Updating Operating Systems

This section is primarily about applying updates to an existing operating system. (Updating to a new version of the operating system may or may not have much coverage in this section: a tutorial on installing operating systems may or may not have more details about upgrading to a new operating system.)

Overview about official packages of updates

Some commercial operating systems have been known to release “packages” of updates/fixes. With standard Microsoft operating systems evolved from Windows NT code, these have been called “Service Packs”. It is generally recommended to start with applying such packages first and foremost, before trying to apply any other updates. In fact, in the case of this example (Microsoft Windows operating systems), newer installation discs will often have the service packs included in the operating system's standard installation process. Microsoft isn't the only company to have large packages of fixes. IBM had similar releases for OS/2 and those collections of updates were called FixPaks.

Like any software upgrade, it is best to have a backup and a plan of how to restore from that backup if anything goes wrong. Even on a personal computer, where a higher amount of downtime may be tolerable, it is recommended to prepare for possible extended downtime and hours of troubleshooting before applying a service pack. (In corporate environments, common preparation guidelines may be substantially more stringent. Details are mentioned in the more generalized section about updating software.)

Recommendations about official packages of updates

Determine what service packs are needed, and what the installation requirements are. Many service packs may be cumulative: For example, Windows XP Service Pack 2 includes the fixes from Windows XP Service Pack 1 which includes the updates from Windows XP Service Pack 1a. Windows XP Service Pack 3 contains the fixes and updates that were included in Service Pack 2 except for those that were in Service Pack 1a, so updating to Windows XP Service Pack 3 simply requires that Windows XP has had any prior service pack installed.

Details about what service pack(s) have been released for an operating system are discussed on this website's section about operating systems. (Locate the specific operating system for details about the available service packs. There may be some upcoming hyperlinks so visitors of the Cyber Pillar website can find more specific links for specific operating systems.)

Details about specific operating systems
Updating (and upgrading) OpenBSD

See: Updating/upgrading OpenBSD.

Microsoft Windows
Types of updates

Some operating systems have had subsequent “Releases”. These updated releases may not be freely available. Although the newer release is likely quite similar to the older operating system (which is why the newer release doesn't have a drastically different name), it may really be a newer operating system which must be installed or upgraded to. Since such an upgrade isn't free, the new release is basically a new, separate product.

Here are some examples of what is being referred to by such a “release”: Windows Server 2008 R2 is newer than Windows Server 2008, Windows Server 2003 R2 is newer than Windows Server 2003, Win98SE (“Windows 98 Second Edition”) is newer than Windows 98 (Standard Edition), and Windows 95 OSR2 is newer than the initial version of Windows 95.

If such a release is going to be used, upgrading to that release should be done first, before spending time installing any sort of service packs. (The upgraded release will likely include any prior service packs, while newer service packs will likely need to be installed again after the operating system is updated.)

Service pack information

For reasons of long term compatibility with the newest possible software, and security, and possibly other benefits as well, it is generally best to start by making sure the latest “service pack” is installed.

Details about individual service packs that have been released may, at least for some operating systems, be found in the section of Operating systems largely compatible with the proprietary Microsoft Windows operating systems. Locate the specific operating system within that section.

Some service packs have come with software called a service pack clean-up tool. There may be some benefits to running such a tool after the service pack has been installed for a while. (Some service pack software may actually be able to be uninstalled, but this sort of clean-up software may reduce/eliminate such options.)

Cumulative/hotfix info
Methods of deploying updates
Microsoft's Automatic Updates

(At the time of this writing, there are some more details that could be added: Information about Microsoft Update in Win XP may be something that could benefit from more details. Information about Microsoft Update in Win7 and Svr 2008 may be something that could benefit from more details: Most likely it is similar to Win Vista. Windows 9x may have an icon that points to a website (which may no longer support Windows 98).

[#msupdate]: Microsoft Update

Microsoft Update was released after Windows Update, and has the nice feature of also being able to apply updates to more than just the operating system. Examples of other updates may be service packs for Microsoft Office or for Visual Studio runtime files.


When Microsoft Update is being used, the “Windows Update” program can search for updates for products other than just Windows.

In Win Vista

To see if this is currently enabled, go to Windows Update. If Microsoft Update is installed, then underneath both the “Most recent check for updates” section and the “Updates were installed” section, there may be a section called “You receive updates”, which may be set to a value such as “For Windows and other products from Microsoft Update”. If “You receive updates:” is set to a different value, go to “Change Settings”, and there should be a section called “Microsoft Update” (between the “Who can install updates” and “Software notifications” sections). The checkbox is titled “Give me updates for Microsoft products and check for new optional Microsoft software when I update Windows”.

If those options don't seem to exist, then it seems that Windows Update is not obtaining files related to Microsoft software other than Windows. See the section about installing Microsoft Update.

[#insmsupd]: Installation

Windows Update might be able to be upgraded to Microsoft Update by going to one or more of the following sites:

If a EULA is presented, and the EULA is agreed to, then the software may be successfully updated to support Microsoft Update. The website may then present some sort of error message. However, if that happens, don't give up. Close any copies of Windows Update, and then return back to the original website that was visited. An updated Windows Update may successfully open up, and show the text that indicates that it was successfully installed.

[#mswnupdt]: Windows Update
Multiple ways of accessing Windows Update
Some methods
This may be accessible via the Start Menu. It also may be accessible via an icon in the Control Panel.
Other ways to run programs on the hard drive

These methods work, although they may not be consistent among Microsoft operating systems.

In Windows XP, the icon in the control panel may run the Windows Update Automatic Update Control Panel applet file, wuaucpl.cpl.

In Windows Vista, the filename wuaucpl.cpl may no longer exist, even though there is an icon in the control panel. This may be a “%ProgramData%\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Windows Update.lnk” file (or perhaps it is under %ALLUSERSPROFILE% rather than under %ProgramData%) which runs “ %SystemRoot%\system32\wuapp.exe startmenu ”. There may also be a %SystemRoot%\System32\wuapp.exe which causes the Windows Update interface to run.

Visiting a URL

Visiting http://windowsupdate.microsoft.com may result in Microsoft Internet Explorer downloading an ActiveX control that has been marked safe for scripting. If this ActiveX control is allowed (which might be Enabled by default, although setting to Prompt the user seems to be a safer recommended default), the ActiveX control may result in the Windows Update program being run.

Related websites may include:

Handling Automatic Updates

The information in this section might be particularly prone to become irrelevant, if that hasn't already happened (for some of the information), if there is a reliance on a service provided by an organization which may change the service (including removing the service). Microsoft may be such an organization.

[#msw10wau]: Windows 10 Automatic Updates

For Microsoft Windows 10, enabling automatic updates is usually not the challenge. The bigger challenge is: can they be turned off?

There are different strategies. Some have worked better than others. Some work with only some editions of Microsoft Windows 10 (e.g., may be fine on Pro, Enterprise, and Education, but not Home). Some may work better with some release/versions and not others. Microsoft has increased flexibility at times, for at least some ways, and decreased at other times.

Here are some tips about various ways.

Metered Connections

This old way is not recommended, in part because it probably doesn't work any more.

While some people have stated this can be done by setting up a “Metered” connection, but that workaround may have become less effective. Forbes article: Microsoft Makes Windows 10's Worst Feature Worse says that Windows 10 Insider build (15058) started taking that way, and although another (older) Forbes Article: Windows 10 Hack: 3 Ways To Stop Forced Updates provides details on how to do that, the same article also says “For Windows 10 Home users there is no way to stop security updates.”

Delaying For A Long Time

Credit: This was based on "Pausing Win 10 Auto-Update.reg" as shared by: endentec.com: Pausing Windows 10 Updates Indefinitely | Disable Update.

(This probably did not work with the original release of Windows 10, but may have started working sometime before the year 2020.)

Review: On a copy of Windows 10 Pro, this was found to work well for years. Furthermore, it was easy to do (although might have required a reboot to take effect?)

Having a “User Account Control” elevated command prompt is likely needed for changing values.

First, this guide recommends viewing current values. (The first value may very well not pre-exist...)

REG QUERY HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate\AU /v NoAutoUpdate
REG QUERY HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsUpdate\UX\Settings /v PauseUpdatesExpiryTime
REG QUERY HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsUpdate\UX\Settings /v PauseFeatureUpdatesEndTime
REG QUERY HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsUpdate\UX\Settings /v PauseQualityUpdatesEndTime

and, make changes...

REG ADD HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate\AU /v NoAutoUpdate /t REG_DWORD /d 1 /F
REG ADD HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsUpdate\UX\Settings /v PauseUpdatesExpiryTime /t REG_SZ /d "2999-12-29T23:59:59Z" /F
REG ADD HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsUpdate\UX\Settings /v PauseFeatureUpdatesEndTime /t REG_SZ /d "2999-12-29T23:59:59Z" /F
REG ADD HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsUpdate\UX\Settings /v PauseQualityUpdatesEndTime /t REG_SZ /d "2999-12-29T23:59:59Z" /F

If all is well, this can be verified graphically by going to the Start Menu, choosing Settings (the gear-shaped icon), Update & Security. The screen should say “Updates paused” and show the date when they are expected to be able to resume.

(Some of this was re-written in a slightly more-strung-together format. Rather than waste the duplication, the newer version was placed here.)

C:\> REG QUERY HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate\AU /v NoAutoUpdate
    NoAutoUpdate    REG_DWORD    0x1
C:\> REG QUERY HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsUpdate\UX\Settings | findstr /R "Pause.*E.*Time"
[Sample Output removed]
C:\> REG ADD HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate\AU /v NoAutoUpdate /t REG_DWORD /v 1
C:\> REG ADD HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate\AU /v PauseUpdatesExpiryTime /t REG_SZ /v 2999-12-29T23:59:59Z
C:\> REG ADD HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate\AU /v PauseFeatureUpdatesEndTime /t REG_SZ /v 2999-12-29T23:59:59Z
C:\> REG ADD HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate\AU /v PauseQaulityUpdatesEndTime /t REG_SZ /v 2999-12-29T23:59:59Z
C:\> REG QUERY HKLM\SOFTWARE\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate\AU /v NoAutoUpdate
    NoAutoUpdate    REG_DWORD    0x1
C:\> REG QUERY HKLM\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsUpdate\UX\Settings | findstr /R "Pause.*E.*Time"
    PauseUpdatesExpiryTime    REG_SZ    2999-12-29T23:59:59Z
    PauseFeatureUpdatesEndTime    REG_SZ    2999-12-29T23:59:59Z
    PauseQualityUpdatesEndTime    REG_SZ    2999-12-29T23:59:59Z
  • You can see the effect in the graphical interface by running “control update” or “explorer ms-settings:windowsupdate”.
  • While the above worked well with Windows 10 Build 18362, these instructions were manually re-created afterward. So the instruction may not have been tested yet.
  • Thanks to erdentec.com: “Pausing Windows 10 Updates Indefinitely | Disable Update” for providing some of the technical details. Although, that registry entry is only good for about 80 years after posting, which might be within some people's expected life span. While it can be hoped that Windows 10 might not still be dominant then, this guide's method provides for an even longer time frame.
Routinely Disabling the Update Service

WinTips.org: How To Turn Off Windows 10 Updates Permanently provides various possible methods. One of the comments mentioned how the documented method improved a user's experience because the user previously needed “to go to windows service and stop the update manually everytime” the computer updates. But if that works manually, then perhaps just setting up a task in Task Manager might work?

Adjusting Permissions

WinTips.org: How To Turn Off Windows 10 Updates Permanently provides various possible methods. Once of which is to change ownership and permissions settings of a small number of files.

This disables the ability to run updates manually. Fortunately, the number of changes is fairly small, and the site that promoted this method also provided a way to easily re-enable.

The site that provided this method didn't make a big note about documetned pre-existing values, but that is recommended here. After going to the Properties for a file, you can see the “Security” tab for that file, and click on “Advanced”. Before clicking “Change”, make a note of what account currently is marked as the owner of the file. Documenting such details can help to revert in case problems develop.

Then, this guide recommends documenting all of the existing permissions of such files before following the step that was recommended by the cited source, which is the step to &dlquo;select & Remove one-by-one all the users” in the list (where the window shows a section labelled “Permission entries:”).

The initial cited guide's main area recommends doing this with the wuauclt.dll and wuauclt.exe files.

After adjusting those permissions, reboot the machine.

Then, if you do want them run, the guide suggests re-adding permissions for the account named &ldquo:System” and give that account “Read & Execute” permissions (for both files).

Third Party Programs
WinTips.org: How To Turn Off Windows 10 Updates Permanently recommends a couple of programs. This guide's creator has seen the MajorGeeks.com website, and decided to list it first: http://m.majorgeeks.com/files/details/stopwinupdates.html StopWinUpdates https://www.sordum.org/9470/windows-update-blocker-v1-1/ Windows Update Blocker
Other methods of disabling services

WinTips.org: How To Turn Off Windows 10 Updates Permanently provides various possible methods. Some of them involve trying to adjust what services are running.

The details are not fully included here.

One note: below that article's main section, there is a comment (by someone simply identifying as Michael) which mentions “a 4th Windows Update related service”, “Windows Remediation service”, “sedsvc”, “Remediates Windows Update Components”.

Blocking Windows 11 Upgrade
https://betanews.com/2021/11/07/how-to-block-windows-11-if-you-want-to-stick-with-windows-10/ says to add to the registry. From an elevated command prompt, that can be added by running:
reg query HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate
reg ADD HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate /v TargetReleaseVersion /t REG_DWORD /d 1 reg ADD HKLM\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate /v TargetReleaseVersion /t REG_SZ /d "21H1"
apparently affects Windows 10 1803 and newer. https://www.tenforums.com/tutorials/159624-how-specify-target-feature-update-version-windows-10-a.html https://www.computerworld.com/article/3564158/microsoft-nixes-update-deferral-settings-but-gives-us-a-targetreleaseversioninfo.html
Older operating systems

Microsoft KB 327838: How to schedule automatic updates in Win Svr 2003, XP, and 2K.