Windows 10 doesn’t include the ability to turn off Automatic Updates. Unless you go to extraordinary lengths, you get ’em whether you want ’em or not, unless you’re attached to a Windows Update server (WSUS, WUB, or some other variety). Sometimes life ain’t fair.
There are two tricks, however, that work most of the time. First, if you’re using a Wi-Fi connection, you can tell Windows that you’re on a metered connection. Windows 10 generally won’t download any updates over a metered connection. You can also tell the Windows Store to stop delivering updates automatically. Microsoft has pumped a lot of garbage through the Windows Store – although recent updates to the “core” programs like Mail have been worthwhile. To turn all updates off, start Windows Store. In the upper-right corner, click on your personal icon, then choose Settings. Up at the top, you should see a setting for App Updates, which can be configured to Update Apps Automatically either On or Off.
If you’re using Windows 10 Pro, and you aren’t attached to an Update Server, you can go into the Group Policy Editor and tell it that you want to “Notify for download and notify for install,” following this discussion from Anand Khanse at The Windows Club. Your results may vary.
For those of you using Windows 8.1, 8, 7, or Vista, I strongly recommend that you set Windows Automatic Update to “Notify but don’t download.” For detailed reasons and an explanation of the options involved, see my Windows Secrets article, New Years resolution: banish automatic updates.
Here’s how to set Windows to Notify but don’t Download:
Windows 8: While looking at the old-fashioned Windows desktop, hold down the Windows key and press X, then choose Control Panel. Then follow the instructions for Windows 7.
Windows 7 and Vista: Using an administrator-level account, click Start, Control Panel, and then System and Security. Under Windows Update, click the Turn automatic updating on or off link. (Note: If you have Control Panel set to View by icons, click Windows Update, then on the left choose Change Settings.) In the drop-down box, select Check for updates but let me choose whether to download and install them, then click OK.
It’s also a good idea to tell Internet Explorer that it shouldn’t update itself. To do so, fire up Internet Explorer, click the Tools icon (which looks like a gear), then About Internet Explorer. Uncheck the box marked Install new versions automatically.
If you’re using Windows XP, you’re just begging for problems. Get rid of the machine. Replace it with a nice Chromebook, an iPad or, yes, shell out the $200 for a new Windows 10 computer. Life’s too short.