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It’s happened to all Windows users. You’re using your computer and Windows decides you need to reboot, hassling you with pop-ups that continue to bug you all day long. If you step away from your computer and miss the pop-up, Windows will automatically reboot your computer. You may come back to your computer and find that all your open programs are gone, as Windows decided to reboot without your permission. This can be maddening.

There’s a good reason for rebooting after updates, as rebooting ensures that security updates actually take effect. But Microsoft has gone too far — they shouldn’t be hassling Windows users and rebooting their computers without  permission. Windows 8 handles these forced restarts with a longer grace period, but still pesters you and eventually reboots your computer automatically.

Disable Forced Restarts With a Registry Hack

You can prevent these automatic restarts from happening by performing a quick registry hack What Is The Windows Registry Editor & How Do I Use It? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is The Windows Registry Editor & How Do I Use It? [MakeUseOf Explains] The Windows registry can be scary at first glance. It’s a place where power users can change a wide variety of settings that aren’t exposed elsewhere. If you’re searching for how to change something in... Read More . This trick will work on all versions of Windows 8, Windows 7 DOWNLOAD The Ultimate Windows 7 Guide DOWNLOAD The Ultimate Windows 7 Guide Read More , Windows Vista, and even Windows XP. Windows will update normally if you perform this trick, but will not automatically reboot when you’re logged into your computer. You should still reboot after an update, but you can do it on your own schedule.

First, you’ll need to open the Registry Editor. Press Windows Key + R to open the Run dialog, type regedit into it, and press Enter.

open-registry-editor

When the registry editor appears, navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate\AU registry key.

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You’ll likely find that the last two parts of the key — the WindowsUpdate\AU parts — don’t yet exist. You’ll need to create them yourself.

To do so, right-click the Windows key, point to New, and select Key. Type WindowsUpdate and press Enter. Then, right-click the WindowsUpdate key, point to New, and select Key. Type AU and press Enter. This will create the correct registry key structure.

prevent-updates-from-rebooting-windows

With the AU key selected in the left pane, right-click in the right pane, point to New, and select DWORD (32-bit) value. Type NoAutoRebootWithLoggedOnUsers and press Enter to name the new value.

create-noautorebootwithloggedonusers

Double-click the value you just created and type 1 into its value data box. You can then click OK — you’re done in the registry.

stop-windows-from-automatically-rebooting

You can now reboot your computer and your policy changes will take effect. However, you probably don’t want to reboot your computer! Luckily, you can make these changes take effect without rebooting.

First, open a Command Prompt window as Administrator. On Windows 8, press Windows Key + X and select Command Prompt (Admin). On Windows 7, open the Start menu, search for Command Prompt, right-click the Command Prompt shortcut, and select Run as Administrator.

open-command-prompt-as-administator

Run the following command to make your changes take effect immediately:

gpupdate /force

apply-group-policy-changes-without-rebooting

Disable Forced Restarts With Group Policy

If you have Professional, Ultimate, or Enterprise version of Windows, you can make this tweak in an easier way. Most Windows users won’t have this option and will have to use the registry-editing method above. Both of these tweaks work in the same way, but the group policy editor is a bit more user-friendly.

First, open the Local Group Policy Editor. Press Windows Key + R to open the Run dialog, type gpedit.msc into the dialog box, and press Enter to open it.

open-local-group-policy-editor-gpedit.msc

Navigate to the following folder in the left pane: Computer Configuration\Administrator Templates\Windows Components\Windows Update

group-policy-prevent-updates-from-rebooting-windows

In the right pane, double-click the “No auto-restart with logged on users for scheduled automatic update installations” setting. Set the setting to Enabled and click OK.

no-auto-restart-with-logged-on-users-for-scheduled-automatic-update-installations

After changing this setting, either reboot your computer or run the gpupdate /force command in the way we mentioned above.

Manually Install Windows Updates

Rather than using the Windows registry or Group Policy, there’s a low-tech way to prevent updates from automatically rebooting your computer. All you have to do is change your Windows Update settings Windows Update: Everything You Need To Know Windows Update: Everything You Need To Know Is Windows Update enabled on your PC? Windows Update protects you from security vulnerabilities by keeping Windows, Internet Explorer, and Microsoft Office up-to-date with the latest security patches and bug fixes. Read More . Simply open the Windows Update control panel window and set Windows to “Download updates but let me choose whether to install them.”

Windows will inform you of updates via a system tray icon and notification bubble. When you’re ready to install them, you can click the icon and have Windows install them — they should install fairly quickly, as Windows will download them in the background ahead of time. When the updates are done installing, you’ll be prompted to reboot.

With this method of installing updates, you can have Windows install only updates when you’re actually ready to reboot your computer. If you see the update notification, you can ignore it until you’re ready to reboot — Windows won’t automatically install the updates and start nagging you or restart your computer without your permission.

download-updates-but-let-me-choose-whether-to-install-them

Why Microsoft Made This So Hard

Unfortunately, Microsoft doesn’t make this easy — in fact, they buried this option deep in the registry and group policy editor where only Windows system administrators will normally be able to find it. The automatic-rebooting “feature” was added to Windows XP in the darkest days of Windows security, and Microsoft was desperate to ensure people who installed updates rebooted quickly so more nasty worms like Blaster and Sasser A Brief History Of The 5 Worst Computer Viruses Of All Time A Brief History Of The 5 Worst Computer Viruses Of All Time The word "virus" and its association with computers was affixed by American computer scientist Frederick Cohen who used it to describe "a program that can 'infect' other programs by modifying them to include a possibly... Read More wouldn’t spread. We live in a different world these days, and Windows is secure enough that we can afford to wait a bit before rebooting if we’re in the middle of using our computers.

Microsoft attempted to make this less of a hassle with Windows 8, but they didn’t go far enough as Windows 8 will still automatically reboot your computer. At the very least, this setting should be much easier to change.

This isn’t the only headache in Windows, either. To make Windows hassle you less, consult our guide to getting rid of other Windows annoyances 10 Windows Annoyances You Could Rid Yourself Of Right Now 10 Windows Annoyances You Could Rid Yourself Of Right Now We make do with Windows, but it isn’t perfect. In fact, Windows computers can be extremely annoying. They’re full of all sorts of annoying features that just get in our way and slow us down,... Read More .

Image Credit: Pete on Flickr

  1. Kaz Vorpal
    September 19, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    The registry key seems to no longer work with Windows 10, and the option is missing from the Update control panel.

    Yet another in a long list of reasons Windows 10 isn't worth the slight gain in features.

  2. BonziBuddy
    July 11, 2016 at 6:56 pm

    Test to make sure this is a real comment section

  3. Kris
    April 14, 2016 at 8:03 am

    Great article and found it immensely useful. The only criticism I have is that you mentioned the easier method for doing this for Ultimate users deep down in your article AFTER you went through the step by step for non-Ultimate users.

    So of course I went through the step by step, editing the registry and was all done when I came to the instructions for Ultimate users. Just a tip - Perhaps put a link, or at least a short note at the top of your article as most Ultimate users will have done the first instructions before seeing that!!!

    Anyhow, sill, brilliant method, thanks so much. I lost a lot of work last night written in several unsaved notepads and determined not for it to happen again.

  4. Cesar Fallaria
    August 21, 2015 at 11:52 am

    Thank you! This method works in my Windows 10 Pro. God bless sir!

    • Cesar Fallaria
      August 21, 2015 at 11:57 am

      When the registry editor appears, navigate to the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate\AU registry key. (If you can't navigate it or if does not exist, create it.)

      To do so, right-click the Windows key, point to New, and select Key. Type WindowsUpdate and press Enter. Then, right-click the WindowsUpdate key, point to New, and select Key. Type AU and press Enter. This will create the correct registry key structure.

      Note: Read and follow the instructions above to avoid any error afterwards...

  5. Christopher Luther
    July 16, 2015 at 9:47 am

    It is absolutely *moronic* that this is not a setting accessible from the Windows Update GUI on 7 Home Premium (computer was a gift to me and I WOULD NOT and WILL NOT "upgrade" to 8).

    Thank you for the help! I prefer to download updates automatically, but Windows 7 has restarted my computer with absolutely no prompting whatsoever TWICE on me before my eyes, ruining work and a video game session.

  6. Makak
    April 28, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    In my case, I keep hitting that postpone option until Windows (Win7 Enterprise) finally does a forced reboot - but it saves the current state and opens up all my emails and applications after re-starting. Is there a way to do that kind of reboot manually? If so, I'd have no problem rebooting!

  7. John
    April 15, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    Credit for my previous post goes to KYLE POTT, From Lifehack dot com.

  8. John
    April 15, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    Thanks Chris. I did everything you suggested, however still had the annoying reminder popup.
    I found this, open admin cmd and type "sc stop wuauserv" without quotes. and hit enter.
    This instantly removes the popup, for how long I don't know, and will you have to do this after each new start of your system I don't know yet.
    I keep a folder on my DT with notes labeled with various commands so it's easy to just right-click/rename, copy/paste.

  9. Paige
    March 17, 2015 at 3:19 am

    I followed these instructions and the computer shut down anyway and now won't come on at all. someone please help!

  10. Mike S.
    March 14, 2015 at 10:45 am

    This helped me a lot.
    Other instructions didn't include the gpupdate /force step, and instructed me to reboot, the exact thing I was attempting to prevent as I backed everything up to my external hard drive.

    Thank you!

  11. Chris K.
    March 6, 2015 at 11:17 pm

    All methods that Chris Hoffman explains, work like a champ. It is only the users like "Mark" above who should not attempt registry editing, because THEY DON'T READ INSTRUCTIONS IN THEIR ENTIRETY". These are the people you find in forums everywhere complaining about one thing or another that doesn't work.

    There, that's my 2¢ worth!

  12. Jasmine
    February 15, 2015 at 1:58 am

    I just followed your steps and wanted to say thank you, as this post seems to be timeless. I wasn't interested in shutting down the updates altogether, but the forced restart is AGGRESSIVELY obnoxious (and never ever comes at a convenient time like the middle of the night while I'm not using my device. Almost seems like they wait for me to get started on something before *bloop* update popup. Ugh, I digress). Anyway, following your register instructions to the tee was pretty straightforward and my computer did not brick :) Thank you again!

  13. Mark
    February 14, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    No such registry folder as WindowsUpdate in that location on my machine - Windows 8.1 64-bit

  14. Rodrigo
    January 31, 2015 at 1:13 pm

    Thank you, I've lost so much work because of this and now it's gone. Thank you, really!!!

  15. Rush
    January 15, 2015 at 9:12 am

    It literally shut down my game in the middle of me playing and I lost all progress, as the popup was obviously missed running in the background of the game. Awesome. Hopefully this stops that!

  16. gary
    December 12, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    To say I Hate windows auto update would be an understatement. I could be in the middle of a presentation and suddenly that abusive popup. It was like mommy telling you it was bed time or something in the middle of a great movie. The nerve of Microsoft to force anyone to do anything with their property. Can we be treated like adults? Thank you!

    • Cami
      December 14, 2014 at 10:08 am

      That was totally in my thoughts too! And I lose my s*** every time it updates on its own.

  17. rony009
    May 6, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    Hey i have faced the same problem but i resolved the problem with the help of this link..
    http://www.microsoftsupportchat.com/blog/post/Disable-Automatic-Forced-Restart-After-Windows-Update-Windows8-Home-Edition/

  18. Frank P
    February 13, 2014 at 9:25 am

    I'm glad that you added the manual update option, not everyone can fork out gigs of data to update their machines.

  19. Bob
    February 5, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Thank you for the Group Policy method. It led to me change something else that had been bugging me.

  20. Chuck Babbage
    January 8, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    This is not advice to be followed or to be given out lightly in a forum like Make Use Of and the author should have consider the serious problems editing the Register can cause before writing an article like this.

    Editing the Register is not for the unknowing and Microsoft makes this difficult and cryptic for a reason. One can do a lot of damage and make their computer completely unusable if they make even a simple error in editing the Register.

    This is not "hipster hacking" like applying a filter to your Instagram snaps. Editing the Register in Windows can and will cause a lot of problems if done wrong.

    • grandad
      January 8, 2014 at 6:14 pm

      Editing the Registry is simple and straightforward. Just exercise great care when doing so! What is missing here is instructions (or at least a reference) to backing up and/or restoring the Registry.

  21. Jo-anne P
    January 8, 2014 at 8:45 am

    You are a god, thank you so much for this done and brilliant. Thanks

  22. NOT Chris Hoffman
    January 8, 2014 at 2:59 am

    "Disable windows updates" says every malware creator everywhere! Does ANYONE ever think before taking this advice?!!

    • grandad
      January 8, 2014 at 6:10 pm

      You are NOT being advised to disable Windows updates but to manually install them. This is sound advice as it is best to wait and see what problems show on the web. Microsoft are not infallible and serious side effects can occur. Of course, if you are not disciplined enough to monitor blogs etc and do the installs, then continue to allow automatic updates.

    • lol3r1986
      March 14, 2015 at 10:49 am

      He said to change how it works not to completly disable it. He asks you to change the update method to: "Download but let me chose when to install". This is by no way disabling. Read carefully and with understanding.

  23. AriesWarlock
    January 7, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    Thanks, this is useful. Now, anybody knows how to stop a windows 8 PC to wake up from sleep?? It tends to wake up automatically at 3 A.M.

    • Gordon Hay
      January 8, 2014 at 11:02 am

      This is the automatic maintenance function starting - the default setting is for 0300 hrs and to wake the computer if necessary. To change this go to the Action Centre and expand the Maintenance tab, click on change settings then either choose a different time (when your computer will normally be in use) or un-check the "wake computer" box.

    • AriesWarlock
      January 8, 2014 at 10:27 pm

      Thanks Gordon Hay, I did that before but didn't work. I found the answer here
      http://superuser.com/questions/497500/disable-automatic-maintenance-in-windows-8

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