I’m working with a group of software developers and recently had a problem where my copy of Windows 7 automatically updated to change something and the app we’re building stopped working on my computer. After we figured out what had happened they told me to disable the automatic system update feature in Windows 7. But how do I turn the autoupdate feature off, it seems like it’s built-in to Microsoft Windows now?
As a general rule, I encourage people to let Windows update itself as often as possible, whether you’re still stuck on Windows XP or running the latest release of Windows 7. There are just lots of troublemakers out there spreading viruses, spyware, and other problems. Microsoft does a good job of being on top of these things, but if you don’t keep your system updated to the latest patches and tweaks, you’re just opening yourself up for trouble.
Occasionally, however, there are situations where it does make sense to delay system update. A situation that crops up for me is when I’m on the road: I once had a system freeze up and be unbootable while on a business trip and ever since then have deferred any sort of system update until I am at my office. Just in case…
Then again, if you’ve found this article, you’re probably already weighing the benefits of having Windows automatically update versus the risks of having an increasingly outdated copy of Windows on your PC or laptop, so let’s get on with it, eh?
The preference settings for Windows Update are accessible from the Control Panels: Look for “Windows Update“, logically enough:
Once you select it, you’ll see whether there are updates available or not (in this case there are) and it’ll also include a bunch of options on the left side:
To disable automatic updates, click on “Change Settings“. Then…
Yeah, lots of different options here, rather amazingly many given the simple task that Windows Update does for you. Let’s spend a moment and talk about these options before we proceed, because it’s smart to know what’s happening on your computer!
We’re going to disable the automatic updates, which is the first menu item with the green shield icon next to it. Notice that Microsoft differences between “important” and “recommended” updates: I would encourage you to have it track both by having the “Recommended updates” box checked.
If you have multiple users, you might not want anyone to be able to install updates, however, particularly if you need to keep track of when things change, so you’ll probably want to uncheck “Who can install updates”.
Want to get new updates as the Microsoft team expands Windows functionality with new apps? Check “Microsoft Update”. Finally, you should definitely have the system notify you in detail when there are new software updates available, the last of these checkboxes.
Okay, back to our task. Click on the top menu on this window and you’ll see there are a number of different ways to disable Windows autoupdate:
Since I don’t think it’s ever an idea to just completely shut down the update system, I suggest that the best option is “Check for updates but let me choose whether to download and install them“. Chose the one you prefer, and click “OK“.
When you have things set up to just notify you of updates, here’s what you’ll see when there’s an update available:
Click on it and you’ll be shown whatever updates are available:
Check the boxes adjacent to the updates you actually want to install or accept (and that’s exactly where you can delay until you’re ready to update your copy of Windows, of course) and click “Install updates” when you’re ready:
That’s how to take control of your Microsoft Windows Auto Update feature. Just don’t loose track and stop updating!