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automatic updates: Restart now, or later?

perhaps the most annoying dialog in the world is the Windows XP (and potentially elsewhere) dialog that pops up once your computer has finished installing automatic updates from Microsoft. It’s a really good idea to get automatic updates from Microsoft, by the way. If they find some insidious bug that needs fixing before someone uses it as an exploit and hacks your machine (and there are quite a few of those), they can fix it and get it up and installed on your machine as quickly as possible.

the dialog reads:

Updating your computer is almost complete. You must restart your computer for the updates to take effect. Do you want to restart your computer now?

your options are limited to “Restart Now” and “Restart Later”. If you click “Restart Now”, of course, your computer immediately reboots, which you might not want to do right at that second. If you click “Restart Later”, your machine waits 10 minutes, then pops up the dialog again. Then you have to click “Restart Later” again, wait another 10 minutes, click it again, and so on. If you’re not at your computer at the time (maybe you went to get a drink or something), there’s a timer that counts down, and if you don’t click on “Restart Later” during that time, the machine shuts down and reboots.

I can of course see why Microsoft would do this (see above where I talk about wanting to get problems patched as soon as possible so that you don’t get your machine hacked), but there’s nothing more annoying than having this dialog pop up every 10 minutes while you’re trying to work on something, and you just can’t make the darn thing go away.

for those of you in this situation, here’s what you can do. When you get this dialog, you can go ahead and turn off your Automatic Updates. The dialog will stop showing up, and you can get back to your work (or wasting time, as the case may be). Then, at your leisure, you can go ahead and restart your machine. Here’s how:

1. Click on Start > Run
2. Enter: services.msc (I’m guessing the msc stands for Microsoft Configuration)
3. Find “Automatic Updates” under the Name column
4. Right click on it, and select “Stop”
5. You’re done!

hope this is helpful to whoever might be reading this, as figuring out how to do this, was to me…

edit: As per the conversation below, I should point out that this doesn’t permanently stop the automatic updates. Once you reboot the machine, they turn back on at startup… so as long as you remember to do the reboot once you’re done with whatever you’re working on, the automatic updates will continue.

14. Dec, 2009

5 Comments

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  1. Peter
    14. Dec, 2009 at 3:41 pm #

    You can ALSO set your updates to automatically download, but only install with your permission.

    This means you won’t come back to your machine to discover it rebooted without your go-ahead.

  2. David
    14. Dec, 2009 at 7:25 pm #

    Bad bad bad bad idea. Automatic updates are crucial to removing vulnerabilities that are exploited by viruses/trojans all the time. I can understand that you don’t want to reboot your machine right away, and that’s fine. But that’s no reason to stop getting alerts when updates are available and installing them ASAP.

  3. David
    14. Dec, 2009 at 7:27 pm #

    Peter’s suggestion is a much better approach. You can also choose to remind yourself longer than 10 minutes by using the drop-down menu. I think 4 hours is max.

  4. Brian
    14. Dec, 2009 at 9:48 pm #

    that’s a good point, David… but I should point out, that when your computer does reboot, the automatic updates turn back on. So this is not a permanent disabling of the automatic updates feature, but rather, a way to turn off the constant reminder for a reboot until you’re ready to reboot the machine yourself. When you are, the automatic updates will resume upon reboot.

  5. Jake Coogle
    21. Dec, 2009 at 3:38 pm #

    Fun fact: you can change many of the options about the prompt in Group Policy editor. Including but not limited to the interval between reminders and whether or not it has the countdown timer.

    I’d give more info here, but google can do a better job of explaining it than I can.

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