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How to Stop Windows from Automatically Downloading and Installing Updates

Arsen Karapetyan

I’ve been seeing a lot of people complaining about how they can’t update their Windows 10 OS, and it got me wondering: why would anyone want to stop automatic updates? It turns out there are many reasons for opting to keep manual updates on, but the best reason is probably that you have zero control over what updates will be installed on your computer.

In this post I’ll show you how to turn off automatic Windows 10 updates and take back some control. You might also be interested in my previous post about Windows 10 privacy settings.

What automatic Windows 10 updates do

While the option is there to turn off automatic updates in Windows 10, the feature can be quite useful for some people. For one, if you’re running a test version of Windows 10, then you might want to opt-in to the anti-virus and security updates that Microsoft provides. That way you’ll always have the latest security patch installed on your computer, which will keep it protected from malware and other cyber criminals. On top of that, installing updates means no more waiting for someone else to deploy an update on your machine. Once it’s been downloaded, you’ll enjoy the security and stability that comes with being kept up to date.

Windows 10 shines when you update whenever you want

On the other hand, there are plenty of people who dislike automatic updates in Windows 10. Maybe you don’t like being tethered to Microsoft for updates, or maybe you don’t like having all your software and programs get updated without your consent. Regardless of why, there are some things that can be done about it. Let’s look at how to turn off automatic Windows 10 updates right now before we continue:

Turn off automatic updates from Settings > Update & security > Windows Update (see screenshot below).

I’ve been using Windows 10 Home Edition, and I know that some of the advanced settings are hidden, so you may not be able to access these options unless you use Windows 10 Pro or Enterprise.

If you can’t find the option in the Windows Update settings window (shown above), then the automatic update feature might be enabled. Go to Control Panel > System and Security > Security and Maintenance, then click on Change Settings under Important Updates.

Alternatively, you could watch the video above for a more advanced method.

You might have to wait a few minutes for these changes to take effect.

Want to completely disable Windows 10 updates?

If you’re still feeling antsy about the idea of disabling Windows 10 updates, you can completely disable them by using an update called GWX. Click here to learn more about it. If this is what you want to do, I suggest waiting until official patch day when Microsoft has had a chance to properly test and roll out the patches. I’ve seen a lot of bad reports from people who accidentally tinker with Windows 10 settings that get reverted to default at some point during the day (like my previous post on how to take back control over your privacy settings). Nothing good will come from that, so be prepared for that possibility before proceeding.

And now that you’re all set about how to turn off automatic Windows 10 updates, let’s look at why you should consider doing so.

Why some people want to turn off automatic Windows 10 updates

There are many reasons why a person may want to disable automatic Windows 10 updates: lack of control over the process, a concern over how the software will be updated, or just pure laziness. I can see all of these being valid reasons for quitting that pesky “update now” notification from coming up every day.

Don’t want Windows 10 to update itself?

Here are the reasons why you should consider opting out.

  1. Updates will break your system

You might like the idea of not having to worry about updating your Windows 10 machine regularly, but there’s a lot that goes into each update. The updates have been tested for security holes by people who know what they’re doing, and they have a long-term plan in place for keeping software updated no matter how many versions of Windows 10 are released down the line. If something goes wrong with an update, it’s up to the people who manage Windows 10 on your computer to fix it.

You might not have other ways of getting security patches for Windows, but there are a lot of people who don’t accept that Microsoft is the only game in town for keeping their systems secure. I know for a fact that some people run Linux on their computers and have no problems with updates.

  1. Updates don’t improve performance or battery life

There are plenty of PC users out there who aren’t satisfied with how Windows 10 performs. You can run it just fine, but I’m guessing you don’t like learning about performance settings that Microsoft has chosen to keep hidden in the Settings application. If you want to turn them off and leave Windows 10 alone, you should do so without making changes like this:

The Windows 10 Performance tab in Settings (left) vs. System Settings > Advanced system settings > Performance (right)

You should never remove or disable any core Windows 10 functionality unless you know what you’re doing. It won’t solve your problems and it could affect your device in a negative way. One thing to remember is that these built-in features help keep your system secure while at the same time improving performance. If you’re running into issues like crashing apps or slow system performance, then it might be time to call Microsoft.

  1. Automatic updates can cause unexpected reboots or lockups

One of the reasons most users have an automatic update turned on is so that the operating system will keep itself up-to-date and secure. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would rather not be bothered by the “updates available” pop-up notification every day, but an update is not going to magically fix your problems. Sometimes, a Windows 10 update will do more harm than good in your situation, and no amount of warnings from Microsoft will help with this particular situation.

If you’re dealing with a Windows 10 update that seems to be causing issues, it could be time to file an official complaint. It might take a few days or a couple of weeks for Microsoft to get back to you, but it’s worth taking the time to give your feedback if you feel like we’ve made a mistake with the update.

  1. Some users can’t get an automatic Windows update installed in Safe Mode

This is the most frustrating bit about having automatic updates turned on: sometimes they don’t work in Safe Mode. Sometimes they work in Safe Mode, but most of the time they don’t work at all. This happens even if you do a manual download and install of an update.

It looks like several users have been experiencing this issue, but I can’t find any reliable information on how to fix it. In the meantime, be sure to turn off your automatic updates while you’re in Safe Mode and make sure that the updates work for the rest of your day or week. Just be careful that you don’t reboot into Safe Mode when it’s not needed; doing so will just leave problems with Windows 10 reinstalled on your computer.

  1. You can’t get updates through Windows Update in Safe Mode

This is another one that I keep running into, and it’s a pain. If you go into Safe Mode with a non-working Internet connection, or if you’ve downloaded and installed an update in Safe Mode, Windows Update will not offer to install any more updates. This is probably the most aggravating issue for those of us on the bleeding edge: when you run an update in Safe Mode, Microsoft still thinks that the computer is perfectly fine and doesn’t even check your internet connection. To avoid this issue, do all of your updates while connected to a working Internet connection. You can still go into Safe Mode for other reasons (e.g. if your PC just won’t load when you boot it), but not for this one.

Updates can be delayed for a variety of reasons. The update process is quite slow, so if there are 20,000 Windows Updates in the queue that have to be installed, it will take some time (sometimes several hours). If you haven’t rebooted your Windows PC in 24 hours, then the updates may be stuck in the queuing process or something else may have prevented the updates from being installed. In this case, go into Safe Mode and see if that helps. If not, follow the instructions here again and try again later. It’s frustrating, but I really don’t think that waiting around for the next Windows Update is going to get anyone anywhere.

  1. You don’t need McAfee or other antivirus/security software (or it has caused problems)

If you dislike McAfee and don’t want it installed on your computer (or you think that the malware protection is bad), then you should consider turning off automatic updates. For me, I like McAfee VirusScan. I got it to help keep my computer secure, and have had no issues with it so far. It works when I need it to, so I’m not sure why some people have problems with it. The only reason that I can think of is that there are some viruses around in the Internet today. It’s not a guarantee against everything, but it’ll come in handy when you need its help.

The same goes for the other software that comes with Windows 10, like Windows Defender antivirus (which is great to have) and various other system security programs. If you don’t like the way that they work on your computer, then simply turn them off and keep things simple. For example, I have no use for Microsoft Edge browser or Cortana. I could go into the Settings app, turn them off, and not have to deal with any hassles. For now, I’ve left them on, but there are no notifications for updates.

  1. You don’t need Windows Defender or Windows Firewall (or don’t want to let them run in the background)

If you don’t have Microsoft Edge browser or Cortana enabled on your computer and you don’t see any need for these features, then you might want to disable the antivirus software that comes with Windows 10 (like Microsoft Defender) and Windows Firewall. This gives you a more streamlined experience without all of the extra background processes running. I like to leave Windows Firewall on because I don’t trust software that has a reputation for not installing the latest patches.

It’s a fair request to ask Microsoft to offer better security for its products, but I would be surprised if they could deliver it with few problems. Keep in mind that this is just my opinion, but I think that people who have had issues with Windows 10 updates should take the time to disable all of the features and services that they don’t need. That might mean turning off updates entirely, removing all of the antivirus programs from their computers, and uninstalling Edge or Cortana (there are plenty of healthy alternatives).

Keep in mind that turning off updates also (and sometimes especially) affects some Microsoft software. For example, Microsoft Office 365 and Windows Store apps will not work on computers with automatic updates turned off. If you have a subscription to Office 365 and need to access the software online, then you’re stuck. I know this is frustrating for some people, but I think that turning off all of the Windows 10 features until it’s time to upgrade is a reasonable request.

  1. You have a slow or old computer (or you have a lot of things installed on your computer)

If your PC is older or you have an underpowered machine, then automatic Windows updates may not be the best idea for you. Everything in Windows 10 has been optimized to work with your system and the software as-is should be pretty fast and responsive. However, if you’re using a computer that’s running on an older version of Windows (Windows XP, if I had to guess), then it might run into issues when Microsoft releases new versions of its software. In this case, turning off automatic updates might solve some performance issues that keep coming up.

If your computer is older, then you might consider doing a clean install of Windows 10 instead. If you’re on an old PC with a lot of apps already installed, then it can become problematic to get everything updated at once. You can also run into issues if you have software that refuses to work with the latest version of Windows. In these cases, simply wait until the updates are released and let them all work together as they should.

  1. You don’t want to use personalization features

Microsoft has put a lot of effort into personalizing Windows 10 for each user. These are some great features that allow the operating system to learn every day about what you like and how you use it. However, if you don’t want this to happen or don’t feel like it’s right for your PC, then you can disable these features. For example, you might not want Windows 10 to track your activity on the computer and use this information to generate personalized suggestions or advertisements.

Microsoft knows that some people won’t be happy with this trend, but there’s no way to turn off all of the personality of Windows 10. However, if you would rather not have a lot of personalization included in Windows 10, then an automatic update might cause problems with the OS. For example, you might install a new version of Windows 10 on your PC, but you won’t like the way that Microsoft has added new personality features to its operating system. If the update is automatically installed, then it will happen without any discussion.

  1. You can’t find some Windows 10 features after updating

There are several new features in Windows 10 at this time. Some of these features have been taken away (search for “Settings” in the Start menu to see if it’s still there). For those of you who are not happy with the overall feel of Windows 10 (or you’re having performance issues), then I would suggest turning off automatic updates for about a week or two. This will allow you to get some things under control, as well as give Microsoft the chance to push out any fixes that might have been released in the last few days.

If there is something new that’s not working in Windows 10 – whether it’s searching for an app, right-clicking on a file or folder, or whatever else – then contact Microsoft immediately.