A closer look at Active Hours in Windows 10 - gHacks Tech News

A closer look at Active Hours in Windows 10

Active Hours is a new update-related feature of the upcoming Anniversary Update for Windows 10 that is already available in the latest Insider Build.

The main idea behind the feature is to make operating system updates less annoying by preventing automatic restarts of the system during active hours.

The Internet is filled with user reports that Windows restarted their system automatically after downloading Windows Updates, and that they lost work in the process or suddenly found themselves with a new version of Windows without them having a say in the matter.

While it is recommended to set Windows Update to notify you about new updates but not install them automatically, so that you have the greatest control over the updating, the default is to download and install updates automatically.

Active Hours

Active Hours don't change that behavior, but they add a mechanic to the Windows 10 operating system that makes sure users are not disturbed by reboots during active hours.

Active Hours appears to be enabled by default.

Configuring Active Hours in Windows 10

Use Windows-I to open the Settings application in Windows 10, and open Update & security when the application opens.

windows 10 change active hours

There you find listed "change active hours" under Update settings. If you don't find the option there, Active Hours are not enabled. If that is the case skip this step and go straight to the Registry and Group Policy sections below.

When you click on the link, Windows displays the current start and end time based on the selected time zone. On the screenshot below, you find them enabled from 8:00 in the morning to 17:00 in the afternoon.

Note: The length is limited to a maximum of eighteen hours in the Windows 10 Creators Update. The limit was set to 10, and then later on to 12 hours, previously.

windows update active hours

Select a different start and end time (the interface may use a 24 or 12 hour format depending on system settings) and click on the save button afterwards.

You find a second option of interest underneath "update settings". The "restart options" link provides you with options to use a custom restart time that allows you to override active hours on the system.

windows 10 restart options

Flip the switch to on first, and set time and day you want the PC to restart to install updates on the device.

Active Hours and Group Policy

The Group Policy is only available if you run a Pro, Educational or Enterprise version of Windows 10. It is not available as part of the Home version of the operating system.

If you run the Home version, skip this part and jump straight to the Registry part below.

Tap on the Windows-key, type gpedit.msc and hit enter to load the Group Policy Editor. Use the tree hierarchy on the left to navigate to the following section:  Local Computer Policy > Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Updates.

active hours group policy

There you find listed the new "Turn off auto-restart for updates during active hours" policy. Double-click on the policy to configure it.

enable active hours group policy

Set it to enabled, and change the start and end time for the feature. Please note that you get a 12-hour system displayed in the Group Policy currently regardless of how time is displayed on the system itself.

The policy has no effect if either of the following policies are enabled:

  1. No auto-restart with logged on users for scheduled automatic update installations.
  2. Always automatically restart at scheduled time.

Active Hours and the the Registry

You find options to configure the feature in the Windows Registry. This is the best option for Home users to change it, e.g. disable or enable the feature.

  1. Tap on the Windows-key, type regedit.exe, and hit enter.
  2. Confirm the UAC prompt.
  3. Navigate to the following key using the tree hierarchy on the left: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsUpdate\UX\Settings

registry active hours

The following options are provided here:

  • ActiveHoursEnd: defines the end time of the feature.
  • ActiveHoursStart: defines the start time of the feature.
  • IsActiveHoursEnabled: if set to 1, the feature is enabled. If set to 0, it is disabled.

If you want to change the starting or end hour of the feature, double-click on one of the entries. Switch to a decimal base on the prompt that opens, and enter the starting hour using the 24 hour clock system.

Please note that you cannot add minutes in the Registry only full hours.

Summary
A closer look at Active Hours in Windows 10
Article Name
A closer look at Active Hours in Windows 10
Description
Find out how to enable and configure Active Hours in Windows 10 using the Settings application, the Group Policy Editor, or the Windows Registry.
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Ghacks Technology News
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    Comments

    1. Corky said on April 8, 2016 at 8:27 am
      Reply

      I don’t get why Microsoft don’t just download the updates and use the notification center to let people know a reboot is needed.

      1. micro said on April 8, 2016 at 9:16 am
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        It usually shows a notification that your computer need to restart to update.
        The problem is when the computer is idle, and you’re not in front of computer, windows will install the update and restart your computer.
        Just imagine when you’re back from toilet and found out that your windows is already restarting.
        I experienced this once. But luckily I didn’t have many open windows, and (more)imagine if you have many open windows..

        Still, I prefer to take my time to update. In windows 10, normal users cannot prevent windows to install update. I think that pro and corporate version can do that, because just imagine(again) what happens if the corporate boss got his computer restarted without his consent lol

        1. Anonymous said on April 8, 2016 at 9:44 am
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          In Pro you can set it to ‘notify to schedule restart’. But I think it is set to automatic by default.

        2. Corky said on April 8, 2016 at 10:14 am
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          I didn’t know it already showed a notification, i guess what you describe echoes what seems to be the new Microsoft ethos, instead of asking if it’s OK to restart your computer and allowing you to say yes, no, remind me in 10-20-30 minutes, they seem to have taken too much control away from the end-user.

        3. Travis said on April 8, 2016 at 9:02 pm
          Reply

          Corky, all of your complaints are invalid.

          First, Microsoft DOES alert the user in the Notification Center when a reboot to finish updates is needed.
          Second, the Pro, Enterprise, and Education versions allow varying degrees of increased control over how updates are managed. Home users are given less control, since outdated Windows installations have been a nightmarish security epidemic for far too long.
          Third, all versions of Windows 10 already do not auto-reboot while the computer is actively in-use, but will wait until the computer is idle. With Pro and higher, the “active hours” feature will allow you to set a time during which Windows will not auto-reboot to finish an update EVEN IF the computer is idle. Also with Pro versions and higher you can set Windows to automatically download updates, but not actually install until you say so (up to a maximum three-month delay). Combine this with regular shut-down or reboots (which you should be doing anyway), and professionals have absolutely nothing to worry about with unexpected auto-reboots due to updates, and in fact have a much easier time than ever before at keeping their systems up-to-date.

          So yes, with Win10 we are being more strongly encouraged to keep our systems up-to-date, which professionals SHOULD be doing anyway, but with Pro and higher we are also being given MORE control on HOW we keep our systems updated.
          Your arguments are invalid.

        4. Andrew said on April 8, 2016 at 9:07 pm
          Reply

          “Also with Pro versions and higher you can set Windows to automatically download updates, but not actually install until you say so ”

          How?

        5. Neal said on April 8, 2016 at 11:05 pm
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          @Tarvis

          You don’t need a company computer or a be a “pro” to want what Corky wants in the home version of Windows. The majority of Windows PC will use the home versions so there huge overlap of real professionals not just “casuals” who will use the home versions and have to put with update issues interfering with their workflow.

          In my state teachers for example buy their own computers and if they specialized access to school they work in, they just give it to the schools IT specialist and they do they thing and they certify that that computer will work with whatever school system that is needed. It saves money and give teachers with more flexibility, the prior system of the state providing computers was an expensive and inefficient mess b/c it became like a typical government program bloated, inefficient, and expensive and also b/c MS licensing policies can be pretty bizarre concerning what, who can use Pro licenses “bought” by the school. Thus the computers were overpriced, unattractive models and the staff avoided using them whenever they could get away with it.

          My brother’s hospital in Texas is the same way. Doctors buy their own computers and the it department installs the programs or give this instructions on how to access the hospital most likely b/c of the same reason with the teachers. It is also noteworthy that most of the doctors have Macbooks which my brother said is in part b/c Windows pulls this crap updates arbitrarily restarting especially when you are doing work, you only need it to happen a few times to you and then people with the means and money to look for alternatives.

          Small business by definition being small and probably just starting can’t afford buying pro licenses for their small number of machines and do not benefit or will receive any discounts from volume licensing from MS or volume pc discounts from OEM makers, and most of the time they don’t need required expensive “support” provided by MS.

          The whole Windows tier system is such a farce. It exist solely so MS can sell license and support to organizations that’s where they make their money. I don’t begrudge them for that, it is smart and for some organizations it provides a needed service, however I don’t for once believe this is about “security” or any other nonsense.

        6. Corky said on April 9, 2016 at 10:28 am
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          @Travis, Apologise if you thought it was a complaint, it wasn’t, it was me saying i didn’t understand why Microsoft decided just rebooting peoples computers was acceptable, warning or not, being idle or not, home or not, none of that matters IMO, a computer should only ever be rebooted by the end-user, when their ready, when they’ve stopped & saved their work, to think you can just go around restarting people computers because you THINK it’s OK is just arrogance at the extreme.

        7. Jessie Janson said on September 13, 2016 at 9:10 pm
          Reply

          Travis. That opinion of yours is VARY lacking. pro this pro that. virtually nobody uses pro, you might as well stop mentioning it.

          You want a use case where there system is bad? here is one. I need to leave my PC on overnight every so often to get work done(does so automatically, its why i do it overnight) But i also cant have it updated during the day because im actually doing work. So 12 hour “active” period where i am safe is simply not enough. I restart my PC usually once every 24 hours anyway so this restarting in the middle of my work isnt acceptable. I should have the ability to at the vary least say “delay all updates by a minimum of 24 hours unless chosen via a restart” since i update once every 24 hours they would NEVER interrupt me. Even so, a 48 hour delay would be better.

          I mean its INSANE that i have to be hassled by MY OS for an update when i give it the chance for an update already at least once every 24 hours.

          There is absolutely nothing you can say to make this feature good. and frankly i dont CARE if there are morons out there that get viruses because they dont update, that is on them! Why should the least common denominator in humanity be setting the bar for everyone? what about personal responsibility? You screw up you take the end result as its your own fault. Every time they do a stupid update like this the entire company from CEO on down should get punched in the face once a day until they fix it.

      2. Andrew said on April 8, 2016 at 6:18 pm
        Reply

        That’s one thing I miss the most. Mostly “Download and let me install updates”.

        1. Travis said on April 8, 2016 at 8:50 pm
          Reply

          The Pro version still has this option, with the only difference being that you can only delay critical updates for a maximum of three months.
          Even so, Windows will still only auto-reboot when the computer is idle, and now with this “active hours” feature, even if the computer is idle during those set hours it will still not auto-reboot.
          So with the Pro version, you can tell Windows to only auto-download updates, but let you choose when to install them (again: they can only be delayed up to three months), it will not auto-reboot to install while the computer is actively being used or during the “active hours”, and you can tell it to finish installing when you go to shut down the computer.

          Really, all these complaints about a loss of control are ridiculous. Yes, you are being more strongly encouraged to keep your system up-to-date (which any professional SHOULD be doing, anyway), but you are being given MORE control on how you keep it updated.

        2. Andrew said on April 8, 2016 at 9:05 pm
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          Travis, In windows 10 Pro v1511 there’s “Automatic” and “Notify to Schedule Restart”. Both still download and install updates, the difference is when you schedule the restart, which is NOT the same as just downloading the updates and choosing when to install them. There’s also Defer upgrades, but that tmk just delays updates to a later time.

          There is a big difference, and the user has lost control over the updates, so I can sympathize with those that want to control when updates are installed and when they want to update them. I for one would rather have them downloaded but not installed, so that when I am ready I can go through the whole install and reboot process and continue my work thereafter.

    2. Anonymous said on April 8, 2016 at 9:39 am
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      I dont understand why they even set it to auto reboot on default.

      1. Pro 10 user said on October 12, 2016 at 11:52 pm
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        Active hours is a bad idea. I alredy lost some works that were being send to my Photo laboratory. Did Microsoft think about batch processes? You are calling users stupid!

    3. yoav said on April 8, 2016 at 10:26 am
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      This is nuts. What do I do if I’m on a 3-day project? Closing all active windows for an update can be a serious annoyance. I don’t understand why M$ has to control everything like some neurotic, over-protective mother…

      1. Travis said on April 8, 2016 at 8:45 pm
        Reply

        Use the Pro version rather than Home.
        Problem solved.

        1. Freonpsandoz said on October 4, 2016 at 10:38 pm
          Reply

          Send me the money.

    4. Taomyn said on April 8, 2016 at 11:50 am
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      I think is far too little control, 10hrs? During the week that may be fine for my PC at home where I only use it in the evenings, but at the weekend a) I need a different time range b) it needs to be more than 10hrs

    5. Ann said on April 8, 2016 at 1:24 pm
      Reply

      for me this is also nonsense and one of the reasons not to upgrade.
      I have no not active hours when the PC is turned on.
      so only install on shutdown would be the best option.

      Yeah I’m still one of those fools who does a complete shutdown/startup.
      If I use sleep, it’s because I will need it back pretty soon.
      And hibernate means that I want it back in a couple of hour in the same state to continue my work where I left it.

      1. Travis said on April 8, 2016 at 8:44 pm
        Reply

        If your computer is always active when it’s on, then Windows will not auto-reboot regardless of what time of day it is. Re-read the beginning of the article, where it mentions that even before this “active hours” feature, Windows will only auto-reboot for an update if the computer is idle…”active hours” just sets a time where, even if the computer is idle, it will still not auto-reboot.
        In addition, if you always shut down your computer rather than sleeping or hibernating, then you have even less to worry about, as it will finish the updates upon shutdown. Combine this with the Pro version’s option to auto-download but not install updates until you say so (up to a maximum three-month delay), and Windows will essentially never auto-reboot, and ONLY install updates when you are shutting down the PC.
        Basically, your stated reasons for refusing to upgrade are invalid.

        1. Decent60 said on April 9, 2016 at 1:54 am
          Reply

          @Travis,

          My computer could be at User Idle but that doesn’t mean it’s still not Active. Some people use their desktop computers as a NAS or a local Media Server. In which case, those updates need to be arranged better.
          I know you’re an advocate of “then get Pro” solution but not everyone can afford that, especially when they just bought a computer that came with Windows 10 Home.
          In Windows 7 Home edition, if I want to post-pone an update, I can. I can also not install any of the updates given to me. That’s not a luxury that Windows 10 Home users have, which is a BIG change when they do upgrade that isn’t mentioned in any of the “Ads” that Micro$oft shows on the person’s computer.

        2. Corky said on April 9, 2016 at 10:41 am
          Reply

          Please feel free to explain what’s considered “active”
          If i go for a long lunch is that considered not being active?
          If i go to make a cup of coffee is that considered not being active?
          If i have to leave in a hurry and I’m away from my computer for 4-5 hours is that considered not being active?
          If i choose to do some work in the middle of the night because i can’t sleep is that considered not being active?
          If i choose to do some work on the weekend is that considered not being active?
          If….Well i think you’re getting the picture by now, like it or not you can’t put people in nice convenient boxes like Microsoft is trying to do.

        3. Freonpsandoz said on October 4, 2016 at 10:41 pm
          Reply

          I never shut down. I let it sleep when I’m away. I use my computer more than 12 hours a day, which is the longest “active hours” period that can be configured. So what do I do?

        4. Pro 10 user said on October 12, 2016 at 11:53 pm
          Reply

          You liar. I was uploading pictures to a laboratory. And Windows10 rebooted!

        5. Bob said on October 21, 2016 at 2:56 pm
          Reply

          You keep saying your computer will not reboot if you are actively using it. This is not true. I have been in the middle of writing a report and it shut my computer down and with an automatic reboot and I lost what I was working on.

          When you say that the reboot will happen when the computer shuts down, if you shut it down manually, this is not true either, as I got a notification that an update required a restart. I told it to restart so that it wouldn’t happen later while I was working. It restarted, then restarted automatically again later and tied up my computer for 40 minutes while it went through the update process. So I don’t know why people keep saying it won’t restart if you’re active, because it has happened to me multiple times…

        6. Paul Allen said on December 9, 2016 at 6:41 pm
          Reply

          Sorry, Travis, but you’re WRONG. On 16 occasions thus far, Windows 10 (Pro) has rebooted AS I WAS TYPING in a Microsoft program, with multiple processes running (windows open onscreen). WITHIN the set “active hours.” With restarts scheduled for times outside the set active hours. And my work was lost, including work I had already “saved.”
          So I find your assertions invalid. Do you work for Microsoft, perhaps, and are promoting the company line? Because my real-world experiences clearly and repeatedly contradict your claims. Back when I did coding, we called this sort of performance “broken,” and refused to release the application. Basic ethics, we called it.

    6. Dave said on April 8, 2016 at 6:28 pm
      Reply

      Just disable the update service and be done with it.

      1. Anonymous said on April 8, 2016 at 7:11 pm
        Reply

        Dave – Oh Dave – where have you been./

      2. Jenny said on September 15, 2016 at 4:46 pm
        Reply

        Dave, You must be working for the Windows “Patches and Annoying Unauthorized Restarts” 10 right? Windows 10 is a joke, 1000 things people never uses and you keep “patching and patching” just to break more stuff and annoy more users.

    7. IAmTheWolf said on April 8, 2016 at 7:13 pm
      Reply

      Dave – You comment is a joke right?

      1. Sais said on April 9, 2016 at 9:05 am
        Reply

        I guess he meant disabling the update service and enabling whenever there’s news about updates being available.

        I keep my connection set to metered so no automatic updates. When I learn about new updates being available, I update the system manually. I personally find it convenient.

        1. Freonpsandoz said on October 4, 2016 at 10:42 pm
          Reply

          I tried that, but then netsvcs constantly consumed over half of the CPU checking for updates.

    8. zemaitux said on April 10, 2016 at 12:32 pm
      Reply

      Just got that nasty Update restart few minutes ago. Was downloading a new firmware for my Dual Boot tablet (download size- 6.4Gb) and that evil thing started to pop up. Postponed several times, windows update delayed restart for about 10-15 minutes maximum, finally was doing something at home and missed Postpone and TADAAAAAM-restart. Lost all my download, now have to download it again from begining. Actually it was the last drop for me, turning all my PC`s back to Windows 7.

      1. BobEd said on April 11, 2016 at 10:29 am
        Reply

        Good luck with that, too, zemaitux….

    9. Andy Curl said on July 30, 2016 at 11:05 am
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      Sysadmin here.
      As my bosses said that either i prevent that crap from restarting or i should find another tolerant boss, i had no choice than blocking all ms known ip’s and domain names in our corporate firewall.
      Since then, not a single user complained.
      Thanks microsoft. You’re leading yourself to the extinction.
      Anyway, we’re already replacing all your costly web servers with linux counterparts.
      Guess what. Some of our servers even work with 256MB of vRAM. Beat that ms.

    10. jojo said on August 11, 2016 at 7:54 am
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      I just installed the Win10 Anniversary a few days ago (X64 Pro)

      I did not like automatic installs, so I used group policy editor to tell Windows to just let me know when there are updates.

      Windows did notify me tonight that it had updates. I reviewed them (mainly Office 2010 but a couple were security fixes I think). I downloaded and then installed and rebooted.

      Then annoyingly, Windows discovered an Excel update that it had to apply. Which I said OK. But then Windows stated I would need ANOTHER reboot (Sheeze!) but it would do it outside of “Active hours”, which are default set to 8:00am to 5:00pm.

      Well, I keep my computer on 24 X 7 with app windows open (such as Outlook) and backup tasks scheduled to run during sleep hours, which are the only real inactive hours for me. But Microsoft has decreed that the active hours can ONLY be 1 hour to 12 hours. PERIOD. Thanks Microsoft! (NOT).

      I really don’t want Microsoft rebooting the machine on it’s own whim!

      Reading this article (which congratulations because Google displays it as the #1 hit for the keywords “turn off active hour reboot”!) I was hoping to find a way to turn off the auto reboot.

      However, the registry keys above are not present in my Win10 Pro install. So I returned to group policy editor to look there, where I discovered that I was able to change the active hours to 8am to 2am. Don’t know if this will stick though.

      I’d really like to turn the active hour reboot off but there does not seem to be a way to that???

      1. maren said on August 16, 2016 at 4:55 am
        Reply

        I found this article by Google too.
        I think the only way is to ditch windows and use linux

        1. Freonpsandoz said on October 4, 2016 at 10:45 pm
          Reply

          On my system, Ubuntu Linux hangs after blanking the screen. Good luck getting help in any Ubuntu forum if you’re not already a member of the ultra-snooty clique of Linux users. I couldn’t.

    11. Jenny said on September 15, 2016 at 4:43 pm
      Reply

      The reboot is terrible, every update should be called a Patch, to fix thing over thing and damage other things. Every update I get something goes off, this patching thing is just bad, annoying and makes me waste a lot of time. I’m unable to use a Custom Start Time, the option is greyed out, just another issue created by the thousands of patches created. Why are we not allowed to reboot when we want? At least to be able to save open work? This must be the same team that created the disastrous Windows Me, terrible!

    12. Caleb said on September 21, 2016 at 7:17 pm
      Reply

      I’ve been trying to run a scientific program under Windows 10 which collects data via a USB device over multiple days. After a few days, I checked on the computer only to find it locked-up, non-responsive and most of the data lost. I figured out why.. Last night I watched Windows 10 start installing updates and then restart while the program was running and collecting data. I guess Microsoft defines the term “idle” as meaning someone is not using the keyboard & mouse.

      If you’re looking to ditch Windows, here is what I’m using: http://www.pclinuxos.com It’s a modern 64bit Linux OS and it has a very similar look & feel to Windows XP (minus all the problems with Windows).

      BTW – I did find a solution to the unwanted automatic update problem in Windows 10: I disabled the network interface under “Control Panel”/”Network and Internet”/”Network Connections”. Just right-click on whichever network interface is active and choose “Disable”.

    13. Sterling said on September 28, 2016 at 2:50 am
      Reply

      Is there a way to schedule updates so they only download during certain hours? I’m on metered internet but get bonus data during the hours of 2 am to 8 am that I never use. However, I have 3 windows computers that sometimes kill my monthly daytime data allowance of 10 GB during updates. I have Windows 10 Pro.

      1. Freonpsandoz said on October 4, 2016 at 10:47 pm
        Reply

        Wireless connections can easily be set to metered. A registry hack is needed for wired connections: see http://www.windowscentral.com/how-set-ethernet-connection-metered-windows-10

    14. Gerrit-Jan said on October 29, 2016 at 11:48 am
      Reply

      I hate to have less and less control over my own PC since I upgraded from 7 to 10. And now Microsoft has taken away the ability to plan the reboot after update in a moment at my convenience. A cat trips on the keyboard of the sleeping device at night and Microsoft decides it can reboot it after updates, thus closing all my programs and browsers. I prefer an annoying pop up with a message it needs a reboot every 10 minutes over this. Previously this was my PC. Now it is partially owned by Microsoft and they are shifting the boundaries. Are they trying to find out how far they can push it before I switch to Linux?

    15. Paul Lintilhac said on November 9, 2016 at 2:15 am
      Reply

      so — how do you make your active hours go overnight? you’re not allowed to put the startTime after the end Time– meaning you can’t make them over midnight without making it the entire day. Is this for real?

      1. Martin Brinkmann said on November 9, 2016 at 7:09 am
        Reply

        You need to start late, say at 18:00 and then pick 6:00 as the end time.

    16. Douglas said on November 9, 2016 at 9:06 pm
      Reply

      I monitor futures trading Hours are 5 pm to 11:20 am. Now I have no assurances that my program will continue running overnight with Windows 10. This is my PC, damn it, not Microsoft’s.

      It’s already rebooted overnight once recently because of updates. Windows 10 Pro

    17. IceAnnoyed said on February 24, 2017 at 5:50 am
      Reply

      Tell you what if MicroCRAP cant get thier act together on the end user is the owner of the computer not them

      looks like a few systems and thousands of clients are headding back to win7 or over to linux

      as I said its windows crap err microcrap now days

    18. michael said on May 13, 2017 at 12:42 am
      Reply

      i had to disable the service and add a batch file to run constantly to stop windows update
      I DON’T EVER WANT AN UPDATE WITHOUT SAYING YES TO IT
      I NEVER WANT A REBOOT WITHOUT ASKING

      I cannot even get the labels on the taskbar to go away. I cannot stand having the labels showing
      they take up too much real estate when i have dozens of applications open

      Grouping them is a waste of my time going throught the group to figure out which one is the one i want

      Windows 10 is a pile of dung
      It is akin to windows ME, Vista, windows 8
      they all are terrible OSs that Microsoft made in the bathroom.

      Satya Nadella should be fired

    19. nutzo said on June 7, 2017 at 11:45 pm
      Reply

      so many inept people who can’t handle configuring pdates.

      I spent 5 minutes to configure it when I first got W10. No unwanted updates in 2 years. That said I am savvy enough to be allowed to use an electric pencil sharpener so YMMV

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