key:
Head to Settings (Windows key + I) > Update & security > Activation > Change product key and enter the key above.
Keep Windows Update Under Control
1. Save Bandwidth on Metered Connections
Here is an easy method to block all updates while you’re on a metered connection. It’s available to any Windows 10 users (including Home edition users), who are connecting to the Internet through a wireless connection. This tweak does not work if you’re hooked up to an Ethernet cable. You can only apply the setting while you are connected to the respective wireless network.
Head to Settings > Network & Internet > Wi-Fi, select the network you’re currently connected to, and under Metered connection > Set as metered connection turn the switch On.
Note: While you’re on a metered connection, Windows Update won’t download any updates, including security patches! You can, however, go to Windows Update and manually start the download and installation.
2. Get Notified Before Updates Are Downloaded
You can make Windows 10 notify you when updates are available and manually trigger the download. This helps users with a low bandwidth or limited Internet connection. Unfortunately, this trick only works if you have access to the Group Policy Editor, which excludes Home users.
Press the Start button, type Edit Group Policy, and open the respective result. Now head to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Update and open Configure Automatic Updates. Enable the setting and under Configure automatic updating, choose 2 – Notify for download and notify for install.
The next time updates are available, you will see a notification in the Action Center that You need some updates. Selecting the message will take you to Windows Update, where you have to click the Download button to initiate the update process.
Note: Enabling this setting will disable some options under Windows Update in the Settings app, such as Notify to download (mentioned below).
This method was originally reported by Anand of The Windows Club.
3. Delay Upgrades Until They Are Safe
The defer upgrades option is great, if you only want to opt out of feature upgrades. It won’t affect security updates. However, after the grace period, the deferred upgrades will be deployed automatically. This option is not available to users of the Home edition.
To enable this, open Settings > Update & security > Windows Update > Advanced options and set a check mark next to Defer upgrades.
To determine for how long the upgrades will be deferred, you’ll have to head into the Group Policy Editor (see above). Inside the editor, head to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Update and open the setting Defer Upgrades and Updates.
When this setting is Enabled, you can set the time for which upgrades (max. 8 months) and updates (max. 4 weeks) should be deferred. You can also Pause Upgrades and Updates. You should only ever defer (security) updates, when you can’t risk Patch Tuesday to interrupt or jeopardize an important project. But always be aware that catching malware could be worse.
4a. Time Installation of Updates (November Update)
Once Windows Update has downloaded new material, it’s a matter of hours until you have to restart and let Windows apply the updates. If you’re running Windows 10 version 1511, you can Select a restart time, while you’re still working.
We highly recommend that you choose Notify to schedule restart under Windows Update > Advanced options, so that Windows won’t try to determine the best time to restart on its own. Otherwise, you could find Windows caught in what might appear to be an infinite update cycle as you return from your lunch break.
4b. Block Updates During Active Hours (Anniversary Update)
Users who are running the Windows 10 Insider Preview or the upcoming Anniversary Update can set active hours during which Windows Update will be blocked from restarting the device. The option is available under Windows Update > Change active hours.
Note: You are limited to a range of 10 hours.
5. Completely Disable Updates
As a last resort, here’s the one method that will really turn off updates, either completely or until you reboot your computer. It’s available in all editions of Windows 10.
Go to Start, type Administrative Tools, and open the matching result. Open Services > Windows Update. Below Service status, click Stop to shut down Windows Update until you reboot. Under Startup type, you can select Disabled to prevent it from booting with Windows.
Remember to turn updates back on as soon as possible or proceed to manually install security updates, for example using Portable Update.
Block Troublesome Driver Updates
Starting with Windows 10, Windows Update also handles driver updates. These updates can be particularly fragile because Microsoft only deploys standard drivers. Those drivers may break your individual settings or introduce problems, although the manufacturer version worked perfectly fine. You can troubleshoot and block driver updates that have gone awry using Microsoft’s Show or Hide Updates Troubleshooter (direct download).
You can also manually roll back damaging driver updates, install new drivers, and block future driver updates, as we’ve covered in detail in our Windows 10 Driver Update guide.
Disable Automatic Windows Store App Updates
Not too long ago we published a lengthy tutorial on how to disable automatic updates for Windows Store apps. Shortly after, Microsoft made this option very simple for users of the Pro edition of Windows 10 (see above for upgrade tips); we updated the article.
Briefly, as a Windows 10 Pro users, you can launch the Windows Store, click your Profile, choose Settings, and turn Update apps automatically Off.
To manually trigger updates, go to Profile > Download and updates, press the Check for updates button, and after the scan has completed click Update all or update individual apps by clicking the download arrow to their far right.
Choosing not to update Windows Store apps doesn’t have any security implications because these applications run in a sandbox that restricts interaction with the rest of the operating system. By sticking with an old version, however, you might miss out on bug fixes or new features.
A New Windows Update Is Coming Soon
The Windows 10 update mania is a blessing as much as it is a curse. On the one hand, Microsoft can constantly improve the operating system and bless users with new options and features to play with. On the other, updates may also have undesired consequences or remove old features you appreciated.
Are you prepared for the next Windows Update? What has been your most troublesome Windows Update experience so far? Would you turn off feature updates selectively, if this was possible?