If you’ve purchased a PC recently, it likely came preloaded with Windows 10. This most recent version of Windows is largely unobjectionable: It has a familiar, “Windows 7” style feel, while still retaining some key Windows 8 features and improvements. While the overall response to Windows 10 has been mixed and mired in controversy, it’s hard to argue that Microsoft hasn’t taken steps and made compromises to appease the community. Microsoft’s aggressive marketing campaigns and hardware partner initiatives continue to drive adoption rates.
But there’s a large segment of the computer-using population that still express some frustration over one particular aspect of Windows 10. Windows Update has remained a controversial topic among Windows users, one that even proponents of the operating system admit has its flaws. The often intrusive updates and confusing update controls can sometimes leave regular users of Windows 10 Home frustrated.
It’s important to remember that these updates serve a very important purpose. While many patches tout a host of new features and tweaks, they also apply the ever-important security patches needed to keep computers safe in today’s world. That fact can often get lost in the hub-bub of patch notes and release announcements, which only adds to the confusion the average user may feel when bombarded with intrusive updates that force a restart at inconvenient times.
Studies show that Windows Update is good, but could use some tweaks
A recent study at the University College London, reported on by PC World, attempted to highlight user’s frustration with Windows 10 Update. The study used a limited pool of participants to gauge the user’s perception and general feel of Windows 10 Updates. A total of 93 participants were polled and asked questions related to their usage patterns, interaction with Windows 10 Update controls, and general experience with Windows Updates.
The study made some interesting finds. One of Windows 10 Home’s primary controls for updates revolves around the “active hours” feature found in the Windows 10 Update control panel. Only 28% of users reported being aware of this feature.
The rest of the results are more mixed and don’t necessarily indicate a clear pattern beyond “Users would like to retain control of when their computer updates,” a feature that is missing finer control in the Home edition of Windows 10.
Users did generally react positively to the updates themselves, with the majority understanding the need for frequent updates and trusting in Microsoft to provide secure updates for their systems.
Researchers drew several conclusions based on the survey, including that they felt the perception of Windows Update was a success. The study did go on to suggest Windows 10 learn usage patterns and attempt to schedule update downloads around those patterns, rather than rely solely on the active hours’ control that the majority of users didn’t know existed.
Why does Microsoft limit update control on the Home edition of Windows?
For those who are unfamiliar, the problem with finer update control highlighted above does have a solution. Users who want access to specific patch times or delays in updates can upgrade Windows Home to Pro. The Pro version of Windows enables far more control over patch times than the standard Home edition. But why is that?
Microsoft wants a secure operating system, and pushing updates to users on a schedule helps to maintain that. This is particularly relevant when nasty vulnerabilities are found on a monthly basis that can cause serious damage not only to consumers but to businesses as well.
Put simply, Microsoft is attempting to protect users from themselves. Far too often “We didn’t update” is found to be the cause behind major breaches in security, so it’s not an outlandish policy to have.
Pro and Enterprise editions have far more extensive ways of controlling this, and can even be selective with security patches, group policy controls, and more. Without these controls, Microsoft would have a very difficult time convincing businesses to upgrade.
What can you do to avoid automatic updates if you’re a Home user?
In short, not much. The controls built into Windows 10 Home aren’t meant to be tampered with, and there’s no way to manually disable them from the control panel. There are more advanced techniques that involve editing the registry to disable Windows 10 Update, but their use isn’t recommended and isn’t going to be accessible to the average Home user.
That being said, there are things you can do to mitigate the impact of Windows 10 Update on your daily activities. Inside the control panel are options that allow you to control when Windows 10 can update and what bandwidth it has access to when doing so. Some of these controls are buried inside menus-within-menus, so it may take some digging to reveal them.
How can businesses avoid problems with updates?
Businesses that have upgraded to select versions of Windows will have far more options for controlling Windows Update. Microsoft tends to be more flexible with their enterprise-grade policies and will allow extensions for security updates, group policy controls for updating, and task scheduling for the update process itself. Windows Update can even be disabled entirely.
Many businesses will want to vet upcoming patches and ensure stability before rolling anything out to a live environment, and these controls allow for that. Having a form of service desk control, like the one provided by SysAid Technologies, can help administrators control and schedule patching for many systems at one time. In this way, enterprise versions of Windows 10 function much like previous versions of Windows did in regards to updating.
Windows Update is still largely a good thing
Despite the much-maligned hype around the changes to the update policy in Windows 10, it’s hard to argue that it’s had a tremendous negative impact on users. There have certainly been a few snags – like Windows deleting users files after an update – but the update requirement has likely protected more systems than it’s harmed.
We’ll leave it up to you to decide how much control you want over your updates, and whether or not it’s worth upgrading to a more expensive version for more domain over Windows Update.