Changing Windows 10 update settings

If you have Windows 10 Pro, Education or Enterprise, you may yearn for the original (since Windows XP) granularity of Windows Update settings. The GUI offered in 10’s regular Settings screen only gives a limited range of options, and unlike many of the areas of the settings screen, the Control Panel version of the Updates app has been removed. 
On these editions of Windows, the Local Group Policy editor provides access to group policy settings for the local computer that are essentially unchanged from XP days. Domain administrators can use the group policy tools to push these settings out to all the computers in their site, but the local policy can be used on any computer, not just one that is joined in a domain.
Open the Local Group Policy editor by running gpedit.msc and then find the updates settings in the following location:
  • Expand Computer Configuration
  • Expand Administrative Templates
  • Expand Windows Components
  • Select Windows Update
What you can see in there is a mixture of settings that apply to different editions of Windows. The ones I can see go back as far as Windows XP Service Pack 1, but there are also ones that go to Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8 and Windows 10. Also, some of the settings are only applicable when you have your own Windows Server Update Services installation inside a site. The server that is running WSUS can manage all of the updates across a site and make sure bandwidth is being used efficiently. WSUS is a great tool if your internet bandwidth is slow or expensive but it doesn’t justify itself at sites with a flat rate connection or where a small number of computers don’t really need the management overhead.
So to the settings that are useful:
  • Enabling Windows Update Power Management to automatically wake up the system to install scheduled updates – appears only to apply to 7/Vista/2008. Apparently being in hibernation is not a guarantee the system is not going to update itself without you knowing. I always turn my PCs off at the wall as soon as they have gone into hibernation so they will never wake themselves up which makes this setting irrelevant.
  • Configure automatic updates – is the main configuration option we are all familiar with from earlier editions of Windows. Enable this policy then choose whether you want the system to automatically install the updates, download and notify you, or let you decide when to download and when to install. 
  • Defer Upgrade – this Windows 10 setting is one of the few available in the settings GUI. I advise enabling it.
  • No auto-restart with logged on users for scheduled automaric updates installations – this makes sure the system will not force an automatic restart if you have the Configure Automatic Updates setting set to auto-install updates. Enabling this is recommended.
  •  There are some other similar settings which I have not covered as I have set my “Configure Automatic Updates” policy to ask me before it installs anything, and if you choose this one at least you are spared the default behaviour where you just get kicked off your own computer and everything is force closed whether you had unsaved work or not.