12/18/2004

Tip: Disable Auto Restart in Windows Update

Filed under: — By Aviran Mordo @ 11:55 am

Ever since Microsoft release Windows XP Service Pack 2, the company keeps emphasize the fact that you should enable Automatic Updates on your computer.

Automatic updates are usually a good thing but there is a serious problem with it.

Sometimes updates need to restart the computer to finish the installation. Until SP2 Automatic Updates would not restart your computer automatically. But this is not the case with SP2.

Once you scheduled Automatic Updates to be installed (by default at 03:00 AM), if the update requires restart Windows will notify you that it needs to restart. If you are not logged in and do not restart within 5 minutes, Windows will automatically restart your computer.

This behavior can cause a lot of problems. Documents you left open and did not save will be lost, downloads you started that have not finished will be terminated, and even hard disk maintenance like defrag that is working will get terminated, which might cause lost of data.

Unfortunately Windows XP Home users can not do much to change this behavior, except saving all the data before going to sleep or disabling the automatic updates.

On the other hand Windows XP Pro users can tell Windows never to restart the computer automatically. In order to do that follow these steps.

  • In the Start Menu go to Run type “gpedit.msc” and press Enter
  • Now a Group Policy editor will open. In this window navigate to: Computer Configuration -> Administrative Template -> Windows Components -> Windows Update
  • Double click on No auto-restart for scheduled Automatic Updates installations
  • In the settings window Choose Enabled and click OK
  • Close Group Policy Editor

The next time Windows updates your system it will not restart the computer automatically, but will notify you that restart is needed in order to finish the installation.

Update
Home users can try the following:

Go to registry editor and navigate to the following registry key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \Software\Policies \Microsoft\Windows \WindowsUpdate\AU

Change the “NoAutoRebootWithLoggedOnUsers” DWord value to the required number.

0 = False (Allow auto-reboot)
1 = True (Disallow auto-reboot)



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73 Responses to “Tip: Disable Auto Restart in Windows Update”

  1. Aaron Says:

    THat’s a great thing to add to a GPO. But the new XPSP2 restart now nag screen is very annoying.

  2. rc Says:

    Thanks for the info. This tip was really helpful

  3. Robert Says:

    Thanks for this tip, it is really useful because it works on Windows Server 2003 as well.

    I run my own web server at home, and when it installs updates, it would restart automatically, causing my website and IRC server to be offline until I had remembered about it and restarted Apache, MySQL and UnrealIRCD

    As I am typing this, the nag box has just come up asking me to restart it, so I will leave it and see if it restarts.

  4. Dan Bishop Says:

    Wow, great tip, thanks!

  5. HCH Says:

    XP got me again with this last night - lost several hours worth of open work. It’s absolutely insane that this is designed behaviour. There may as well be a check box that says “randomly toss whatever I’m working on”. Aargh.

  6. HCH Says:

    …and one more thing: I started a trouble ticket about this issue with Microsoft but gave up after several rounds of email trying to explain that the designed behaviour is wrong and that it isn’t a “bug” per se.

  7. Juan Says:

    This is ridiculous. I’ve lost a lot of work and my most recent backup was interrrupted because Microsoft feels it has more important things to do with my computer than I do.

  8. Tom Says:

    I know there is a way to solve this annoying issue with the home edition too (http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=555444). However, it seems it varies between different systems and subversions (I personally couldn’t find the mentioned registry key on my system). If anyone can shed some more light on this it will be much appreciated.

  9. joe Says:

    Go to registry editor and navigate to the following registry key (if you don’t have this key, you’ll need to create it as a new DWord key):

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \Software\Policies \Microsoft\Windows \WindowsUpdate\AU

    Change the “NoAutoRebootWithLoggedOnUsers” DWord value to the required number.

    0 = False (Allow auto-reboot)
    1 = True (Disallow auto-reboot)

    Save and restart Windows Operating system.

  10. Chris Says:

    Completely ludicrous software design. However, thanks for revealing the buried mystery workaround that they somehow forgot to mention.

  11. Ed Says:

    Yeah, the update just screwed me over, evidently some files were not closed properly and the disk got kinda screwed up. its 3:13 am and I was coding on my desktop when i noticed my laptop was shutting down, I couldn’t stop it, and upon rebooting it gave me a missin/corrupt file error. So I’m gonna have to restore something, but this issue really needs to be fixed by Microsoft. Er….Off to sleep because I’m too angry to deal with this. ARGH! Thanks for the fix, I’ll be implementing at ASAP on all my machines.

  12. laith Says:

    damnn.. i thought i was the only one with this problem… but thankfully, today i googled it and i found an asnwer!! :D

  13. The Open Source Ministry Blog » Stop your computer from restarting after update Says:

    […] This one is specifically for XP Pro SP2, and if you have never tried the group policy editor this is a good chance to be introduced. […]

  14. James Says:

    Can’t thank you enough for this! :D

    Although it won’t turn back the clock on all the Photoshop work I lost last night (good one MS) it will certainly stop it re-ocurring in the future.

    James :)

  15. Comtecs Ltd :: Comtecs Weblog » Blog Archive » Stop Auto Updates restarting your computer Says:

    […] Disable Auto Restart in Windows Update […]

  16. Imran Says:

    Thanks….. 2-3 times a week when I came back to office I had to pull my hairs out because of this bug/feature…. Some critical downloads that were supposed to be completed in the night were not completed because Microsoft thought my computer had to be restarted….Who are they idiots to think so???

  17. stevejobs Says:

    buy a Mac instead

  18. matt Says:

    ARRGGH lost about 3 hours worth of work in PS. saved a jpeg but just somehow didn’t hit ctrl+s properly before going to bed. this is the most stupidly programmed “feature” i’ve encountered and I can’t find any information about a hidden cache where my open files might have been saved. this is just complete crap.

  19. Johnxon Says:

    THX, this help me a lot!!

  20. Project Arcanum » Archive » Disable Windows Update’s Auto Restart Says:

    […] This means if you aren’t constantly at your computer it will restart itself, losing any unsaved documents and interrupting any ongoing processes, potentially causing data loss. This is absolutely horrible software design. Thankfully, I found a fix. If you are using Windows XP Home, you are screwed, but if you are using Windows XP Professional, follow these steps: […]

  21. laser_donkey Says:

    This is Microsoft saying “Our users are too stupid to know when to restart their computers.” Thank you, Mr Gates, for your vote of confidence.

    And yet, I only reboot my linux systems when the power goes out.

  22. laser_donkey Says:

    by the way… I like how if you happen to be typing when that window pops up… The ‘restart now’ button is defaulted, so if you hit the [enter] or [spacebar] keys… goodbye work!

    (Again, really designed with the user in mind)

  23. Anonymous Says:

    I hate you microsoft. 20 pages. Term paper due tomorrow. Gone. Die, Microsoft.

  24. Johnny Says:

    Hey guys, I got a fix. When this window POPS up, just say RESTART LATER, and then go to Control Panel, and choose Automatic Updates, and then turn off automatic updates. This will stop it dead in its tracks and it will never update automatically anymore, plus you do not have to reboot. So no need to edit registry or do any of the other stuff above. Hope this helps.

    Johnny

  25. passerby Says:

    THANKS!

    I HATED that auto-restart, enough to use lots of capital letters. Now I can write, research, and game uniterrupted at any hour, without having to actively babysit my PC. What a relief! People like you help make computers more useful to everyone. Downloads of a few hundred MB or more used to be a hassle just because of the updating process. Problem solved. One quick google search got me to you, and I should have done it months ago.

  26. Shujz Says:

    awesome tip ..thanks so much Johny…

  27. jaysonfire Says:

    what a relief! Thanks Johnny! I have this massive pdf form that I’ve partly filled out but can’t save my changes in (thanks a lot for that useful feature, buttheads at Adobe), and I just barely managed to miss losing it all due to this auto-restart nonsense.

  28. H Says:

    Anyone know how to duplicate this “fix” in Win2K? It doesn’t seem to have the same options in the Group Policy editor as Pro.

  29. Shoddy Coder Says:

    Windows Rebooting… By Itself!

  30. Rich Says:

    Thanks so much for this easy and quick solution to my problem. My accounting software will crash if rebooted without closing it and fortunatetly it didn’t this time, but I have changed the settings as you suggested to prevent it in the future. Thanks.

    Rich

  31. Pink Says:

    Thank you so much. Was safety-saving a MASSIVE digital drawing (20 hours of work so far) and looked away at the wrong time. I save every time I lift the pen. In the middle of the save process Windows rebooted and I am unable to open the file on any of my computers now, it’s corrupt.

    Instead of the bearable loss of five minutes’ work it’s all down the toilet just because I tried to be careful. Jerks!!! I’m getting roughly $50/hr for this piece– Microsoft should reimburse me for all of the lost time!

  32. MichaelD Says:

    Thanks a million for this tip!!! And a zillion curses against MSFT - what lunacy on their behalf - sadly unsurprising. THANKS

  33. kernelsanders.com » Windows Update is Rude Says:

    […] Thank god for this tip […]

  34. Hoa Luu Says:

    Well, like many of you here I lost lot of works too until I found this web site. But at least I know what cause my computer to restart to seek for help. Many people out there have no glue so they can’t be help.

    Maybe we need to sue Microsoft, so they can fix this problem and prevent further loss of works from many Windows user around the world.

    Thanks for this tip.

  35. Pacitto.com » Blog Archive » Windows XP SP2 Says:

    […] Anyone else have the problem where windows will install and update while you’re away and then automatically re-start your computer? Well, that really sucks, because then I lose anything I was working on! I’ll leave webpages open that aren’t necessarily ones I want to bookmark, but I do want to look at again, and such. I finally found instructions to shut that feature off, so it’ll still automatically update, but won’t force-restart my PC without my prior expressed written consent! Head over here to Avirans Place and follow his instructions…very simple, and it won’t shut down your PC while your rendering out that complex particle system, or downloaded the entire Vivid collection on bittorrent. […]

  36. Chloe Says:

    @Pink
    We should all file a class action lawsuit. Pink, if you charge $50/hr then you can very well sue MS for lost wages & damages. This is very actionable. Let’s hit them where it counts - in the pocket book. That will wake them up and they will think twice next time they surreptitiously include a unproductive ‘feature’.

  37. Anonymous Says:

    i have xp at home version and a few months ago i used a command line to stop the restart nag.. anyone know what the command line is?
    i know it exists and works on xp home i just cant find where i put the command line

  38. gt Says:

    Realy weird behaviour of Windows. What is most crapy about this, that it even don’t leave any traces for recovery of autosaved files in MSWord. Strange that M$ didn’t fixed that problem for so many years.

  39. Matei Says:

    ONE WORD: UNIX

  40. Anonymous Says:

    this was perfect, thank you!

  41. Catlon Says:

    Ahhh! Satisfaction guaranteed! Went to feed the cats and lost what I was working on. Thanks for the solution to a pseudo-god blunder!

  42. Sujit Mukherjee Says:

    Thank you lot. Really you are excellent helpful to us. May God bless you and pray for your enormous growth.

  43. Anonymous Says:

    I just spent 4 hours working on a paper that’s due tomorrow evening and lost all of those hours because of this. All I did was take a shower and *poof*. I was hoping it would have saved it in some sort of temporary file.

  44. Charlie Says:

    I solved the problem at home by switching to Ubuntu Linux (wow!). Unfortunately, my work computer is still XP and I just lost an hour of billable time to this Microsoft nonsense. Thank you for the easy fix so it won’t happen again.

  45. krskrk Says:

    This setting is useless for servers management. What if you have 50 servers that you want to update automatically over night? Are you going to keep logged on each one? Another Bill’s ridiculous idea.

  46. Anonymous Says:

    thank you so much!!! that’s been driving me insane for years!

  47. Anonymous Says:

    For Home Edition you will need to install gpedit.msc.

    This is no small task but directions are here:

    http://bogdan.org.ua/2007/11/15/windows-xp-he-home-edition-gpedit-msc-group-policy-editing-via-registry.html

  48. Maarten Says:

    Thanks! ^^

  49. Kevinator Says:

    Excellent tip… Auto reboot is simply inexcusable - without any user input.

    Seems that I need to re-login (??) Although, I did a GPupdate.exe /force and haven’t gotten message (Yet?).

    But, I’m completely afraid to go to sleep (3:30am) because I started a 90min file xfer from NAS, and I need this in the morning!

  50. Seb Says:

    Thanks for this great piece of info… it almost caught me last nite…
    was lucky enough that my job completed just before the HELL and the HEAVEN collided… grrrr…

  51. Becky Says:

    Thanks very much, I have always hated the auto-reboot and now it won’t bother me again :)

  52. j Says:

    thx

  53. DC Says:

    funny how many of the ‘thank you’ posts are made at 3:30 AM. Thank you for this info!

  54. Dominic Says:

    Thank you. very helpful

  55. Mohammed khalid Says:

    Thanks a lot these information were very helpful.

  56. Sherman Says:

    Very helpful. Thanks.

  57. brat Says:

    tnx for the info

    I rly hope windows comes with a striped version

    Windows - bullshit

  58. Dave Says:

    Ironically, Windoze is too stupid to know how to shut down certain applications when you DO WANT to reboot the system. Windows either reboots when you don’t want, or it doesn’t when you do want. Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating a little, I remember once when Windows did what I wanted.

    Time for Linux or a Mac, I think…

  59. mik red Says:

    Its funny how people just accept these problems. It’s even more funny these people don’t expand their experiences. All of them stuck in their little Windows box and no way out. Only to be controlled by their computer and the company that doesn’t know the different between a computer and a fish bowl. You can’t pile crappy code on top of crappy code. Millions of lines of crap equal one big steamy heap of Windows excrement.

    People need to get away from ignorance and discover a real and productive operating system, which at this point of time is anything compared to Windows. Hmmm, lets see Windows Vista, oh wait but Windows 7 will be better… Fool me once shame on you, Fool me twice shame on me… In this case fool me everytime. So shame on me and everyone else who continues to use such a debilitating operating system.

    All you have to do is read the comments on this page to realize, or any other Windows problem help page for that matter. It just makes sense…

    And Dave, “Time for Linux or a Mac, I think…”
    I couldn’t agree more. Life is easy without Windows.

  60. guitar Says:

    thanks for this tips..

  61. smokingwheels Says:

    My brother in law got a corrupt data base because of this bug it took over 4 hours to restore the error ….thanks for the fix

  62. smokingwheels Says:

    \WindowsUpdate\AU… keys are not in my XP Home…what about updating the instructions…
    dont publish this please

  63. Bill Says:

    Did the group policy option. Checked to make sure the registry on the servers I was updating got the GP info. Some servers still reboot. It seems to be server that have to account logged into them. It is very frustrating when you’re updating 200 servers. Some don’t reboot and some do reboot.

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  65. Sam Says:

    Thank you so much! This was one of the most annoying things windows has ever forced upon its customers (especially when a lot of us aren’t that stupid). Just to clarify, this fix works for Windows 7 as well.

  66. Mike Says:

    Has someone figured out how to stop the automatic rebooting after update on a Windows 7 machine yet? Surely someone has Windows 7 by now and has figured this irritating problem out.

  67. Breana Says:

    There is a fix I used that I can’t find involving cmd any help?

  68. kidding me Says:

    “…and even hard disk maintenance like defrag that is working will get terminated, which might cause lost of data.”
    You are kidding me right? It is a safe operation and shutdown. Defrag stopping will not cause loss of data in any scenario.

    In my experience, users do not restart after an update, causing them to fall behind in updates and failing to patch holes, have incorrect drivers and so on. Of course, you could get a Mac (and only update security holes once every 6 months when they finally get around to patching them) or go Linux and never bother fixing them (and yes they do exist and no, they are often not fixed). Or you can just follow best procedure and go to Windows Update and say what you want to happen. Not that hard.

  69. Nikolas Britton Says:

    This is the first time I encountered windows update forced reboots and I simply can’t comprehend! I’m at a loss for words, because of this “feature” I just lost a two weeks worth of data because it automatically closed my applications while I was using them.

    One minute Windows 7 is fine and then the next it’s randomly closing windows and discarding saves. I tried everything I could to get it to stop! WHY IS THERE NO EMERGENCY KILL SWITCH??? I swore every word imaginable at Microsoft after this; it completely reinforces why I switched to Macs a few years back.

    It’s just absolutely unbelievably that this would be a default setting, if I forced someone to reboot and they lost all of their data as a result then I’m liable and can be sued. The same applies to Microsoft; lives could be at stake when you do crap like this. Windows is integrated into everything from nuclear reactors controls, to traffic lights, to surgical and life support equipment. Their is no excuse for a default setting such as this and Microsoft should be sued in a class action suit for it.

  70. tim Says:

    Hi folks,
    This continues to be a problem, not because we don’t know the solution, but because everytime we spin up a new system and forget to make the configuration change above, we fall victim to it. Last night, I just lost around 4 hours of crunching. Now, I’m recrunching during the daytime when I’m supposed to be doing hands on work. This essentially means one day of lost productivity.

    Please consider sending a support ticket to Microsoft and letting them know to change this design. By default, the system should not be automatically rebooting.

    I have contacted MS Support before, and they actually realize that this is a mistake too. Having worked in a support center myself, I can say that they need our help to influence the OS development managers. If we create enough tickets, they will have the ammunition to create change for us. In your support request, indicate that you know this is not a bug, but you are requesting them to change the design so that new releases do not auto reboot.

    http://support.microsoft.com

    Thanks.

  71. Laughing Says:

    I keep laughing at some of the rants I see on here. “Ahh - I lost 20 hours of work!” “I lost 2 weeks of data”… Morons. Who leaves a document open without saving it for 20 hours? 2 weeks? Even if you’re not ready to overwrite the copy you had, at least use the brains God gave a retarded duck and save your work in a temp file or *something*.

    Is an automatic restart without the user’s express consent stupid? Yep. Is not giving us a simple obvious place (like the same place we setup Automatic Updates to begin with) stupid? Yep. Is leaving critical work open for hours on end without saving it stupid? For sure.

  72. Anonymous Says:

    If you have issues with Group Policy Editor and your version of Windows doesn’t have it or going into the registry isn’t your thing you can still modify the registry to fix the automatic restart issue. There is a minute long video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dS4W7f4VGTQ
    That fixed my issue with automatic restart. I think this works on all windows versions
    Good luck

  73. Sylvester Scarsdale Says:

    Great justification. I love read it Martha

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