How can I disable ALL auto updates for ALL applications?

Chaitu Singams May 26, 2012
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I’m setting up a TruConnect 3G mobile internet on my laptop so that I can check email from anywhere. I have free WiFi at school, and I went with TruConnect because it’s cheap and I only need it for emergency backup when I’m not on campus.

Thing is, it’s $5 a month and 4 cents per megabyte–which, at 3G speeds, can cost me up to $7 a minute in the minute it takes me to turn 3G on, check my email, and shut it down again. I already set up one of my browsers to not display pictures and other bandwidth hogs, but what I’m worried about is applications deciding to download updates.

I don’t want to shut automatic updates down completely. I still want them to download while I’m on the school WiFi. I just want to ban them from using 3G. If I have to click a button every day to “check for all updates to all applications,” that’s fine. I just don’t want to update them one by one by one.

Is there an easy way to do that?

  1. Robert "Ruedii"
    May 28, 2012 at 8:06 am

    Windows updates settings can be set in your control panel under security settings.

    Each application should have it's settings under it's various preferences. Remember to set the plugins as well.

    You can one by one find them, using Windows Firewall, by setting it to block and alert you to attempted outgoing connections. However, this is a very slow and annoying method. This will also not block programs that are suppose to access the Internet.

    It's been a while since I've configured Windows Firewall manually, but I believe you can block a program from accessing the internet through one device, but allow it access through another. (For instance it can gain access to WiFi but not 3G). I must, however warn you about running updates over unencrypted public WiFi. If the update program is not written properly, this is a sure-fire invitation for hackers.

    As of where to manually set the plugins: Java is in your control panel. I believe Silverlight is updated by Windows update, and Flash is updated by it's own program.

  2. Laga Mahesa
    May 28, 2012 at 7:53 am

    I've got two possible solutions for you, but both require you to identify update URLs or file extensions / filename patterns.

    1) Use an automatic proxy configuration file. If it works, this would be ideal as you can just set it and leave it - it will not take effect on your WIFI if you've edited properly. Download this sample [Broken Link Removed] I just banged together, and edit according to your needs. You'll need to add entries for the aforementioned update URLs and filetypes. Save it somewhere convenient (ie, C:\), then go to "Internet Options", "Connections", "LAN settings". Near the top you'll see a checkbox labeled "Use automatic configuration script" (tick it) and a white box: in here, type "file://C:/proxy.pac" without the quotes. Of course, change that to wherever you placed the file. Now do this for all your browsers - IE is the usual gateway for Windows software regarding updates and general internet connectivity.

    2) Use a free local proxy which you can enable/disable at will that can also block specific patterns. My personal preference is Proxomitron.

    As Bruce and Oron said, you're highly unlikely to catch them all, but hopefully you can minimize the pain this way.

  3. Oron
    May 26, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Bruce's answer is fairly complete. The problem is that each application has its own mechanism for a) checking for updates and b) downloading them, so there's no single mechanism for stopping them.
    For most people, the biggest automatic updates are Windows updates and Google Chrome. Follow Bruce's instructions for Windows updates. For Chrome, run Services.msc and change the "startup type" of the "Google Update Service" (there are three with very similar names) from "Automatic" to "Manual". This will prevent automatic update of Chrome, so remember to check for updates manually every month!

  4. Bruce Epper
    May 26, 2012 at 1:26 am

    Most desktop apps will only check for updates when you launch them. Others like Chrome will do it any time it feels like it. There may be system services you can disable (or set to manual) to keep them from updating (this should apply to Chrome). The Apple Updater for Quicktime/Safari/iTunes will check for updates, but prompts you to install them. The Windows Automatic Updates (available thru Control Panel) can be changed to check for updates automatically but let the user decide to download and install them.

    With Windows, there is not an easy way to check for updates for all applications through what amounts to a single point of contact.

    Another possibility is to change your firewall settings to deny outbound traffic through your 3G modem for anything except HTTP/HTTPS, POP3, SMTP, DNS. This will stop any applications that do their updating through any other ports, but it will not block those that use HTTP/HTTPS (that list is growing every day) from their automatic update patterns.