Blocking Windows 10 Automatic Reboot for Updates

08 September 2015

Man VS Machine

Nothing peeves me more than computers automatically overriding their human operator.  It seems obvious that humans should be trusted over computers, right?  Computers making suggestions can be extremely helpful, but actually overriding the human’s input and automatically doing something potentially catastrophic with no confirmation?  Isn’t this against the Laws of Robotics or something?

Autocorrect

The most common example is automatic spelling correction, which has entire sites devoted to how fail it is.  Another one that annoys me is automatic URL completion in web browsers.  If you type in the address bar these days and hit enter, most browsers will randomly pick a matching item from your history and automatically visit that page – you have to hit backspace to delete the text it added to go to the URL you typed in.

These cases should ALWAYS require the user to click or tap the suggested autocorrection before having it applied.  This is an extremely minor effort on the users’ part, and a huge usability gain for the application.

At least every phone, web browser, and document editor let’s you easily turn off their “automatically change what the user typed into something they didn’t type” feature.  Well… “easily” may be up for debate, but at least it’s in the options, right?

Office Autocorrect Options

You may have to uncheck 37 checkboxes across 5 tabs to avoid having Office change the text you type, but at least you only have to do that once per computer and every time you reinstall Windows!

Windows Updates

One thing that I’m oddly not particularly aggravated by is Windows Updates.  I think it’s critical that Microsoft provide the option to permanently turn them off in some capacity, but nagging a user for not applying security updates is totally reasonable.  I’ve always been a faithful user of the “Download updates but let me choose to install them” option.  Whenever my computer is free and apps are closed I can choose to let Windows update.  I might still get “lucky” and require multiple reboots plus a major system malfunction, but at least I know it’s not at a critical time.

Windows 7 Update Options

Windows 7 Update Options

Windows 8

With Windows 8 and even more aggressively in Windows 10, Microsoft has again failed its users.  In Windows 8, instead of just nagging users to install updates, Windows would actually reboot the user’s PC automatically.  Not just at night, but even while they are using it.  I find it incredible that Microsoft made this decision.  Rebooting a users’ PC without prompting the user is extremely dangerous.  It discards unsaved work, exits realtime apps like calls or games, disconnects from VPNs, and has countless other disruptive consequences.

For me, Windows 8 rebooted the PC while I was in the middle of a game of League of Legends.

I don’t get a lot of time at my PC these days.  If I sit down once a week to play a game of LoL with four friends, the last thing I expect is for Microsoft to reboot my computer in the middle of it.  This ruined an hour of effort for myself AND nine others.  I nearly uninstalled Windows from my PC on the spot.

Fortunately I was able to find a deeply hidden registry setting to stop Windows 8 from automatically rebooting my PC:

  1. Run RegEdit
  2. Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate\AU
  3. Create the DWORD NoAutoRebootWithLoggedOnUsers and set it to 1.

NoAutoRebootWithLoggedOnUsers

Windows 10

Windows 10 has received a lot of bad press about its automatic updates.  Apparently it’s pushing untested updates too fast, colliding driver updates with 3rd party vendors’ update apps, slamming users’ on metered connections with high data bills, and secretly using your upload speed for P2P distribution of updates.  There are many articles about all these problems, so no sense rehashing the same tips that are all over the internet.  Suffice to say that if websites are recommending that you permanently UNPLUG YOUR DESKTOP’S ETHERNET CABLE, then Microsoft has fucked up big time.

Microsoft almost managed to not continue automatically restarting users’ PC behind their backs.  In Windows 10 there is a “Schedule Restart” option in the Advanced settings for Windows Update.  But as you can see in the comments on this article, even that option still includes automatically restarting the computer a few hours later if the user isn’t around to see the notification.  Seriously Microsoft?  “Notify me to Schedule Restarts” means “Go ahead and throw away all my running apps and restart my computer without my input”?

My only hope is that the Windows 8 registry trick above will continue to work for Windows 10 to prevent automatic reboots.  One user posts it in the comments on this article, but I found no other references to this option for Windows 10 Automatic Updates.  I’ll update here once I figure out for sure if it works!

  • UPDATE: It works!  Both computers I applied this setting to have waited patiently for me to reboot them before installing updates.  I left Notepad open with some text in it just to be sure the computer didn’t sneak a reboot in, and it was still there.  Hurray for overly complicated backdoor measure to achieve extremely basic UX!

This entry was posted on 08 September 2015 and is filed under Tech Support.

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