Windows Update and Automatic Reboots


Windows Update plays an essential role in keeping your computer safe, and in order to do that, it sometimes has to reboot your computer.  In this blog post, we want to help clarify how WU reboots your machine (including key differences between XP and Vista behavior), why it does it, and how you can change your WU settings to better fit your needs.


Automatic Rebooting


The goal of Windows Update is to always keep your computer as safe and secure as possible.  Therefore, if you decided that Windows Update should Install updates automatically, an automatic system reboot may be a part of the process.  Choosing any other option will disable automatic reboots, but we do recommend that you keep automatic updates enabled!


Windows Update change settings control panel



Why does Windows Update sometime require a reboot?  Well, some updates require access to files currently in use by your system.  Windows Update does not know if or when those files will be available to use, so your system requires a reboot to avoid any conflicts. For security-related updates, your computer is unsafe before that reboot occurs: it is vulnerable to attacks which exploit the issue(s) fixed by the update requiring a reboot.  


For that reason, when Windows Update automatically installs an update that needs a reboot, it proceeds with an automatic reboot.  In order to make the updating process more convenient for you by preventing disruptions to your work, WU defaults to installing updates (and subsequently rebooting your computer) at 3:00AM.  Additionally, if updates are installed while you happen to be using the computer, and a reboot is required, Windows Update notifies you with this dialog:



Automatic reboot dialog 


The center countdown timer  starts at 5 minutes.  You can Restart now, or Postpone the reminder by 10 minutes, 1 hour, or 4 hours (In Windows XP, you can postpone for 10 minutes).  


There is one exception – a system administrator can deny your rebooting privileges.  For user accounts without rebooting privileges, Windows Update disables the Restart now button.  You can still Postpone, or your system will automatically reboot after 5 minutes.


Update Deadlines


A system administrator can configure some computers behind a Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) server with update deadlines.  When reaching a deadline, Windows Update begins an automatic install of those updates based on settings determined by the system administrator.


This deadline-based automatic install behaves identically to a Windows Update automatic install.  Therefore, if one or more of the deadline updates requires a reboot, Windows Update presents the same dialog box to you with the same options and conditions.  However, if a deadline update requires a reboot, then the reboot cannot be postponed – the Postpone button in the dialog will be disabled.


Policies to Change Automatic Rebooting Behavior


Two group policies allow you to configure how Windows Update handles automatic reboots.  In order to edit these policies, you must own Windows XP Professional, Windows Vista Business, or Windows Vista Ultimate.  The Group Policy Editor is not available in Home Windows versions.


To use the Group Policy Editor, follow these directions for both Windows XP and Windows Vista: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/307882


In Windows Vista, there is another way to access the Group Policy Editor:


·         Click Start


·         Select Control Panel


·         Type Group Policy into the search box


·         Click Edit Group Policy, the only result that appears


 


Once inside the Group Policy Editor:


·         Expand Local Computer Policy


·         Expand Computer Configuration


·         Expand Administrative Templates


·         Expand Windows Components


·         Finally, select Windows Update.


The Group Policy Editor with related Windows Update policies looks like this:



Group Policy editor 


 


With Automatic Updates enabled, the two following policies help you configure automatic reboot behavior.


No auto-restart with logged on users for scheduled automatic updates installations


If you set this policy to Enabled, then your system will never automatically reboot when a user is logged on to it.  After Windows Update automatically installs updates that require a reboot, it presents all logged-on users with the following dialog box:



Pending reboot reminder 


With this policy Enabled, Windows Update never automatically reboots your system, so there is no 5 minute timer.  You can Restart now, or Postpone the reminder by 10 minutes, 1 hour, or 4 hours (In Windows XP, you can postpone for 10 minutes).


Not Configured is the default policy setting and uses the 5 minute timer.  Disabled works identically to the Not Configured setting.


 


 Delay Restart for scheduled installations


This policy allows you to change the initial timer for automatic reboots.  If you set this policy to Disabled or Not Configured, the default setting, then Windows Update uses the default wait time of 5 minutes.  However, if you set the policy to Enabled, it asks you to enter a number which sets the initial wait time. 


For example, if you set the number to 15, Windows Update presents the following dialog after it finishes automatically installing an update that requires a reboot:


Modified countdown timer



Notice how the text following “Restarting in: began with a 15 minute timer instead of a 5 minute timer.  Other behavior remains the same.


 


There are a lot of tools available to help you set up Windows Update to act how you want it to.  We hope that this blog post will help you to do so!  If you want some more in-depth detail about how Windows Update works, the Microsoft Update team just posted a white paper on TechNet.


We’ll be paying attention to your comments, so please give us your feedback!


Thanks,


-WU Client Team

Comments (67)

  1. Anonymous says:

    This question may relate to Mrith’s question above…

    Is there a difference between the computer configuration setting for windows update if it is stated as…

    A>>>>>"No auto-restart with logged on users for scheduled automatic updates installations…" There are 15 selections here compared to 11 in the below gpedit.msc why?

    Compared to…

    B>>>>>’No auto-restart for scheduled automatic updates installations"?????????????

    Regardless if the later system with the gpedit.msc setting is enabled the system still seems to reboot.

    Questions

    1.) is there a difference between the two statements A and B?

    2.) why are they different? both systems are XP V. 2002 sp3

    3.) I have read that this "no auto restart" is over-ridden if there is a "deadline" set. Is this the case?

    4.) If so where is this deadline set?

    I have users that regardless of our request shut machines down and therefore don’t get updates.

    But, they are running scientific research devices that when are automatically shut down have the potential to loose Irrecoverable data. This is an unacceptable situation.

    How can I stop this from occuring? Aside from getting my users to keep there systems up at 3am on sunday?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Great post! I have founded answers to my problems with Group policy editor. Thy for this post once again!

  3. Anonymous says:

    way to tell windows update picture was beautiful thank you to everyone

  4. Anonymous says:

    windows updates and related information about this continuous follow-up would do very well

  5. Anonymous says:

    Please respond to mcateefw@upmc.edu and frankmcatee@hotmail.com for the above questions.

    Thanks!

  6. Anonymous says:

    I last updated my windows xp operating system no problem at this time also thank you for the information provided

  7. Anonymous says:

    oops, just set up a new Vista Home Premium system and enabled automatic updates.  And this morning I see my system was rebooted and several pieces of in-progress work were lost.

    IMO this is totally unacceptable behaviour.  Losing customer data is a critical defect!  I see from this post that I can purchase an OS upgrade in order to override this behaviour.  Thanks, Microsoft.

    I will work around this defect by disabling automatic installation.  But that won’t bring back my lost work.  🙁

  8. Anonymous says:

    this issue in this way has truly guided me to tell thank you

  9. Anonymous says:

    windows xp auto update itself to be very useful to make.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I left my machine for an automatic reboot.  But when I returned it was hung on the shutdown screen.  After I turned it off then on, it won’t complete the boot cycle. It hangs when doing the chip test.

    Is there a part of the update cycle that can fry my chips?  My first guess is that one of my memory sticks is fried… I hope.  It could be worse.

  11. Anonymous says:

    expression and picture your expression was very beautiful about how little I thank you thank you

  12. Anonymous says:

    thank you been very good way to describe pictures

  13. Anonymous says:

    Great post, exactly what I was looking for. I couldn’t find the delay restart for scheduled installations.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Thank you sincerely respect your narration was perfect with a photo

  15. Anonymous says:

    242 Microsoft Team blogs searched, 118 blogs have new articles in the past 7 days. 314 new articles found

  16. Anonymous says:

    thnaks admin

  17. Anonymous says:

    Your pictures and descriptive narrative convenience to many many thanks to my job.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Great Post!  If anyone had any gaps in the AU process and behavior, this closed them!  Keep these kind of articles coming!  

  19. Anonymous says:

    expression have been very good picture Thanks

  20. Anonymous says:

    admn 🙂

  21. Anonymous says:

    was a very good explanation, thank you and have a useful information

  22. Anonymous says:

    So the Delay Restart for scheduled installations is totally pointless.  It only works if a user is logged on?  What about for servers?  How do you control the reboot sequence?  WSUS seems to totally drop the ball here.  A web-farm can’t reboot all at the same time.

    If you have a web farm, app farm and DB clusters, you will end up with a ton of GPO’s and a patch window that spans for hours and hours.  15 minute increments on the patch reboot sequence are needed, not 1 hour increments.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Your pictures and descriptive narrative convenience to many many thanks to my job

  24. Anonymous says:

    many many thanks to my job.

  25. Anonymous says:

    What is the interaction between Update Deadlines and the "No auto-restart with logged on users…" group policy setting? Is the deadline ignored? Can the user put off the reboot indefinitely?

  26. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful presentation and explanation will follow your blog every day I thank you again

  27. Anonymous says:

    Introducing such a topic you’d like to congratulate you’ve let us know. Have good work..

  28. Anonymous says:

    Sometimes windows update reboots and all my programs and files reopen? Is that the same as a shutdown /g? How can I get it to do this all the time as its great?

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  31. M$ HATER says:

    Thanks Microshaft!  I have lost yet another important set of data that will take me hours to recover just because you thought it would be OK to restart my computer at 3 am while it is recovering important data from another machine.  Windows 7 is a total piece of junk just like the previous versions.  I will boycott all future M$ products from my house due to the gross negligence that this OS has for its users.

  32. Windows Home without gpcedit says:

    So how to diable automatic reboots with windows home please ? Full and complete instruction on how to cancel ALL autimatic reboots needed

  33. Windows Home without gpcedit says:

    So how to disable automatic reboots with windows home please ? Full and complete instruction on how to cancel ALL automatic reboots needed

  34. Randy Salvo says:

    My Windows 7 host just rebooted for automatic updates while I was working in a VMware virtual machine.  I lost my work because the automatic reboot warning window did not appear.  I suspect this is because the VM was running in full screen mode.

    To prevent this problem, it is important that the automatic reboot warning window rise to the foreground even if an application is running full screen.  What good is the warning if it is not visible?

    I hate to think how many man-hours have been lost world wide due to this problem.  Please fix it!

  35. icerabbit says:

    Could somebody explain why the 4 hour limit? How about 12 hours? Or Tomorrow?

    That way one can continue the work day without further interruptions.

    I'm inches away from disabling windows automatic update all-together just because it is so intrusive and pesters me every day and has caused undesired machine reboots with loss of work.

  36. HOw? says:

    How do you get these posts to stop going to your email!

  37. Bob Cousins says:

    I sometimes wonder if Microsoft is entirely staffed by idiots. In any normal company, anyone implementing such a brain dead auto reboot idea would be taken round the back and shot. But at Microsoft, losing customer's data becomes part of the official policy.

    So now I have had to turn off automatic updates, in case Windows automatically dumps my work down the can, because I had to leave my computer to do a more important task (there is more to life than PCs you know…).

    Great choice Microsoft, lose your work or be risk being exposed to malware!.

  38. Ken says:

    Note that reboots can happen even if you specifically set the update settings to manually install. Lost a bunch of work because of this. The only fix offered is not available with Win 7 Home editions. Please someone finds a fix!!! Perhaps manually adding keys to the policy sections of the registry that correspond to the keys changed by the group policy editor could work.

  39. Hook says:

    This is stupid. I lost more than once my work because i was away from my computer. Last time happened today.  I had numerous files opened with notepad to keep note of various things I needed to look at any moment. I've just gone away from pc for like half an hour and BOOM! I lost all my important temporary notes and work too because of a stupid update. Seriously, remove this irritating feature, or set it not to automatic. I don't want to turn it off myself. And moreover, you get viruses anyway, no matter how much updates you do. So why bothering people with forced betraying reboots?

  40. Niels says:

    Yes, I've lost work due to automatic reboots, but I blame myself mostly. (Except fot the issue with full-screen applications blocking the warning)

    Be smart and save your work regularly. Automatic reboots are just one cause for work-loss. Do you also blame Microsoft if the reboot is caused by a power-failure? No, it's your own fault. BE PREPARED…

  41. krishna says:

    Be smart and save your work regularly. Automatic reboots are just one cause for work-loss. Do you also blame Microsoft if the reboot is caused by a power-failure? No, it's your own fault. BE PREPARED…

  42. neil says:

    >Do you also blame Microsoft if the reboot is caused by a power-failure?

    No, but that's an accident, rather than some moron deliberately programming data loss into an operating system.

  43. Amit Kumar says:

    I want to know about why windows server2008 restart automatically .

  44. Miguel says:

    Windows updated and computer restarted itself but now Windows won't load and a message saying Do not turn off computer, updated being installed appears, but for some reason it just keeps rebooting and the same msg appears everytime. Does anyone know what is the problem and how to solve it?

  45. mtthwbrnd says:

    This is a very annoying "feature". It means that I cannot leave my computer to complete a task because it might decide to restart while I am away. Linux can be left on forever. There should be a "never, ever, restart my computer unless I explicitly do start->shut down etc…"

  46. sswam says:

    Only a moron would implement a "feature" like this.  There must be a whole chain of morons in Microsoft, who allowed this auto-reboot "feature" to get into production.  For a collection of complaints adding up to perhaps $40,000 in damages, please check here:  answers.microsoft.com/…/43b2abf8-6820-49df-a149-657190fdeb93

  47. sswam says:

    I estimate that this feature has caused at least billions of dollars worth of damages to Microsoft customers. There should be a class action lawsuit.

  48. YenShihHung says:

    這個爛功能導致我失去了幾個小時的工作成果,在重新啟動之前難道就不能檢查一下資料是否存檔了嗎?

  49. Micael says:

    Where is the option "Dont restart now since the user will turn off the computer at the end of the work day", that is the option I want to use 99 times out of 100. Reminding me in 10 minutes, 1 hour or 4 hour is both annoying and a waste of my time. Completely.

  50. Matt Hawkins says:

    Another days work ruined thanks to an unwanted reboot. Why don't you guys just come round to my house and delete my work directly? What a stupid feature.

  51. I hate whiners says:

    Matt shut your automatic updates off….

    Or…Postpone the update.

    Or if all else fails go…. into Start>Administrative Tools>Services> Windows Update

    Right Click and Click Stop. This will stop the update/reboot process.

  52. Joakim says:

    I just  use Opensuse to do my work, it updates, patches etc automatically and does not reboot, thankfully since it runs several critical applications.

    Now I have to use a windows 7 workstation for another customer, it is tragic this behavior of reboot is still required for a lot of patches. I thought this was a thing of the past.

    Great explanation in the article though, I have now reconfigured and also move the windows thing to a virtual machine on my Linux box, much faster reboots 😉

  53. Eddie says:

    This has to be one of the truly MOST idiotic behaviors EVER put into an operating system!!!!  Gah!  Microsoft owes me money for hours of lost time!!!  I had a search running on a database that was taking several hours.  I set it up to run at 2AM and went to bed, KNOWING that my results would be waiting for me in the morning.  Efficiency at its best!  I get up and find that Microsoft in its all knowing glory has decided that what is best for the system is always what the user needs.  Gah, the hubris that must flow around that place while you design your ever helpful software "features" must be truly mind boggling.  This clearly trumps the ever helpful Word agent that offers to reformat my entire document on the basis of inserting a single bullet into it….OK, I feel better now.  Just let me know where to send the bill for the hours of down time I am  going to have while watching this search run AGAIN this morning you bunch of nitwits.

  54. Conner says:

    See new fixes documented in MSKB 2885684 and distributed in cumulative rollup KB 2883201.

    More Details can be found in

    blogs.technet.com/…/enabling-a-more-predictable-windows-update-experience-for-windows-8-and-windows-server-2012-kb-2885694.aspx

    Windows 8.1 + WS 2012 R2 RTM also contain this update.

  55. Daniel Lewis says:

    Windows 8, after installing updates is forcing restarts after 15 minutes.

    These forced reboots are obviously not really necessary because if they were then Windows would immediately start misbehaving or crash right after the update completed its' installation–long before the 15 minute (arbitrary) 'grace period' that some Microsoftian came up with.

    How does an end user go about stopping this behavior from occurring? Is there a better way to avoid these (work hampering) reboots than to set Windows Update to Automatically Download Updates and then Manually Install Windows Updates, when I am prepared for a work-stoppage reboot?

    Thanks to anyone that has suggestions on working around this well intentioned but misguided "feature."

    All the best.

    Daniel

  56. chazburton says:

    It is complete crap! with win 7, server 08 and up that MS thinks it is somehow ok to have a server reboot during the day and just because no one is logged in to the console. Maybe the default a good idea would be to reboot by default after midnight, or
    maybe check the fricking network connections to avoid a daytime auto restart. I will read the white paper but it is not that hard to know that companies do not want to wait when they are working for updates to install or for their server to come back online!
    maybe a option would be to change the default setting to options that don’t down a server when client are using them!

  57. Tom Small says:

    THIS WEB LINK ON THIS PAGE WAS BLOCKED WITH WARNING THAT IT TRIED TO DOWNLOAD "Mal/HTMLGen-A" ON TO MY COMPUTER. windows update agent 12 Nov 2008 9:56 PM Try here, fixed for me; http:–//www.computer-juice.com/forums/f48/windows-update-agent-5-8-02469-download

  58. Chris says:

    Another piece of work lost because of this braindead auto reboot that happened without a proper warning. How on earth did someone at MS come up with this stupid idea? Are you designing your systems for dumb sheep or what? I really hate you, Microsoft.

  59. pecs says:

    Thank you for the good and informative post about updates. Too bad I’m only reading this after i had postponed my automatic restart by 4 hours thinking it would ask me again. It didn’t, and I lost some important work with the automatic restart. I’m disappointed
    that default settings are set so that it is possible to lose files like this. I hope this isn’t the case in any later OS:s.

  60. alok says:

    thank you

  61. Ru says:

    Windows DOES NOT notify me before rebooting. I want the updates installed but I ABSOLUTELY must be WARNED before it reboots! This is unacceptable!

  62. Endsail says:

    I wonder how many people have lost work due to force restart vs a security vulnerability that was not installed immediately? How can you call something that destroys data a fix? And no windows update did not show any update dialog, it just restarted my
    computer without warning. Seem to me that the development team are simply too proud to admit that they made a mistake and change A better solution, and what i think most users want, is to have what can be installed automatically without a reboot to be done
    immediately and the rest to be done when the user reboots.

  63. graham masterton says:

    we have come up against a problem my partner had 3 up dates when we started the computer it configured 2 but the 3rd only goes up to 35% then reboots ive tried safe Boot but it still goes into configuring updates. 3rd update when it boots up its been like
    this for 3 days I cant get into comp to delete some files so the update can intall I have a feeling there is not enough room on hard drive for update.

  64. eggesa julius says:

    Reboot

  65. eggesa julius says:

    Reboot my windows phone

  66. You guys are stupid says:

    Screw you microsoft programmers. Why is the DEFAULT to close all of your unsaved files at 3am without saving anything if the goal is to prevent disruption of your work?

    At least save the *** to a temporary folder so I can find/recover it. NOOOPE, just End Task everything I have open. How does it make you guys feel to know that people only use your product because they don’t have any other options? When they do have options,
    your products fail… zunes, windows phones,