What You Need to Know About Windows Update on Windows 10

Windows Update has seen a lot of changes on Windows 10. The biggest is a more aggressive approach to getting everyone up-to-date, but Windows 10 will also use BitTorrent-style peer-to-peer downloads for updates.

Many of the included applications on Windows 10 — the Microsoft Edge browser and all those other “universal apps” — will be automatically updated through the Windows Store, which is separate from Windows Update.

The Control Panel Interface is Gone

Windows 8 offered dual interfaces for Windows Update — one in the PC Settings app, and one in the older Control Panel. Windows 10 retains most of the old Control Panel, but the Windows Update interface has been removed.

Instead, you’ll find Windows Update in the new Settings app under Update & security. This is the only interface for Windows Update in Windows 10.

Updates Install Automatically, and You Can’t Choose Which

Visit the Windows Update interface and you’ll just find a single button — “Check for updates.” Click this button and Windows will check for available updates. If it finds any, it will automatically download and install them. Windows will also check for updates in the background and automatically download and install them.

Unlike on previous versions of Windows, there’s no way to select individual updates you want to download. All updates — from security updates and Windows Defender definition updates to optional updates and driver updates — will be installed automatically.

The only option you can control is to select the “Advanced options” link and uncheck “Give me updates for other MIcrosoft products when I update Windows.” This will allow you to disable updates for Microsoft Office and other Microsoft programs.

Windows Won’t Download Updates on Metered Connections

Windows won’t download updates on connections you mark as “metered.” This ensures Windows won’t waste valuable tethering data or other mobile data on updates that can wait until it reaches a solid, unrestricted Wi-Fi network. To prevent Windows from downloading updates on a specific connection, first connect to that WI-Fi network.

Next, open the WI-Fi settings panel and select “Network settings,” or open the Settings app and select “Network & Internet.” Scroll down in the list of Wi-Fi networks and select “Advanced options.” Activate the “Set as metered connection” option here. Note that this only affects the current WI-FI network you’re connected to, but Windows will remember the setting for this specific network in the future.

Professional Editions of Windows 10 Can Delay Feature Updates

Home users can’t delay upgrades at all, but Professional editions of Windows 10 get a “Defer upgrades” option in the Advanced options interface. If you enable this, you’ll still receive security updates automatically. Windows 10 will put off downloading feature updates for several months until they’ve had plenty of time to be tested on home PCs.

This is designed to make business PCs a bit more stable and allow system administrators to test new feature updates before they reach their users. If you upgrade to Windows 10 Professional, you could enable this option yourself. But, either way, you’ll get those feature updates — it will just happen a few months later.

You Can Choose When to Reboot

Click the “Advanced options” link in the Windows Update interface and you’ll only find two “Choose how updates are installed” options. You can pick “Automatic,” which is the default — Windows will automatically download updates, install them, and schedule a reboot for a time when you aren’t using your PC.

You can also choose “Notify to schedule restart,” which will prevent your PC from automatically rebooting without your confirmation. But, either way, those updates will be automatically downloaded and installed.

Peer-to-Peer Downloads for Updates are Enabled, Even Over the Internet

To speed up updating, Windows now uses peer-to-peer downloads for updates. For example, if you have several Windows PCs at home, you don’t necessarily have to download the same update several times. Instead, the first PC to update would download it and the other PCs could download it from the first PC.

You can control whether peer-to-peer downloads are enabled from the “Choose how updates are delivered” link under “Advanced options” here.

By default, Windows 10 enables peer-to-peer downloads over the Internet as well, and your PC will use some of your upload bandwidth sending those Windows updates to other PCs. You can disable this by selecting only “PCs on my local network” here.

If you run Disk Cleanup and clean up the Windows Update files lying around on your PC to free up space, your PC won’t be able to provide peer-to-peer downloads because the files won’t be available.

You Can View Your Update History and Uninstall Updates

If there is a problem with your PC, you can uninstall problematic updates afterwards. To view your update history, open the Windows Update interface, select “Advanced options,” and select “View your update history.” You’ll see a list of updates, and you can select “Uninstall updates” to view a list of updates you can uninstall.

Microsoft will probably continue rolling out major updates to Windows 10 in the form of “builds” that contain all previous updates. This means that you’ll be unavailable to avoid updates forever, just as you’d have to accept an update when it appeared in a service pack on previous versions of Windows — assuming you wanted to upgrade to that service pack.

Windows Won’t Have to Update Again After You Reset Your PC

When you use the “PC Reset” feature found in Windows 10 to restore your PC, you won’t have to re-download every single Windows update that’s ever been released. Instead, the new PC Reset feature will give you a fresh, up-to-date Windows system. You won’t need to spend hours updating and rebooting over and over, which is a huge improvement from Windows 8’s Refresh and Reset features and the manufacturer-provided recovery partitions on Windows 10.


Microsoft also likely plans on making more use of the “build” system going forward. While small security updates will arrive as individual updates, major upgrades to Windows 10 that include new features will likely arrive as “builds.” A Windows 10 PC can upgrade directly to a new build, which means that old cycle of downloading updates and rebooting four or five times to ensure you have all the old updates on an out-of-date PC won’t be necessary.

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 07/22/15
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