Show of hands if this has happened to you: You step away from the computer for a little while, and when you come back, all your windows and work are gone. Why? Because Windows downloaded some updates and took it upon itself to reboot without your permission.
Gah! This happened to me just yesterday, and I lost some in-progress work as a result. (Note to Microsoft: beyond inexcusable, guys. Beyond inexcusable.)
Actually, I'd instructed the Windows Update pop-up to postpone rebooting for four hours--and just happened to be away from the PC when that timer ran out. Unlucky me.
There's a ridiculously easy fix for this, and I'm kicking myself for not applying it sooner. If you've been plagued by the same problem, here's what you need to do:
1. In Vista, click Start, type Windows Update, and then hit Enter. In XP, head to the Control Panel and seek out Windows Update.
2. Click the Change Settings option at left. (That's where it appears in Vista; not entirely sure about XP.)
3. Change the setting to Download updates but let me choose whether to install them.
4. Click OK.
That's all there is to it. Windows may still nag you about installing updates, but at least it won't reboot without your permission.