2 ways to control Windows 10 automatic updates

Windows 10 updates whether you want it to or not…unless you know the trick.

An up-to-date PC is less vulnerable to attack, so Windows automatic updates are generally a good thing. But sometimes an update will make things worse, rendering a PC problematic, or even unusable until the problem is solved.

That’s why some people prefer to hold off on a update until other people have tried it without disaster. But this requires you to take time out of your day to keep up on the news about Windows updates (a Google News alert can help).

If you’re using Windows 10, you’ve got another problem: It won’t let you turn off automatic updates. Luckily, there are two workarounds.

But if you chose to use one of these tricks, remember to follow the update news. 

Change the Group Policy

If you have a Professional, Enterprise, or Education edition of Windows 10, you can turn off automatic updates. But the option is hidden. Here's what to do in version 1703, if you have a later version of Windows 10 these settings still apply, but the wording is slightly different.

  • Press Win-R, type gpedit.msc, press Enter. This brings up the Local Group Policy Editor.
  • Navigate the left pane as if it were File Explorer to
    Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Update > Defer Updates.
  • Choose Select when Feature Updates are received.
grouppolicy1703 IDG

Group Policy editor in Windows 10 1703.

  • In the resulting dialog box, select Enabled.
  • In the Options box, type in how many days you'd like to pause updates and then in the next field type in today's date.
  • Click Apply and then OK
grouppolicyfeatureupdates IDG

Pausing feature updates in Windows 10.

If you want to you can repeat this process for the second setting in Group Policy named Select when Quality Updates are received. Keep in mind, however, that quality updates include security updates and skipping them is not the best idea. On the upside, security updates are cumulative meaning if you do skip these updates, you can download the next one and be up to date.

Microsoft doesn't like it when people pause updates, and even using Group Policy you can pause updates for only about 30-35 days, depending on the version of Windows 10 you're using.

The metered network trick

If you’ve got the plain old Home version of Windows 10, you can stop some automatic updates by lying to your operating system. (Morally speaking, this doesn’t bother us a bit.)

In older versions of Windows 10 this only works with a Wi-Fi network, but in version 1703 and later ethernet connections can take part as well.

The trick is to tell Windows that you have a metered connection to the Internet—one that can only download so many bits per month without increasing your ISP bill. Microsoft says doing this means "some updates for Windows won't be installed automatically" and some apps may not work as expected.

meteredconnection IDG

Setting a metered connection in Windows 10.

To tell Windows that you have a metered connection (whether you do or not):

  1. Select Start > Settings > Network & Internet.
  2. Select the Wi-Fi or Ethernet tab in the left pane depending on the connection type you want to change. 
  3. In the main pane, select the name of your connection.
  4. On the next screen turn on Metered connection.

You should do this for any network you use, because the setting is set on a per-network basis.

You have two ways to update manually: You can turn off the metered connection option. Or you can simply use another network to trigger the updates.

This article originally published as an Answer Line column by Lincoln Spector on July 18, 2016.

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