Newsletter Archives

  • The case against Windows Automatic Update

    Yes, you need to apply Windows patches. No, you don’t need to install them as soon as they’re available.

    I’ve taken a lot of flak over that position. Here’s my manifesto, updated in light of the Shadow Brokers/NSA and Wikileaks/CIA revelations.

    Computerworld Woody on Windows.

  • Adobe: 64% of American computer owners say they apply updates immediately

    Adobe just posted the results of their survey of 2,000 American adults. The summary is a bit different from the details, but here are the questions and answers that caught my eye:

    Q: Do you typically update the software on your computer when new updates are released?

    A: 64% said yes, 30% said “it varies” and only 4% said they don’t. Note that there’s no response available for “I apply updates but not when the manufacturer pushes them out.”

    Q: How do you typically update your software?

    A: 41% say they typically choose to be prompted when updates are available. 34% say that, when the software has the option to install updates automatically, they choose that option. 3% say they didn’t know there was more than one way to update software.

    Interesting report.


  • What happens when you install Internet Explorer updates automatically?

    I thought this was a pretty cut-and-dried topic, but there’s an amazing amount of nuance.

    IE has a check box that says “Install new versions automatically” and its effect on Windows Update is strange.

    Tests are under way in the Windows forum.

    [Modified this post to clarify/correct, tx to anonymous]

  • Patching Win10 in the real world

    Forgive me for ranting.

    I have a half dozen kids over every Sunday morning, for a “learn to code” session. I haul out six computers – a Chromebook, an iPad, Surface Pro 3, a MacBook Pro, a Win7 machine and one more Win10 machine. I don’t use those machines all the time.

    I made a mistake. One of the Win10 machines is set to update automatically. You guessed it. Without any assistance on my part, as I was cranking up other computers, it started upgrading to 1607. The poor kid with that machine had to sit and wait and wait. I finally hauled out an older iPad and got him going.

    The upgrade took almost an hour. And the machine was useless the whole time. But it’s now on 1607.

    GRRRRRR. The Chromebook is still the most reliable PC that I own, followed by the Mac. (iPads are great, but they aren’t PCs – I specifically want to teach the kids how to use a mouse, because their standardized tests use mice.)

  • Are Win7 and Win8.1 Auto Update stuck?

    Here’s the behavior I’ve seen since Saturday:

    I’m running Win7 in a VM, with default settings (Auto Update is turned on), with all checked patches installed.

    The “Upgrade to Windows 10 Pro, version 1511, 10586” item is in Optional updates, and Microsoft checked it for me. I can clear the check mark, but it reappears every time any component of Windows Update runs.

    I let the machine run overnight (or however long it takes for Auto Update to kick in). All of the checked items except “Upgrade to Windows 10 Pro, version 1511, 10586” install with the Auto Update run.

    It looks to me like MS changed the behavior on Saturday, possibly early Sunday morning.

    If any of you are brave enough to run Win7 with Auto Update turned on (without running GWX Control Panel or making the registry changes that prevent the upgrade), could you give that a try and see what happens for/to you?

    If you, or anyone you know, was upgraded to Win10 without permission – and they haven’t rolled back yet – please have them dig into the C:\windows.old folder (in Windows 10, mind you) and email me a copy of windowsupdate.log. Asking for a friend.

  • How Automatic Update gets unintentionally switched

    An interesting note from PKCano, about ways people accidentally turn on Automatic Update, in Windows Update:

    One, Users set Win Update to “Download updates and let me decide when to install’ They think they are on manual. Win Update installs the downloaded updates when they reboot their PC because they didn’t uncheck. We know this scenario.

    Second scenario: Win Updates are on Automatic. The User goes to Update Settings and pulls down the menu to “Search but let me choose…” They hit the back arrow instead of “OK.” The changed settings are not saved, although the user will swear they were. And next month they find it on automatic again. MS (didn’t) reset it.

    Third scenario: The User goes to Update Settings and it says “Search but let me choose…” The User pulls down the menu to check the choices and when he lets go it goes back to the top choice (automatic). Then he hits “OK” saving the choice he didn’t know he changed. And next month he find it on automatic again. MS (didn’t) reset it.

    Fourth Scenario: IE installation, even before IE11, has had the “option Box” with “Use default settings” and “Keep Current Settings” (or something similar) on first run. And maybe Microsoft Office (before 2016 – I haven’t installed it) and maybe changing from Windows Update to Microsoft Update. If YOU CHOOSE “Default,” YOU are choosing to reset the settings. MS (didn’t) reset it. ALWAYS use the option that gives you the choice, not MS’s default.

    The same goes for installing ANY software. ALWAYS choose the “Custom” install over the “Express” install so you can see (some of) what you are getting and opt out. If you install Win10 using the Express Install (recommended, of course) instead of Custom, you get all the privacy settings wide open by default.

    Changes to your automatic update settings are registered in the file C:\Windows\windowsupdate.log. Unfortunately, in Windows 10, that .log file is a bear to read. But in Win7 and 8.1 it’s plain text – if lengthy. If you get switched over to Automatic Update and can’t figure out why, that’s the place to look.

    UPDATE: Owburp sent along this screen capture of the IE installation screen, see attached. Step 2 — the green one — clearly says “Turn on Windows Update.”


  • Windows Store automatic updates can be turned off in all versions of Windows 10

    If it’s universal, this is a Real Big Deal.

    If you’re running Win10, give it a try.

    InfoWorld Woody on Windows

  • Windows keeps telling me to “Update and Restart”

    Just got a good question from a reader, and figured I’d reprint it here, because I hear the question a lot. Larry wrote to say:


    I’m a bit fuddled…or, maybe it’s be-fuddled! Anyhow, I’m trying to set up and run an HP Pavillion, running Windows 7 Home Premium. 

    Trying to deal with Automatic Updates, I’ve tried walking thru Book VI, Chapter 4 (pp. 653 – ff.). I’ve run thru the procedures on pp. 658 659, but I’m stumped at step 5. I really DO want to be happy, honest; but it almost seems that I’m being a little deserted here!:( 

    I’ve made the recommended changes to System and Security, and you’re right; go to Shut down and those Updates still install…Automatically! ARRGH#$%&^&*! Now what?! 

    In “The windows Shutdown Conundrum” the recommendation seems to be “Pull the plug. Quite literally.” Does this mean…literally force the shutdown by pressing the power switch to OFF? I don’t mind doing so but hope doing so doesn’t cause programs or the hard drive to crash. Any advice?? Pulling the plug won’t turn the laptop OFF unless the battery is removed.

     HELP!!! Please!!!

    And here’s my answer:

    Larry – 

    First, on a new system, install all of the automatic updates, in spite of the recommendations that I give day-to-day on

     Second, you need to set auto update to “Notify but don’t download” (See the tab at the top of this page)

     If, in the future, you hit the “Install updates and restart” option, yep, your only choice is to pull the blasted plug. Close all your programs first, of course. Then push the Off button, and if that doesn’t work, pull the power.

     Once you’re set up to “Notify but don’t download” you should never, ever get the “Install updates and restart” option. Ever.


  • 17 epic Windows Auto Update meltdowns

    Whatta mess.

    If you can go through my new InfoWorld slide show, and leave Windows Automatic Update turned ON, you’re a much more trusting soul than I.

    (Thanks for the shout-out! Sheesh. Trying to do too many things at once. 🙂

  • Microsoft re-releases botched KB 2823324 as KB 2840149

    But there’s more to the story…


    InfoWorld Tech Watch

  • Automatic Update Hall of Shame, 2012 Edition

    Five Microsoft Windows automatic updates from hell.


  • False alarm!

    Microsoft is NOT pushing Internet Explorer 9 through Windows Update – yet. Full story in my InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.