Configuring Automatic Windows Updates

by Barry Dysert
(last updated October 15, 2018)

Windows Update is a Windows feature that runs on your computer and keeps your copy of Windows up to date with the latest software patches from Microsoft. It does this by periodically connecting to the Internet, downloading, and installing any updates that have been released since the last time Windows Update ran. If you want to change how Windows Update is configured, you can do so. If you are using Windows 7, first, go to Start | Control Panel | Windows Update. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. The Windows Update dialog box.

Click Change Settings, at the left side of the dialog box, and Windows displays the settings by which Windows Update is operated. (See Figure 2.)

Figure 2. The Change Settings dialog box for Windows Update.

By opening the top drop-down list box you can select one of the following options:

  • Install updates automatically (recommended)
  • Download updates, but let me choose whether to install them
  • Check for updates, but let me choose whether to download and install them
  • Never check for updates (not recommended)

The next two drop-down lists allow you to specify when the action should be performed. You can pick any day of the week or have them installed every day. You can also choose what time of day the update process occurs. By checking the checkboxes on the screen you can indicate whether recommended updates should be handled the same way as important updates (Microsoft classifies updates as important, recommended, or optional), and whether all users can install updates on the computer. When you are finished configuring how Windows Update should work, click OK to put the new configuration into effect.

By default, Windows 10 will update your computer automatically. You can confirm that your Windows 10 system is updating properly as well as fine-tune some of the settings. Type "Windows Update Settings" (without the quotes) in the search box and press Enter. Windows displays the Windows Update screen. (See Figure 3.)

Figure 3. The Windows Update section of the Settings window.

From here, among other options, you can change the active hours and view the update history. Click on Change Active Hours to let Windows know when you are likely to be using the computer. (See Figure 4.)

Figure 4. The Active hours pop-out for Windows Update.

Windows gives you a few more options to choose from to help you configure the Windows Update settings to better fit your needs. Click Advanced Options and Windows displays the Advanced options screen. (See Figure 5.)

Figure 5. The Advanced options section of the Settings window for Windows Update.

You can turn on or turn off the following Update options:

  • Give me updates for other Microsoft products when I update Windows.
  • Automatically download updates, even over metered data connections (charges may apply)
  • We'll show a reminder when we're going to restart. If you want to see more notifications about restarting, turn this on.

You also have the option to temporarily pause updates from being installed on your computer or device. Another option is to choose when updates are installed. You have the option to choose the branch readiness level (Semi-Annual Channel (targeted) or Semi-Annual Channel) to determine when feature updates are installed. A feature update can be deferred from 0 to 365 days. A quality update, which includes security improvements, can be deferred from 0 to 30 days.

The Windows Update settings are put into effect as soon as you turn an option button on or off and exit out of the settings screens.

Remember that Windows Update can only function properly if your system is turned on. Thus, if you set the feature to run during the middle of the night (which is very common—you aren't using your computer then), you need to make sure your computer is left running all night. If you, instead, turn your computer off, then Windows Update will run the next time you turn your computer on.

 This tip (12336) applies to Windows 7 and 10.

Author Bio

Barry Dysert

Barry has been a computer professional for over 35 years, working in different positions such as technical team leader, project manager, and software developer. He is currently a software engineer with an emphasis on developing custom applications under Microsoft Windows. When not working with Windows or writing Tips, Barry is an amateur writer. His first non-fiction book is titled "A Chronological Commentary of Revelation." ...

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