For the most part if your Windows 10 computer downloads an important update, a message will pop up asking you if you’d like to install it right away or delay installation until a more convenient time.

But if you don’t respond promptly, your computer may reboot to apply the update… which can be a problem if you just made a quick trip to the restroom or break room.

So Microsoft is trying something new. No, the company isn’t preventing updates from installing without user intervention. But the company is using a bit of artificial intelligence to predict times when a reboot might be inconvenient.

The new update experience is baked into the Windows 10 Insider Preview Builds 17723 and 18204 that were released to testers this week.

Microsoft says it’s “trained a predictive model that can accurately predict when the right time to restart the device is.” That means that in addition to checking to see if you’re actively using your computer, Windows will guess whether you’re likely to start using it again within the next few minutes.

The prediction model is still a work in progress, but Microsoft says it’s “seen promising results” and that the model can be updated quickly based on user feedback and real-world performance.

Other changes in the latest preview builds include:

  • A mixed reality flashlight that lets you peek at the real world when using a VR headset
  • Support for Unicode 11, with 157 new emoji (and some updates to existing emoji)
  • Leap second support

MSPowerUser also highlights an unannounced feature: native support for virtual machines. While there’s a setup process included in build 18204, it doesn’t seem to do very much at the moment, so it could be a placeholder for a feature due to launch in an upcoming release.

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17 replies on “Microsoft is trying to reduce unexpected Windows Update-induced reboots”

  1. After a period of 2 years, I killed the insider installation. They can use as many methods as they can think of, improving their updates, it’s really not worth it to have to suffer the results of their problematic updates every two weeks.

  2. Microsoft Windows is the Reboot King! I’ve been rebooting Windows for 23 years now.

  3. I had several different problems with updates even back in the Windows 7 days. Windows 8 in general drove me away. I’ve heard enough complaints about Win 10. Microsoft is making using a computer a chore while Apple, in spite of itself, has people willing to overspend for a non-Windows experience. And Linux has picked up a lot of steam in the last decade. It’s still a drop in the bucket to Microsoft today, but it will be a big problem before they expect if people feel antagonized daily by the operating system on their computer.

  4. This is one of the main reasons I have shunned Windows 10 for my main systems. There’s been several times I’ve queued a lot of the work for the computer to do, such as downloading or converting files, only to come back to see the Windows 10 machine had rebooted to install updates and all my work lost. I can’t use an OS that’s unreliable and unpredictable for work that needs to be done unsupervised. Not to mention when the big updates filled with useless new features break programs, break WiFi, mess up graphics drivers, and make a mess with other things. I’ve moved most of my machines to Windows 7 and 8.1. Windows 7 only has about a year and a half of support left, and Windows 8.1 has about four and a half. I’m not sure what I am going to do if Microsoft doesn’t get their crap together by the time Windows 8.1 loses support. I bought a iMac and have I’ve been pushing to learn Linux better. MacOS and Linux (mostly Ubuntu variants) both have their pros and cons, but if I’m going to leave Windows as my main OS, I could make do with either. So far my iMac hasn’t restarted to install updates without my approval, and I’ve been casually using Linux for a decade and I’ve never had a problem with it going rogue and doing stuff without my permission.

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

      Key: NoAutoUpdate

      Type: DWORD

      Value: 1

      To enable updates again, remove AU registry key or delete NoAutoUpdate DWORD.

      1. I wonder if this registry key gets regularly cleared by MS because it is seen as a security hole. Linux would at least save a copy of your previous configuration if it wants to update to a new file… and it would ask you if you wanted to keep your old config.

  5. UGH this AI stuff is really stupid and annoying. Even more annoying than the already frustratingly oversimplified Windows update. An OS is used by a human. If they want to know the best time to install an update or reboot, all they need to do is ask the human using the OS and allow the human to make the decision.

  6. For my devices, there generally isn’t a good time to do a restart without user intervention. Crypto miners, file shares, render jobs, server duties, and more can’t be interrupted or won’t come back on their own after restart. On my dual boot machines, I’ll often come back to find GRUB idling, waiting for a choice of OS because the Windows side decided that my time away is an acceptable time to reboot. Worse, once I manually get it going, usually at some inopportune time when I needed to use that dual boot machine immediately, Windows has to spend more time finishing up the updates.

    Let me control the update times, or I’ll be forced to use harsher measures of blocking things and generally breaking things until I can set aside the time to unbreak them temporarily for updates to run while I’m available to babysit the process, since that’s what it needs to minimize downtime. Overall, really horrible experience whenever I have to deal with the OS at all. MS needs to learn that it is a tenant of my machine, not my machine’s owner, and I will gladly evict it when I can rid myself of Windows-only applications.

    1. I find dual-boot to be a bad idea even for other reasons. I don’t want one OS to be able to see the files on disk that are used by the other OS which it doesn’t understand and sometimes corrupts.

      1. In Linux, you can use the Disks application to prevent the OS from mounting disks or partitions. You can probably do the same in Windows, but I’m not familiar with the process.

          1. Ah. Good information. I haven’t done boot camp with Windows yet. I’ll have to be wary of that issue if I do it. I’ve tried dual booting Macs with Linux, and depending on the distro, it can be good or bad. ElementaryOS has been the best so far about getting all the drivers right.

  7. Total garbage. The answer is incredibly simple. Stop forcing restarts. Stop forcing updates. Send alerts that they are available. Done. So wasteful and potentially invasive to leverage AI and machine learning to find better times. There are no better times.

    1. Yes, but then people will ignore the warnings and securityupdates will not be installed in time. Then when millions of macines get infected with some virus/ransomware/crap, people will start calling Windows unsecure – like they did for decades when updates were optional – and that will hurt business big time.
      The solution: the Home-editions force updates as they most likely will go on to machines people would ignore manual updates, the Pro editions would have set updates to auto, but have an option to turn them off.
      Long term solution would be to not force a reboot for an update, like on most linux distributions (unless you update the kernel itself, you can go without a reboot for years while still being updated). Of course linux does everything very differently and some legacy Windows software would probably wouldn’t work if they messed up too much in the way the OS operates. But then again you could confine those legacy softwares into a virtual envionment and drop the old ’80-ies baggage of legacy crap from the main OS – as long as no modern software uses it.

  8. Just last week I was in a work meeting and the presenter’s computer (tied to a 60″ TV) had a forced restart in the middle of her presentation. After all these years, still classy Microsoft.

    1. I was helping out with a regional card game tournament, and the Windows 10 computer that was running the tournament software thought that in the middle of the tournament would be a good time to reboot and install a big update. Talk about the s*** hitting the fan. We had to frantically recreate all the tournament data on another machine. That score keeping machine is now running Windows 8.1.

      1. I still refuse to install anything above Win7 on a mission-critical machine. Or preferably, linux. But sometimes you need windows machines too…

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