If you read no further than the beginning of this column, turn off automatic updates for Windows now. Here’s how: If you’re using Windows 7 or 8.1, click “Start,” “Control Panel” and then “System and Security.” Under “Windows Update,” click the “Turn automatic updating on or off” link. Click the “Change Settings” link on the left. Verify that you have “Important Updates” set to “Never check for updates (not recommended)” and click OK.
Windows 10 users will find this a bit more challenging because this more recent system does not allow you to turn off automatic updates. However, there is a workaround. The trick is to tell Windows that you have a metered connection to the Internet, meaning you have a plan that only allows you to download a limited amount of data per month. It doesn’t matter whether you do or not, the idea here is to block automatic updates. Go to “Start,” “Settings,” “Network & Internet.” Select the “Wi-Fi” tab in the left pane and then find the name of your connection. Click it and then turn on “Metered connection.”
Why the urgency? Last week Microsoft began rolling out its Windows 10 October 2018 update for users to install manually and it didn’t work the way it should. Reports began coming in that the update deleted files. In fact, the entire Documents folder was deleted for some updaters, along with photos and applications. On Friday, Microsoft suspended the rollout. In the company’s support page it advised, “If you have manually checked for updates and believe you have an issue with missing files after an update, please minimize your use of the affected device and contact us directly at +1-800-MICROSOFT, or find a local number in your area https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4051701/global-customer-service-phone-numbers.”
The company has yet to issue an explanation or announce a restart of a fixed update. Once this happens, the update will likely be pushed out automatically. In the meantime, there are two things to do. First, turn off automatic updates per the above instructions. You want to be sure that the October update is bug-free before you install it.
Second, make a copy of all of your important files. You can save them in Microsoft OneDrive, which is already part of your system, or you can copy the files onto an external storage device. Either way, you’ll have a copy should something go wrong. You should regularly backup your files to ensure you have copies in the case of a computer failure, theft or other emergency, and always backup before a system update.
Microsoft schedules Windows updates twice a year, targeting March and September. (Yes, this one was a little late, and clearly should have been delayed even longer.) This means you can safely turn on automatic updates between the two milestone dates. You’ll usually want to allow these intermediate automatic updates to ensure your system remains secure, unless you are vigilant about checking for them. Only Windows 10 is fully supported by Microsoft at this time. Mainstream support ended for Windows 8.1 in January.
You should receive a notification from Microsoft when the October update is available. But don’t rush to install it. Keep an eye on the news and look for the “all clear” from users. Give it about 30 days and then you should be able to install it with confidence.