Microsoft tweaks Windows Update to be less “annoying”

Microsoft is working on improving its update system for Windows 8, to cut back on restarts and warn users before shutting down.

Microsoft admitted the automatic restarts caused by Windows Update (WU) are problematic for users, so it’s tweaking the system to be “a little less annoying”.

“Allowing restarts to occur without user interaction has helped us to rapidly update a major portion of the Windows ecosystem with critical updates,” said Farzana Rahman, the group program manager of our Windows Update group, in a post on the Windows 8 blog. “On average, within a week of releasing a critical update, 90% of PCs have installed the update.”


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“On the other hand, this behaviour of automatic restarts has some unintended consequences for the user,” she said. “We have heard a lot of painful stories of users coming back to their PCs in the morning to find that a restart occurred, and that some important data was lost.”

Under the Windows Update (WU) system, updates will continue to be downloaded and installed the same, but restarts will happen only once a month, timed alongside the monthly security update – unless a particularly dangerous security threat requires faster action.

“In that case, WU will not wait, but will go ahead and download, install, and restart automatically,” Rahman said. “But this will happen only when the security threat is dire enough.”

Windows will also warn users three days ahead of the looming update, letting them restart in their own time if they prefer. The warning message will be displayed on the login screen, and power options will change to “Update and Restart” and “Update and Shutdown” to make it clear to users.

Windows Update

If a user doesn’t manually restart during that period, Windows will post a notification on the login page that the system will restart in 15 minutes, allowing time to save work first.

However, Microsoft stressed it won’t restart a machine if any data is in danger of being lost. It also won’t display restart messages when the PC is in presentation mode, to avoid awkward moments in meetings, or when the user is running a full-screen movies or playing a game.

For businesses, admins will be able to set up their own policies for how to manage restarts.

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