The single most common complaint I’ve heard about Windows 10 is its lack of control over update timing. That’s annoying enough for monthly security updates, which typically take just a few minutes to install. But when a feature update (the new name for major version upgrades that now arrive twice a year) kicks off its installation without warning, it can render the PC unusable for an hour or more.
In two previous feature updates, Windows 10 added options to defer the installation of updates and to pause them temporarily. These settings were primarily aimed at enterprise admins, however, with the most useful options requiring changes to Group Policy.
The Windows 10 Creators Update, due for release this spring, consolidates those update controls into the Settings app, adding some knobs and levers that make them much easier to manage. You’ll pay for the privilege, though: the new update controls are available only for the Pro/Enterprise/Education editions. The entry-level edition, Windows 10 Home, offers none of the new update controls.
If you’re running the latest Windows 10 Insider preview build, 15042, you won’t see these changes. But the user interface is available for inspection if you know where to look. Here’s what you can expect to see when this update rolls out in April.
So how will the new controls work?
The first option allows you to choose a servicing branch. The default is the Current Branch, which installs feature updates as soon as they’re released by Microsoft. Choosing the Current Branch for Business option allows you to wait until Microsoft declares that update ready for business users. By policy, the Current Branch for Business is always at least four months after the Current Branch.
In addition, you can choose to delay installation of updates by a set number of days after their release to the selected branch. You can delay cumulative monthly quality updates by up to 30 days, and you can delay feature updates by up to 365 days. That latter option is a significant change from the current setting, which allows you to defer feature updates by 180 days.
A new Pause Updates switch in Settings allows you to put Windows Update on hold for up to 35 days. If you’re traveling or working on a project where you can’t afford unexpected downtime, this option should be a life-saver.
Finally, the interval for setting Active Hours is increased from the current 12 hours to 18 hours. That should lessen the likelihood of updates appearing unexpectedly at the beginning or end of a long workday.
The new update controls are a decided improvement over the status quo, but they still require some user interaction. You can’t kick the can down the road indefinitely, but you can manage the update process enough to minimize the risk of disruption significantly.
Of course, in the Windows-as-a-service era, there’s no guarantee that any of these changes will be final. The next feature update, due at the end of 2017, could include still more knobs and levers for twiddling update settings. But these changes should go a long way to tamping down the most serious complaints.