One of the touted benefits of Microsoft Windows 10 is that the operating system keeps itself updated by automatically checking, downloading, and installing security and feature patches as they become available. In enterprise settings, these updates are generally corralled and distributed systematically by the IT department and trained network administrators. However, under default settings home office and consumer level users are often forced to accept updates when they arrive, whether it is convenient timing or not.
Buried deep in the configuration menus, there are several built-in Windows 10 update-controlling tools available. Predictably, few users have taken the time to root through the settings menus to find them, much less make adjustments that will make their computing lives better. Which is a shame, because with a few tweaks users could take control of the Windows 10 update process and exert more control over when and how updates occur.
This how-to tutorial shows you how to reach the built-in advanced options of the Windows 10 update process and discusses what tweaks and adjustments you can make to improve your computing experience.
SEE: Digital transformation in 2019: A business leader's guide to future challenges and opportunities (Tech Pro Research)
Windows 10 updates
The Windows Update screen is located under its own section of the Settings screen. Click or tap the Start Menu located in the bottom right-hand corner of the typical Desktop and then click the Settings icon. From there, click the Update & Security item to reach the screen shown in Figure A.
Most users are familiar with the Check for Updates button—and use it to force the operating system to check for updates and patches now rather than wait for the computer to pick a time for itself.
One of the most common ways to control the update process is by indicating the time period each day you actively use your computer. Click the Change Active Hours link to bring up the screen in Figure B and then adjust the time to meet your schedule. Windows 10 will still download updates during that period, but it won't ask you to restart to complete the installation.
If you want to check what updates and patches were installed on your Windows 10 computer, click the View update history link. The resulting page (Figure C) will list all of the recent updates and provide links to web pages that describe what new features were installed or what security vulnerabilities were fixed with each patch.
To take a deeper dive into the nuts and bolts of the Windows 10 update process, click or tap the Advanced Options link. As you can see in Figure D, there are several sections on the page with several options located in each section.
Under the Update Options section, the first sliding button is important for Microsoft Office users. By switching that button to the "on" position you will allow Microsoft to update all of your Office apps at the same time it updates the rest of Windows 10. It is highly recommended that this button is on—security vulnerabilities in Office apps could prove very costly.
The second button is only important to customers using metered connections. The third button will require the system to warn you when a restart is about to occur. This is important information to have when you have time constraints and cannot afford to wait for a restart.
This screen (Figure D) also includes several options to delay updates. You can pause updates for up to 35 days, but after that period ends you will have to accept all updates before you can delay again. Scrolling further down the page, you can also pause feature and quality of life updates specifically for up to 30 days.
The Choose When Updates Are Installed section has a drop-down menu with two confusing and cryptic choices:
- Semi-Annual Channel (Targeted)—update is tested and ready for most users. This setting is best for most home office and consumer level users.
- Semi-Annual Channel—update is tested and ready for widespread enterprise distribution. This setting is best for enterprise-level users with network administrators controlling update distributions.
The last link of interest is Delivery Optimization, which is located further down the Advanced options screen (Figure D). Clicking that link will take you to the screen shown in Figure E.
From here you can decide whether you want to allow Microsoft to use your computer and your network bandwidth to help spread updates and patches as they are released. If you agree, Microsoft will use your system to help with patch downloads in a quasi-peer-to-peer network. You may opt to limit this feature to your internal network or to expand it to the internet at large. Clicking the Advanced options link lets you limit how much peer-to-peer bandwidth you will allow for this feature.
SEE: System update policy (Tech Pro Research)
The Microsoft Windows 10 update feature is a great idea for keeping the operating system secure and for adding new and improved features. But you don't need to relinquish complete control of the process to the whims of Microsoft, internet connections, and chaotic network traffic. With a few tweaks, the Windows 10 update process can move to the beat you set rather than the other way around.
- Windows 10 October 2018 Update: What you need to know (TechRepublic)
- Millions of PCs received flawed Windows 10 update, was yours one? (TechRepublic)
- Windows 10: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
- Here's how you can still get a free Windows 10 upgrade (ZDNet)
- Windows 10 October 2018 Update: The new features that matter most (ZDNet)
Have you adjusted the Windows 10 update settings? Do you delay updates? Share your thoughts and opinions with your peers at TechRepublic in the discussion thread below.
Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.