With Windows 10, Microsoft introduced the concept of automatic updates.
Prior to Windows 10 you had the choice of how updates were applied.
- Notify if there is a new update but leave it for the user to apply manually.
- Don't check for updates
This gave Microsoft support problems as everyone had different versions of
patches applied. They got tired of sorting out user problems for which they had
already released a patch, so they simply removed options 2 and 3.
In theory this means that everyone is running with the same patch levels
which, again in theory, is a good thing. In practice it doesn't work because
there are ways round this and it only annoys the user because Microsoft has
implemented it so badly.
During the patch process many modules are replaced but some of these
modules may be in use (resident parts of the kernel operating system loaded into
memory). To get round this, the new version of a module is installed with a
different name and a rename task is scheduled to run during the boot process.
This renames the versions, deletes itself and restarts the boot process. So
the update normally requires a reboot to complete the process. If the boot
process was quick, as Microsoft likes to pretend, this wouldn't matter, but on
some PCs the boot process can take 5 minutes or more. Dowloading updates is
heavily reliant on fast Internet access, which at peak times can introduce further
Microsoft have made things worse by the system not properly indicating what
is happening. At some stages you get messages that a process is happening and
that you should wait, but at other times you get plain screens, blank screens or
nothing at all, the PC just freezes for minutes at a time.
It is all very well putting a message on the screen "Update in progress. Wait. Do
not switch off", but what are you supposed to do if that message has been sitting
on the screen for two hours with nothing happening. Sometimes you can tell
from a flashing LED that something is going on, but it might be stuck in a loop.
What is needed is a box listing the current process and a progress bar for ALL
stages of the update.
It is very annoying when you need to use your PC for something urgent and
when you switch on you find it is running like a dog and it takes 40 minutes and
several boots before you can get to use YOUR OWN COMPUTER.
Because Windows update is a lengthy process in terms of downloading the
new modules, Microsoft do the downloading of the update in the background. The
idea being that it uses spare capacity and does not impact the user, who can continue
working as normal while the download completes. In practice the computer slows
to a crawl and sometimes even hangs for minutes at a time, with no indication of
why. One soon learns to recognise the symptoms that an update is being downloaded
in the background. At this stage it is better to stop using the computer and find
something else to do and just let it get on with it. The problem is that downloading
is an intensive process which adds extra requests to the Internet connection and disk
server queues. The system can also get interlocks between applications that take
time to resolve. If you have an urgent need to use your computer on Patch Tuesday
and find that instead of booting, the PC is busy downloading patches you can get control
back by turning off your Internet connection (Airplane mode, unplug the LAN, turn off the
router). If you need the Internet yourself you can restore connection once the boot
Another problem is that Microsoft are prone to releasing patches with bugs
in, even on occasions resulting in a system that won't boot.
regularly advise to hold off on updates until patches are known to be safe to apply.
They use a DEFCOM system to indicate whether it is safe to apply patches or not.
When a new major release is due, but some might chose all patches, it is advisable to pause
updates on the Monday before Patch Tuesday. Windows Secrets will be indicating
DEFCON=2. To pause updates see below. At the end of the week you can check back
with Windows Secrets to find out what problems have been discovered. Follow their advice
as to whether to resume updates or delay them further.
Microsoft do test their patches on a range of machines and if there are
problems with particular hardware will hold off roll out for that hardware. This
sometimes applies to their own machines which hardly inspires confidence.
So how can you regain control of your system? It does depend on your
of Windows 10. The easiest is with the Group Policy editor but this is not
available on Windows home so on that edition your options are more limited.
To temporarily disable automatic updates on Windows 10 Home
Use these steps:
- Open Settings.
- Click on Update & Security.
- Click on Windows Update.
- Click the Advanced options button.
- Under the "Pause updates" sections, use the Pause until drop-down menu,
and select how long to disable automatic updates.
The exact menu options depend on your version of Windows 10. Microsoft
are always changing things. Later updates of Windows have an option "pause for
seven days" without a choice of time period.
This web page has a guide to control the update process. The
site is annoying in that it has adverts popping up all over the place which need
shutting down or scrolling out of the way. If you have an ad-blocker this
9th June 2020