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How to customize Windows automatic update settings?

Automatic updates feature in Windows OS checks with the Microsoft updates site and finds out if there are any important updates that need to be installed on the system. These updates include the bi-monthly security updates(GDRs) and service pack updates. Users does not have to bother about keeping track of which updates are installed or need to be installed on their systems.

How to turn on Automatic updates?

Open my computer properties and click on ‘Automatic updates‘ tab.  Here you have 4 options to configure how automatic updates should work on your system. They are listed below.

  1. Automatic : If you select this option, updates will be automatically downloaded and will be installed on your computer. When you select this option, you can configure the interval when it should check for updates.
  2. Download updates but don’t install them immediately. Notify the user that updates are downloaded and ready to be installed. Let the user choose when he wants the updates to be installed.
  3. Don’t install, Don’t download: Just notify the user that there are new updates to be installed.
  4. Turn off automatic updates: Don’t check for any updates. This option is not recommended.

It’s recommended to select option 1 to keep your system secure. Only administrators can change these settings.

How to turn off automatic updates?

You need to select option 4(see details above) to disable automatic updates.

How to turn on/off automatic updates from Windows command line?

Read  Turn on/off automatic updates from command prompt

Automatic updates options are completely disabled on my system. I can’t change any setting. The options are greyed out. How can I change the settings?

If your computer is part of a domain then the domain administrators would have configured group policy which prevents users from changing the settings. See below for more details.

How to configure automatic updates settings using group policies?

Open group policy object editor and expand the node ‘Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Windows components -> Windows update‘.  Now double click on the setting ‘Configure Automatic updates‘. If you want to remove local user control on the updates, you need to set it to enabled
and then  select one of the options from the drop down list. The options you have is:

  • Notify download and notify install
  • Auto download and notify install
  • Auto download and schedule install
  • Leave it to the local administrator

If you leave the setting to ‘Not configured‘, local administrators of the system will have access to turn on/off automatic updates. If you set it to ‘Disabled‘, then Auto updates feature will be turned off and users have to manually install the updates by visiting Microsoft update portal.

Important updates is greyed out in the update settings window on my Windows 7 computer. How can I turn off updates? I have administrator privileges on my computer.

If your computer is in a domain, then most probably a group policy would have been configured by domain administrators to enable auto updates. See the previous question on group policies.

How can I verify if updates group policy is enabled by domain administrators?

You can confirm this by opening rsop.msc and open the node ‘Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Windows components -> Windows update‘ and check the status of the group policies.

Registry keys:

The registry keys related to automatic updates feature can be found under the below node

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\WindowsUpdate\Auto Update

AUOptions registry key controls whether automatic updates should be turned on or off.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Anonymous July 12, 2011, 2:49 pm

    Is there any way to know the last time the updates were installed ?

  • Techblogger July 12, 2011, 2:55 pm

    Check the data of the registry key LastSuccessTime under the below node

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionWindowsUpdateAuto UpdateResultsInstall

  • Pankaj April 17, 2012, 6:54 am

    How to launch updates installation manually? I want to disable auto updates but want to schedule it to run once in a month like that. can I do this?

    • admin April 20, 2012, 4:02 pm

      There are two ways.
      1. Launch windows update wizard by running wuapp from run window. Click on ‘check for updates’ in the list of options shown on the left.
      2. Visit update.microsoft.com and check for updates.

  • Jeorgens April 20, 2012, 1:34 am

    There’s a 3rd party application I use which is behaving weird after a recent update installation. how would I uninstall the updates from my computer? This is on Windows 7 ultimate. Please help.

    • admin April 20, 2012, 4:05 pm

      You can run appwiz.cpl and select the updates and then uninstall. You can use the installed date to find the recently installed updates.

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