Need Another Reason to Block Automatic Windows Updates?

Martin Brinkmann
Sep 2, 2018
Windows, Windows 10

If you are a regular here on this blog you know that it is better to have automatic updates turned off on Windows as it gives you more control over the updating process and some time to monitor responses to released updates.

While most updates install just fine and work fine as well after installation, broken or faulty update releases appear to have increased in recent time.

I don't have scientific data on that but since I cover all Patch Tuesday releases and all major updates released in between the monthly releases, I notice trends and one of these trends is that there are more known issues and more updates that break things or don't install properly on some systems.

The release of Windows 10 version 1803 for instance on Windows Update makes a good example. The update had a lot of bugs initially, and most users were well advised to skip it initially to wait until Microsoft resolved the bulk of them. Windows Update will install drivers as well, and you may want to disable the installation of drivers to avoid issues.

Windows 10 users can defer or pause updates to block the automatic installation of updates, or use third-party tools such as Windows Update Mini Tool Wrapper, Windows 10 Update Switch, and others.

Another reason?

new preview build windows

It appears that Microsoft pushed notifications about a new Preview Build for Windows Insiders to devices that are not running Insider versions of Windows according to these Twitter threads in which Microsoft's Brandon LeBlanc confirmed the issue.

LeBlanc mentioned that activation of the "update" button would not install the new build on Stable versions of Microsoft's Windows operating system, and that the issue affected only a small number of devices.

Microsoft turned off the notifications as a consequence to investigate the issue. It is rather obvious that devices that don't run Windows 10 Insider Build should not receive notifications about new Insider versions.

While no harm could be done to devices running release versions of Windows 10, it is likely that it confused users who were exposed to it.

The main takeaway from the incident is that mistakes happen and that Microsoft is not exempt from making them. The particular issue at hand was not critical and it appears that Microsoft caught it quickly which prevented it from being shown to more users who are not part of the Insider program.

The disabling of automatic updates may have prevented the notification in first place if the notification is initiated through a new update check by Windows Update.

Now You: How is your Windows Update experience so far this year?

Need Another Reason to Block Automatic Windows Updates?
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Need Another Reason to Block Automatic Windows Updates?
Find out why you may want to block automatic updates on devices running Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system.
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  1. KeZa said on September 5, 2018 at 6:34 pm

    Windows Xp… no updates aaahhh love it! :) Works fine and no probs and even playing crypto’s with a couple of K’s here. Think hackers do not worry about Xp bc the big money is on W10 and that OS is really sh*t but people do not follow me in crypto space bc that game is rigged too so please stay out of it or do first your homework

  2. Nico Weytens said on September 3, 2018 at 10:04 pm

    At home I just let the Win10 updates install asap. I can’t remember having a problem, ever… But I don’t have exotic hardware and run quite mainstream software.
    At work we patch our servers on a monthly basis on relative short term. We simply have a phased aproach dev-uat-prod which helps identifying problems before there’s impact. We do have an issue from time to time, but it’s quite reasonable…
    So all in all, no patch headaches here. :-)

  3. Sophie said on September 3, 2018 at 3:38 pm

    Same here, also a follower of Woody’s writings and research on updates in general, which really say everything anyone could want to know.

    I think Martin is being a bit easy on Microsoft, when he says “most updates install just fine and work well after installation.” I believe the situation is much worse.

    What is also really pernicious, is that Microsoft also (relatively recently) introduced “harder to stop” layers of forced upgrade, nag prompts, and so on – and the almost impossible ability to block, say, the Windows Update Service.

    Instead of fixing their dreadfully buggy OS, they wasted time, in my view, being even more bullying and draconian in their response to people’s SIMPLE WISH TO HAVE SOME CONTROL.

    For me…. I have Windows7 in a VM (on Windows 10 host PC) that is straight out of the box. It’s not even SP1! It is so bare-bones, it has had nothing done to it, and Microsoft has not soiled and dirtied it. Guess what, it works flawlessly.

    And my Windows 10 (host), is 1607, and has not received any updates, nags, prompts….nothing but blissful silence, since March 2017. This is BEFORE Microsoft increased their stranglehold on the OS, in terms of forced updates. I have so many mitigations to threats (yes, I’m not immune), and I have clones galore, on a frequent basis.

    All I want, is stability. I’m not interested in “Timelines” or “Windows People” or whatever they called it. I just want to know that as each month passes, that my box remains utterly left alone, and as I last left it.

    So much care and time spent on your install (tons! of time), simply cannot be stuffed up by some sloppy, useless, Microsoft R&D team, that have completely lost sight of what it means to have a stable OS. They just don’t care at all, what condition they leave your install in after they’ve done their dirty updates.

    As an aside, I have an Amazon Kindle, and not once, has large updates left anything broken, or settings reset. I’d give them 98% reliability on their updates, and while its a very different ecosystem, there will be lots of complex issues facing programmers, yet somehow, they return my Kindle (two of them) to me after updates, working just as well as before. The worst I’ve had is some fairly useless bloat added, but nothing broken.

    I despise Microsoft for their direction right now, and as I’ve said before….the greatest threat is not Ransomware, Malware, Viruses, or anything like that….it’s Microsoft themselves. THEY are the biggest threat to their own OS, and I never want them to touch my stuff again.

    For me, trust was broken at least 4 years ago now, and it ‘aint coming back.

  4. Jeff said on September 3, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    Not to mention that many people have installed only patches up to 2017 on their Windows 7 and 8.1 systems because all of the patches and cumulative update rollups from 2018 introduce some sort of massive performance slowdown because of the Spectre and Meltdown mitigations. And no the sky has not collapsed, my system has not been hacked, and I know how to keep my PC malware free without installing every performance-killing bloated buggy untested patch released by Microsoft.

  5. A different Martin said on September 3, 2018 at 8:10 am

    I stuck with Windows 7 and I disabled the Windows Update service back in January 2017. Instead, I run Belarc Advisor a few days after Patch Tuesday to see whether I’m missing any Microsoft security updates, and then I run WSUS Offline Update with the “security-only updates” option enabled. (And then I run Belarc Advisor *again*, to make nothing important is still missing, and then WPD, to disable any diagnostics and telemetry crap Microsoft might have snuck into the security patches.) The patches installed by WSUS Offline Update haven’t screwed me yet, and if they ever do, I have a decent backup system (an up-to-date bootable clone drive, plus a backup drive with my data, appdata, and stuff like that). That’s my update strategy.

    I’ve been running Linux Mint Cinnamon in a virtual machine for a couple of years, and while I haven’t used it *heavily* (because of the virtual-machine overhead), I’ve used it, tweaked it, updated it, and upgraded it enough to feel confident about moving to a bare-metal install at pretty much any point now. That’s my “upgrade” strategy.

  6. OldNavyGuy said on September 3, 2018 at 12:57 am

    Doing frequent disk image backups is an insurance policy for anything that causes your system to go sideways.

    Not updating is foolish, and without backups, a ransomware infection (such as Wannacry, which had a patch months before that many did not install) could destroy years of personal data.

    Your call.

    1. Clairvaux said on September 3, 2018 at 4:30 am

      As you say : without backups. Which means if you have them, the threat picture completely changes. Also, ransomware doesn’t happen out of the blue. It is usually brought about by malicious mails. In a business or an organisation, there are bound to be at least a few people thoughtless enough to fall into the trap. Serious, experienced individual users have the means to be careful with their mail.

      Microsoft’s sloppiness has reached such heights that problems created by updates are a near-certainty. Remember the time when every Windows expert worth his salt said : always upgrade ? Well, Woody Leonhard, who’s been writing on Windows for ages, now says : absolutely don’t upgrade Windows, unless we say so and until we do.

      1. OldNavyGuy said on September 3, 2018 at 9:46 pm

        In the case of Wannacry, it was spread through RDP (remote desktop protocol).

        The user didn’t have to click on anything.

        Microsoft released the patch several months before.

        I have two fully patched systems and have had no issues with Windows updates in years.

        As already mentioned, frequent disk image backups (that have also been tested as good) are the best defense against failure of any kind.

      2. A different Martin said on September 4, 2018 at 4:45 pm

        I tend to agree with you in general. Just last month Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company took a $250 million hit from a WannaCry infection because they had unpatched Windows 7 machines. But on the other hand, a couple (?) of years ago a bad update for Microsoft Office 2010 (Outlook, specifically?) rendered a friend’s Windows 7 system drive unbootable. (I had already switched to LibreOffice, so it didn’t affect me.) That’s just one of several times that having a fresh, pre-update bootable clone of the system drive came in super handy. It took only five minutes of downtime (swapping drives and booting) to get the system up and running again. Of course, there’s the time required to research the problem in order to avoid a repeat, and the time required to re-install all of the non-buggy Microsoft updates,* but it’s either that or remain vulnerable to exploits. If your goal is to minimize downtime, data loss, and configuration loss, my assessment is that installing security updates is worthwhile, so long as you have a good recovery strategy in case an update borks your system. (I would NEVER rely on users adhering to best practices for protection!)

        *The time required to make a new backup clone over the old corrupted system drive, before re-installing the non-buggy updates, doesn’t really count as downtime. With Macrium Reflect, it happens in background, while the system is running.

  7. me said on September 2, 2018 at 10:52 pm

    In my windoze days many many many years ago I used to make a disk image of my windoze before applying any updates. Then if (when) it broke, I’d be able to restore functionality in 15 minutes. I purchased acronis trueimage for that which did an excellent job. Sorry for the advertising, but it saved by ass many times and I don’t mind saying a good thing about it.

    Today using linux I don’t have many broken updates any more, but I still do the same trick as before – using clonezilla.

  8. Richard Steven Hack said on September 2, 2018 at 10:21 pm

    My update experience is awesome. All updates happen in the background, there is never a reboot (except for a kernel update which is scheduled by me), and updates are usually timely to correct security issues. And there is never a broken update.

    Uh, wait, this article is about Windows. I run Linux. Oops…

  9. jern said on September 2, 2018 at 8:28 pm

    Why is MS so sloppy with it’s update system? This puzzles me.

    IDC reported that desktop sales in Q2-2108 actually had a year-over-year increase of 2.7 percent – the highest since Q1-2012. Gartner put the increase at 1.4 percent.

    IDC attributed the rise to enterprise refresh and gaming, “helped by lower prices in graphics cards.” MS has a good market for its OS, so why piss on it with a sloppy upgrade system? Make no sense.

    1. common sense computing said on September 3, 2018 at 12:11 pm

      the small increase was due to the crypto craze which is now will now continue its decline

  10. Anonymous said on September 2, 2018 at 7:58 pm

    When I learn in my country that now Microsoft Windows 10 tablets will be “offered”, will become obligatory in schools to “educate” our children, I am shocked professors and parents aware of all kind of the danger it represents are not respected or even listened. In France we have a law banning all forms of advertising in public schools, why now by the hell bypassing all studies on that subject autorities accept that Microsoft continue to make lobbying to destroy our children against our will. Advertising Banned by Law, Need Another Reason to Block Windows 10 Tablets in Public Schools?

  11. Goodbye said on September 2, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    I am still running 8.1. But even this does not protect me because once in a while an update messes up my machine. It’s stuff like allowing programs through the firewall, removing all of my restore points without asking, changing telemetry settings I blocked, sometimes I have to dig deep to find out why my Laptop is running strangely. I have given up on MS and ordered a Macbook Air, I do not trust MS and have no desire to deal with their product anymore. As soon as the Mac gets here I am going to sell my Microsoft stuff, taking a loss and hopefully never have to look back. By the way, Linux did not work for me and I know Apple has its faults, too.

  12. Oxa said on September 2, 2018 at 6:14 pm

    I disabled the installation of drivers and Microsoft installed them anyway. :(

  13. DVDRambo said on September 2, 2018 at 5:46 pm

    “Only affected a small number of devices” . That’s a line Microsoft coined decades ago. Nice PR to cover up another quality control failure.

    1. Clairvaux said on September 3, 2018 at 1:19 am

      Closely follow Ask Woody blog. He’s the expert.

      1. Clairvaux said on September 3, 2018 at 1:28 pm

        Sorry about the duplicate. I just thought my previous comment had not gone through.

  14. Franek said on September 2, 2018 at 5:42 pm

    Is there any way (except manual googling), tool to help find, install Security Only patches for Windows 7-10, to decrease possibility to screw OS using Microsoft ‘montly _quality_’ packages?

    1. Chronius said on September 3, 2018 at 12:46 pm

      Nowadays even security updates can screw your OS.

    2. stefann said on September 3, 2018 at 12:24 am
    3. Clairvaux said on September 2, 2018 at 7:05 pm

      Follow Ask Woody blog. He’s the expert on the subject. He’s got an ace team testing those updates to death, and telling people when and if to install one or the other.

      1. OldNavyGuy said on September 3, 2018 at 9:54 pm

        There is no ace team on AskWoody testing updates.

        It’s regular users reporting their experiences.

        However, Susan Bradley (formerly of WindowsSecrets) has joined AskWoody and has a section on the site called the Patch Lady.

        Her advice is pretty solid.

      2. Clairvaux said on September 4, 2018 at 3:27 am

        That’s exactly what I mean by ace team. A dedicated group of people, with considerable skills and experience. Many of them are more than regular users. There are plenty of power users among them, and a sizeable chunk of IT professionals who make a living out of keeping scores of computers in working order for their business clients (or bosses).

        So when Microsoft breaks china, they are not merely inconvenienced ; they hear the people who pay them scream bloody murder.

      3. OldNavyGuy said on September 4, 2018 at 7:40 pm

        BleepingComputer is filled with posts from people who didn’t patch their machines begging for help recovering their data.

        It’s not a matter of if…it’s when.

  15. Tom Hawack said on September 2, 2018 at 5:29 pm

    Windows 7 here and not about to downgrade it to Windows 10 (because I would consider this degrading). Moreover I blocked Windows Updates ever since October 2016, we’re planning a nice birthday for two years of tranquility. No issue related to lack of Win updates up to now. I’ll stick with Win7 until either it becomes obviously outdated for technical requirements (Web and software), either until it gets hacked, either until a major hardware component breaks. At this time all is just fine.

    1. clas said on September 4, 2018 at 2:37 pm

      hi Tom, I figured you would be here, wacking and hacking…hahahh… But I too am doing great with win7…and its a brand new win7pro machine. updated to about last fall, telemetry shut down, updates shut down. have had it two months now and zero problems…like working with an old friend. and the other box, about 7 years old with win7 is also doing just perfectly…no updates for years. always sandboxed and imaged and never a problem. tried linux mint for a while..gave it a good shot…then quit on it. too different as i was raised on windows and at my age i dont want to go back to school..just enjoy. all the best.

      1. Tom Hawack said on September 4, 2018 at 3:24 pm

        @clas, hi there! Ghacks is a bit like a home, a family for me, poor lonesome cowboy :=)
        In fact I wander a bit everywhere but not with the same pseudonym … but always the same for each ranch — I mean website — Lol

        Nice to read you enjoy Win7, we’re many to remain faithful to that good friend. Happy surfing, watch out nevertheless, this is the Wild Wild Web, right?!

    2. Valrobex said on September 3, 2018 at 12:51 am

      Oh Thomas, Thomas, Thomas… Don’t you realize you are to always have the best and brightest “NEW” things. It is ever so shocking to read that you have blocked Windows updates since October 2016. That will never do!! You will immediately update to Windows 10 or you will go to bed without dessert! …. :<)

      Sarcasm aside – I too have stopped Win 7 updates. I've converted 3 computers to Linux Mint with Win 7 running in a Virtual Box. With the VB I have eliminated most updates and basically only have security updates thru Aug 2017. I confess there is a 4th machine that dual boots Linux Mint & Win 7. That Win 7 OS has current security updates but nothing else. I might upgrade to Win 8.1 in order to extend some functionality for a little longer but now that I'm gaining skills using Linux that more than likely won't happen. Like you, under no circumstances will I "downgrade" to Win 10.

      1. Tom Hawack said on September 3, 2018 at 1:29 pm

        @Valrobex, hello! I don’t deserve such a tactful compliment :=) Especially that you and I are far from being the only ones to stick on Win7 and to stick free of Windows Updowns :=)

  16. Dave said on September 2, 2018 at 5:28 pm

    I think we are all rats in M$’s maze. Every thing they do wether it appears to us to succeed or fail is planned to do just that so that they can collect data on our responses.

  17. Craig said on September 2, 2018 at 4:08 pm

    Abhorrent at work.

    At work, we use a legacy application, that needs to not have windows endlessly upgraded.

    So I have again and again disabled windows update service, but the windows update medic service keeps enabling it again, and that service can not be disabled.

    I understand the battle to keep windows updated for security reasons, but the way they are going about it is losing alot of credibility for themselves.

    I think if they do not go away from their massive marketing thinking, and going back to focus on a reliable and secure and private os, they are losing alot of customers.

    By their own attempts to gain more market, are pushing away customers.

    Stop that idiocy.

  18. pHROZEN gHOST said on September 2, 2018 at 3:40 pm

    “The main takeaway from the incident is that mistakes happen and that Microsoft is not exempt from making them.”

    The biggest mistake MS executive was in dumping their QA responsibilities on their customers. This could eventually be the end of the giant Monolithic Structure (MS).

  19. Bruce A Roberts said on September 2, 2018 at 3:32 pm

    “How is your Windows Update experience so far this year?”

    Excellent. No issues whatsoever. But thanks for asking.

  20. Jonh G. said on September 2, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    Six month major releases are the worst terrific idea that Microsoft have implemented ever. Windows XP had the best updating plan, while Windows 7 is still the best upgradable OS in the world.

  21. Alex said on September 2, 2018 at 2:02 pm

    That’s what happens when you decide to provide “major updates” twice a year: you lose control and bugs multiply.

    Microsoft, bring back the old Windows team – the new one failed miserably.

  22. John IL said on September 2, 2018 at 1:01 pm

    Yep, I was surprised to get a notification to upgrade to a release candidate when in fact I am not a Insider. Just proves how incompetent Microsoft is that it can push out a notification to users who don’t even want their pre releases. Is anyone up there at Redmond have a clue what’s going on anymore?

  23. Anders said on September 2, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    Windows and Windows update is dead for me. I use manual install when cumulative update is released or I use WSUSOffline. Updates are off until proven to be production ready, all Windows 10 machines are locked to 1709 and will not be upgraded anytime soon.

    I’ve had too many problems with Windows 10 like VPN not working, no network PC shown, ads, constant popups and other crapware Microsoft implemented. Not to mention automatic installation of Windows Store crapps.

  24. TelV said on September 2, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    I have Windows 8.1 set to advise me when updates become available, but to leave it up to me whether to download and install them.

    If I don’t want a certain update I simply right click it and select “Hide update”. It doesn’t stop Microsoft from offering the same update again, but that’s a minor problem.

  25. Clairvaux said on September 2, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    I have stopped updating Windows 7 altogether for roughly a year now. While the politically-correct technical opinion is I’m putting myself at risk by doing so, the main result has been to spare me a lot of work and trouble. I now read about updating problems. I don’t experience them.

    It’s also something one should do for application software, by the way. Do check that the purported “upgrade” indeed upgrades things, and does not break them, or introduce some anti-features. Because some of them do.

  26. Jeff said on September 2, 2018 at 12:18 pm

    I just don’t care whether this shit “accidentally” happens or not. I just want the control I used to have and I see no reason to accept Windows 10 unless Microsoft relents and restores it. Otherwise I will happily move to macOS and learn it since it is the lesser of the two evils even if it’s far from perfect.

    The bloated updates whose size is out of control and their inopportune times to download and install, taking over your bandwidth, storage and CPU and affecting your productivity and system stability is the LAST thing I wanted from any OS.

    Thankfully for many years, I can rock on Windows 8.1 with Classic Shell until this Windows 10 shit becomes mandatory. I will then revise how they want handled updates vs Apple and decide which OS to use.

  27. Dave P. said on September 2, 2018 at 11:54 am

    I have three Win 10 machines and I let one go for the “BIG UPDATE” (!) It messed with the screen resolution (amongst other things), leaving me with some sort of generic driver and a choice of only three resolutions, none of which matched the monitor. Spent an awfully long time trying to resolve this, trying different graphics drivers and eventually ended up reverting to the previous Win 10 version. Thankfully, it all rustled up fine again, even with all the desktop icons in the right places. My machines have pro. versions of 10, so followed the instructions to disable updates, via the group policy editor and also disabled the update service but, strange to relate, one machine has just come up with the big red box, stating there is a big update due. Not sure why. Also had a pop-up recently from the notification area saying that new features were being installed. What the hell was that? The others seem dormant, regarding updates, as they should be. Very reluctant to allow any more updates at this stage. Any thoughts? Presumably updates have already been sneakily downloaded and I need to dispose of those, so where are they hidden?

  28. Yuliya said on September 2, 2018 at 11:18 am

    Absolutely fantastic, considering I’ve installed none of the 2018 updates on my Windows 7 PC. I would install (manually, Simplix pack) maybe if it wasn’t for the spectre/meltdown updates fiasco, but I don’t have the time to check whether those reg keys actually completely disable these “mitigations”, it would probably take at least a full day to check all scenarios even if I was to use my december 2017 updated image, and screw losing performance over nothing. I paid for this CPUs performance as initially advertised, not to be taken away half a year later.

    1. Jody Thornton said on September 2, 2018 at 6:49 pm


      Are you NoelC from MSFN? I’m taking the same approach to updates as you are.

      1. Yuliya said on September 2, 2018 at 7:42 pm

        No, I don’t have an account on MSFN forums.

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