How to manage Windows 10 updates to prevent them from ruining your life

How can I stop Windows 10 updates? Whether it’s preventing Windows 10 from kicking off a critical update during a presentation, or deferring Microsoft’s Windows 10 feature update because of worries about data loss, it’s a question we’ve all asked. You shouldn’t block all Windows 10 updates. But you can manage them.

Windows 10 feature updates and security updates provide a valuable service: they not only patch Windows, its apps and components, but provide new features and capabilities twice a year. Windows Update can also automatically provide updated drivers for hardware connected to your PC, such as a USB-attached printer. 

It’s not an academic issue. Microsoft wrestled with the fallout from the Windows 10 October 2018 Update, which apparently deleted user data in an undisclosed number of cases and was put on hold, then resumed. Would you want to buy a car if it had even a 0.001 percent chance of exploding? Probably not—which is why it’s good to know how to manage Windows 10 updates, now and in the future.

Microsoft Windows 10 windows update main Mark Hachman / IDG

This is the main Windows Update screen, which will inform you if any updates are pending. Clicking the Update now button will query Microsoft to see if any updates are available.

Three tools to manage updates with Windows 10 Home

When you’re building a PC you have two choices of Microsoft’s Windows 10 operating system: Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro. Windows 10 Home can be the cheaper alternative, at $139. But at $200, Windows 10 Pro offers some advantages, too. (You may be able to take advantage of PCWorld’s special deal: a Windows 10 Pro license for $40.)

We previously identified five features that would make you want to switch from Windows 10 Home to Windows 10 Pro, but in this case we’d add a sixth: the ability to more finely manage Windows updates. On the other hand, as Microsoft has evolved Windows, more control has been given to Windows 10 Home users, too.

Normally, Windows 10 updates—both periodic security updates, as well as the semi-annual feature updates—will arrive on your PC almost as soon as they’re released—unless you tell Windows not to. Don’t worry, though, as Windows Home and Pro users alike have some defenses against an unexpected Windows 10 update: Active Hours, Restart reminders, Metered updates, and the ability to pause and defer updates.

Microsoft Windows 10 windows update advanced options Mark Hachman / IDG

Windows 10 Home users will see this advanced options page. Always make sure to have the “We’ll show a reminder” toggled on, and it’s not a bad idea to have Windows manage updates for other Microsoft products, too.

Let’s talk first about your options to manage the periodic patches and security updates Microsoft provides. To access them, first navigate to the Windows 10 Settings menu, then to Home > Update & Security > Windows Update > Advanced options. 

Active Hours can be a Windows 10 Home user’s most potent weapon against unexpected Windows 10 updates. (This setting is found in Home > Update & Security > Windows Update > Change active hours.) It’s here that you can tell Windows when you’re actively using your PC, and when it shouldn’t update Windows. The default is business hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., though you can set a window for up to 18 hours later than the start time. Active Hours shouldn’t allow the update to occur during that period. Be careful, though, as the update could still kick off at, say, 4 a.m., when Active Hours is disabled and you’re not at your PC.

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