Windows Update keeps changing in Windows 10. Gone are the days when users could block security patches and driver updates. Microsoft has simplified and automated the Windows Update process at the expense of transparency.
We highlight what has changed in Windows Update, explain how it works now, and how you can still customize it to your needs.
What’s New in Windows Update in Windows 10
In Windows 10, updates are mandatory and more automated than in previous Windows versions. With the Spring Creators Update (version 1803, to roll out in April 2018), Microsoft is introducing several updates to Windows Update.
Faster Feature Updates
In 2017, the average installation of Windows 10 feature updates took over an hour. Installing the Windows 10 Creators Update (version 1703) took around 82 minutes. Microsoft has been working on cutting down that “offline time”. For the Fall Creators Update (version 1709), they had already slashed it to 51 minutes on average.
For the upcoming Spring Creators Update (version 1803), Microsoft promises that your fresh Windows installation will be back up and running in no less than 30 minutes.
How do they do it? Many steps required to install updates, which used to interrupt the installation and thus increase your PC’s offline time, will now happen in the background while you’re using Windows. For example, Windows will prepare your content for migration and place the new OS into a temporary working directory before it reboots to install updates.
Should you notice a performance drop prior to the installation of an update, this may be why.
With Windows 10 version 1803, Windows Update will be able to delay Sleep mode for up to two hours. In other words, Windows Update will continue to download updates if the computer is in AC power and not in active use. This means you’ll receive your updates sooner and with less hassle.
New Windows Update Troubleshooter
This isn’t directly related to Windows Update on Windows 10. However, in case Windows Update is not working for you, try this new Windows Update troubleshooter, which Microsoft released earlier this year.
Windows 10 Standards
Some Windows 10 editions include the option to defer upgrades for a limited time. Security updates, however, are excluded from this option; everyone receives them automatically.
Meanwhile, Windows 10 Home users have to accept all updates and upgrades that Windows downloads and installs in the background, often combined with a scheduled reboot. Security patches, new features, and settings changes are force-fed alike, some bordering on bloat and adware. The only time when updates won’t auto-download is when the device is on a metered connection.
In many ways, Windows Update is now easier to use and safer for the average person. Unless a user is willing and able to use advanced tools, they won’t miss another security update. From the safety perspective, automated updates are a blessing. On the other hand, users are at the mercy of Microsoft, a company not exactly known for never messing up.
Let’s see how you can make the best of it.
The Windows Update Basics
Windows Update can work entirely in the background. It will only require your attention when it’s time to reboot. With the right settings, however, you won’t even notice that anymore.
How to Check for Updates
To review your Windows Update settings, head to Settings (Windows key + I) > Update & Security > Windows Update. Click Check for updates to see which updates are currently available.
You might come to this screen and see updates waiting to be installed. That’s because Windows regularly checks for updates in the background. Click the Restart Now button when you’re ready to apply the updates and expect to wait for half an hour or more before your computer is available again.
Change Active Hours
The Active Hours feature lets you define up to 18 hours during which Windows Update won’t run. On the Windows Update screen, click Change active hours and make your selection.
This is the closest that Home users will get to stopping Windows Update, short of using a metered connection or disabling their computer’s internet access.
Customize When and How Updates Will Be Installed
Under Advanced options, you can customize how updates are installed. Previously, Windows 10 offered a Notify to schedule restart option in this window.
Windows will now default to your inactive hours to install updates and restart, though it won’t force-restart your computer while you’re working on it. Instead, it will show a reminder when it’s going to restart. We recommend turning On the option to see more notifications about restarting.
You can also enable Windows Update to Automatically download updates, even over metered data connections. Though, we recommend you keep this setting switched Off.
The option to Give me updates for other Microsoft products when I update Windows lets you receive updates for Microsoft applications you have installed, such as Microsoft Office or Edge.
Manually Start and Schedule Updates
When you manually trigger the installation of an update (from Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update), you can either let Windows schedule a restart during a time you usually don’t use your device or select a restart time yourself. You can schedule the reboot up to 6 days in the future. Of course, you can also click Restart now to be done with it immediately.
Note that even if you manually schedule a restart time, Windows won’t force reboot when it turns out you’re busy using your computer at the selected time. It will offer to delay the restart by what it estimates to be the best time.
How to Pause and Defer Feature Updates
The option to defer Windows 10 updates is no longer available through Windows Update. Instead, you will see an option to Pause Updates. Go to Windows Update > Advanced options to turn this option On and pause updates for up to seven days.
Control Windows Update With the Group Policy Editor
Users of Windows 10 Pro, Education, and Enterprise can use the Local Group Policy Editor (LGPE) to finetune Windows Update and defer feature updates.
Windows Update for Business
Go to Windows Search (Windows key + Q) and type gpedit.msc, then select Edit group policy from the results. Inside the Local Group Policy Editor, browse to Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Update > Windows Update for Business and double-click the Select when Feature Updates are received entry.
This setting allows you to defer updates for up to 365 days. Pausing or delaying updates is useful in case an upgrade is known to cause issues or has caused you issues and forced you to recover your system (see the section on how to uninstall updates below).
The other policy in this folder allows you to Select when Quality Updates are received.
Jumping back one step, browse the Windows Update folder in the LGPE and notice the following options:
- Allow non-administrators to receive update notifications: this setting will allow those users “to install all optional, recommended, and important content for which they have received a notification.” Note that if you enable this option, standard users will not only receive Windows Update notifications, they also won’t need elevated permissions to install most updates.
- Always automatically restart at the scheduled time: this sounds like how Windows Update used to operate. It will force a restart, giving the user between 15 to 180 minutes (depending on how you set it up) to save their work.
- Configure Automatic Updates: this LGPE item represents a set of features that used to be available through Windows Update. You can let Windows notify you about available downloads, then install automatically or download automatically and notify you about the installation or download automatically and let you schedule the installation. Finally, you can allow the local admin to choose the setting, which should return the option to the Settings app.
- Do not include drivers with Windows Updates: this option lets you exclude driver updates from Windows Update.
- Remove access to use all Windows Update features: here we essentially have the opposite to the first setting in this list. Enable this to prevent non-administrative users from scanning, downloading, or installing updates.
How to Uninstall Windows Updates
You cannot prevent the installation of certain updates and due to the way Microsoft now delivers updates, it has also become close to impossible to remove individual updates. But you still have some options.
Use Recovery Options
Should a feature update have gone terribly wrong, you can undo that installation. Go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > View update history > Recovery options. Here you can Go back to the previous version of Windows 10.
Note that you only have 10 days to restore your previous installation. If you wait any longer, Windows will delete the backup files stored under Windows.old and you won’t be able to go back.
Outdated: Uninstall Updates via the Control Panel
The option to uninstall updates via the Control Panel is being deprecated. While you will still find the option under Settings > Updates & Security > Windows Update > Advanced options > View your update history when you choose the option to Uninstall updates, which will open a Control Panel window, the list will be bare and you won’t find an Uninstall button, even after selecting updates.
The screenshot above shows what this option used to look like. But since Microsoft no longer offers separate update files, you can no longer uninstall them individually.
Show or Hide Driver Updates Troubleshooter
In addition to replacing updated drivers via the Device Manager or uninstalling recent updates via the Control Panel, Microsoft has also released a troubleshooter that allows you to hide driver updates and thus prevent Windows from reinstalling them until a revised version becomes available.
Download the troubleshooter wushowhide.diagcab from Microsoft; it’s a standalone application, no installation required. From the initial screen click Next.
The troubleshooter will now detect problems and look for driver updates installed on your system. On the following screen, you can either choose to Hide updates or Show hidden updates.
Click Hide updates, select the offending update/s, and click Next to resolve the issue.
To restore an update, select Show hidden updates from the respective screen, select the hidden update, and click Next.
The troubleshooter will do its magic and you should finally see a confirmation that problems were resolved.
Windows Update Network Settings
In Windows 10, Windows Update offers easy to manage network-related settings that you should examine to avoid exceeding your bandwidth limit or incurring extra charges on a mobile data plan.
Set Windows Update Delivery Optimization (WUDO)
The settings under Windows Update Delivery Optimization (WUDO) let you give Windows permission to download updates from other PCs; either anywhere on the internet, which preserves Microsoft server capacity, or on your local network. The first option could potentially be abused to introduce altered updates. When limiting downloads to devices within your local network, however, you can potentially lighten the load on your own internet bandwidth.
You’ll find this option under Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Advanced options > Delivery Optimization. If you have multiple Windows 10 PCs on your network, it makes sense to allow downloads from PCs on your local network.
Limit the Bandwidth Available to Windows Update
If you want to save even more bandwidth, click on Advanced options from the Delivery Optimization page. Here you’ll find options to limit how much bandwidth Windows can use while downloading or uploading updates. While you can set a monthly upload limit (when sharing updates with other PCs), Windows won’t let you set a download limit. If you stay with default settings, Windows will dynamically optimize the bandwidth allocated to Windows Update.
Set Up a Metered Connection
On Windows 10, Windows Update won’t run if you’re on a metered connection. To ensure Windows won’t waste your limited bandwidth, open Settings > Network & internet > Wi-Fi, connect to the metered connection, maybe a Wi-Fi hotspot you’re tethering from your mobile, then select the network, and toggle Set as metered connection to On.
Now Windows 10 won’t download updates while you’re connected to this network.
Enable System Restore
Uninstalling and hiding troublesome updates may not be sufficient. If you can’t risk being surprised by a faulty update, we strongly recommend enabling System Restore. In case an update didn’t go so smoothly, you will be able to simply roll back to when everything was OK.
Go to Windows Search, type system restore, and select Create a restore point. An old-fashioned System Properties window will launch. In the System Protection tab, select your system drive, and click Configure… In the new window, select Turn on system protection, define the Max Usage space you can dedicate, and click OK to save your changes.
Back in the previous window, you can now manually Create… your first restore point. Windows will now create new restore points whenever your system goes through changes, which includes the installation of security and feature updates.
Ready to Update?
For control freaks, Windows Update is a nightmare. For everyone else, it’s a case of “out of sight, out of mind.” Designed to operate in the background, Windows Update automatically keeps your system safe and running smoothly.