How To Disable Forced Restarts After A Windows Update

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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. This trick will work on all versions of Windows 8, Windows 7, 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. 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 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.

Image Credit: Pete on Flickr

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Comments (27)
  • Cesar Fallaria

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

    • Cesar Fallaria

      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…

  • Christopher Luther

    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.

  • Makak

    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!

  • John

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

  • John

    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.

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Affiliate Disclamer

This review may contain affiliate links, which pays us a small compensation if you do decide to make a purchase based on our recommendation. Our judgement is in no way biased, and our recommendations are always based on the merits of the items.

For more details, please read our disclosure.