This article explains how to turn automatic reboots triggered by Windows Update.

Michael Pietroforte

Michael Pietroforte is the founder and editor in chief of 4sysops. He has more than 35 years of experience in IT management and system administration.

If Windows ever rebooted your PC during your lunch break while an important task was still running or you forgot to save data in an open application, then you understand the full extent of this problem. Modern applications are able to prevent Windows from rebooting, but this doesn't always work.

In my view, a computer should never ever automatically restart without explicit confirmation from the user. If security measures can destroy the work of users, then the bad guys have already won. No Windows update is important enough to delete a whole morning's work of your boss.

And if a new dangerous computer worm is really threatening your PCs, then network-wide restarts have to be managed and controlled by humans, not computers.

There are two ways to turn off automatic Windows Update reboots. You can let users choose when to install updates or you can disable auto-restarts.

Let users choose when to install Windows updates ^

You can configure Automatic Updates to only automatically download the latest update but let users choose when to install them. This configuration can be set through the Control Panel applet Windows Update (type Windows Update at the Start Search prompt) or through Group Policy (Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Windows Update\Configure Automatic Updates).

Turn off automatic reboots - Windows Update Settings

Windows will then inform users about new available updates. If a user doesn't install them right away, Windows will do so when the user shuts down the computer. The disadvantage of this method is that this also prevents the installation of updates that don't require a restart if the user ignores the message from Windows Update.

However, there is a Group Policy setting for allowing the installation of these unproblematic updates: Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Windows Update\Allow Automatic Updates immediate installation. If this setting is enabled, Windows Updates automatically installs updates that neither interrupt Windows services nor restart Windows.

Turn off automatic reboots ^

But the best option is simply to turn off automatic reboots with this Group Policy setting: Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Windows Update\No auto-restart with logged on users for scheduled automatic update installations. I recommend using this setting network-wide because it will reduce the number of angry help desk calls significantly.

Turn off automatic reboots - Group Policy Windows Update

I only covered the three Windows Update settings that I consider most important. I recommend also having a look at the other Group Policy settings at Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Windows Update. You might find something that is worthwhile configuring in your environment.

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14 Comments
  1. Hank Arnold (MVP) 9 years ago

    I have to respectfully disagree. My experience has been that if an end user is allowed to delay an update, they will do it. They never "have the time".

    I always recommend that the average consumer set WU/MU to download and install automatically. The only exceptions are folks I *KNOW* will install fixes and those who have dialup.

    I manage a network at an upstate NY Hospice and we use WSUS servers. All clients are set to download and install automatically. It doesn't take long for folks to stop ignoring the warning or try to "beat the clock".

    Honestly, anyone who has important work in progress and leaves the computer without saving their work almost deserves what happens. For crying out loud, the updates only happen once or twice a month! How often will you lose data bbecause of an automatic update?

    Set MU/WU to automatic and enjoy a more secure system.

    Regards,
    Hank Arnold (MVP)

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  2. Michael Pietroforte 9 years ago

    Hank, perhaps your viewpoint is too much from an IT Pro's perspective. I have no statistical data but I am pretty sure that from a business perspective automatic reboots make no sense even if you include the improved security in your calculations. Check out the comments in this post to get an idea how often people loose data because of forced reboots. So the question is not if users deserve to lose their data but if your company deserves to lose money.

    I think it makes much more sense to establish a company wide policy that computers have to be shut down after work. This ensures that updates are installed at least once per day. PCs that have been off for several days can be updated once they boot up again. If the rest of your security is in order this is secure enough and saves your company lots of money.

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  3. Hank Arnold (MVP) 9 years ago

    I guess we will have to agree to diagree on this. Based on my experiences with folks at work and consumers I deal with, having auto reboot is the only way to go. Turning it off should be an exception rather than the rule.

    Best wishes and keep up the great work. I reference your blog many times in mine....

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  4. Don Gilcrease 9 years ago

    From a user's perspective, the system is generally shut down daily anyway, and NO update is so critical it has to be installed the moment it is downloaded. They can wait until the end of the day. I have my sustem set to 1440 minutes, and havenj't had any attacker take it over yet.

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  5. Don Gilcrease 9 years ago

    Scuse the mispellings. I was chatting with my son and was distracted 😎

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  6. Laraine 9 years ago

    This feature does not appear to be available, that it, MMC will not let me add a snap-in for this feature in Win 7 Home Premium so I have not been able to find a way to turn off the reboot reminder.

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  7. Nico 9 years ago

    It's folks like Hank who believes he knows what's best for other people. Computers are like one's personal space, whether it's a company computer or not. The same goes for one's desk, it has personal value, which should not be invaded.
    To set an automatic reboot without regard of what one is doing, is the epitome of disrespect and invasion.
    I cannot imagine how much damage you cause your employer even if you set the automatic reboot to once a year.
    Do your job, Hank, and implement a safe and less damaging security policy.

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  8. Gustavo 9 years ago

    I hate automatic updates reboots. I don't like when a machine decides for me. Do you have an idea how many times I have a presentacion and Windows decides to reboot? What is reasonable is to ask for an user confirmation before rebooting.

    The automatic reboot option really bothers me a lot. It is a big waste of time. I lost lot of information becuase Microsoft is not capable to make a reliable product.

    I have much more chances to loose important work than a hacker will take control of my computer.

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  9. Munchman 8 years ago

    Thank you very much for this info, I use my PC for Gaming and it has booted me while in the middle of levels or in Online matches, very Annoying!

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  10. Salah Gasim 8 years ago

    Thanks a lot for the post,
    auto reboot is really bothering, specially when i have big files to download over night, and i find the log-in screen in the morning. Really stupid.

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  11. Larry 8 years ago

    Why do we continue to spend our hard earned money to buy and support products that refuse to serve us and do what we want?

    I hate windows. It is designed intentionally by microsoft with security holes so they can spy on us. So they have to keep updating as others figure out how to get in. So we bow to the games they play.

    Unfortunately it isn't just Microsoft, but most of the stuff we buy is designed to wear out or fail so we buy again or have to pay big to fix. Cars are the worst. They are engineering nightmares and there is NO excuse for it. I often wonder how many die in accidents because power windows and door locks don't work, yet we are foolish enough to pay for them. Also every car on the road is a fire hazzard in a front end collision because they are too cheap to install a fuse where the alternator battery charging wire connects to the battery. If that wire gets pinched it instantly bursts into flames. I saw it happen.

    Consumers should wise up and demand products that serve us. I paid for my computer, so I should have control of it, not Microsoft.

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  12. Jeremy 7 years ago

    There is no MS conspiracy, but as a professional windows "user", I am continually frustrated by the reboot nags after updates, particularly with how easily it is to be typing an email when the prompt comes up, only to hit the wrong letter and send the machine instantly into a reboot... Just thinking about it starts building rage. I want to strangle the engineer who was stupid enough to have the oversight.

    I also question the effort MS delivers into updating a machine WITHOUT rebooting. I find myself extremely suspicious that they're just pressing the reboot button frequently to avoid a support burden or more carefully crafted update infrastructure.

    Not all of us "users" have state that can be instantly regained after a reboot. I have an organized mess that I rely on being consistent every day. A reboot is akin to having a cleaning staff come in and clear my desk of all papers, dump it all together into a box, assuming I won't mind pulling it all back out the next morning.

    An enterprise OS should be able to goddamn update itself and keep on running. (restart a daemon, I don't care- but don't bounce my whole damn machine!!!)

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  13. Tim 5 years ago

    I agree with this article. I own a small business and nothing is more frustrating than being in the middle of 4 hours worth of engineering design and all of the sudden the computer thinks its update is more important than your time and work. Seriously flawed feature obviously driven by I.T. nerds that have no clue about doing work that generates income that is ultimately the source of their paycheck. Agreed that windows gives a few warnings that it is going to shutdown and I know I should save my work prior but when it shuts down while installing software or updating the cloud drive you are out of luck due to the drive of uninformed IT nerds.

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  14. Michael Pietroforte 5 years ago

    Tim, I think "Microsoft's nerds" are quite aware of the problem. It is a simple business calculation. What does hurt Microsoft more, a few annoyed customers who lost data because of a reboot or media reports about Windows systems that have been hacked?

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