Worst nag screen of all time

I have been more frustrated by the incessant display of the Automatic Updates nag screen (shown below) then by anything else I have ever encountered in Windows XP. If you’re running Automatic Updates on Windows XP, then I’m sure you are quite familiar with it and more than likely you feel similarly to the way I do. There I was, trying to code and once again having to click “Restart Later” for about the millionth time, and since I couldn’t get any work done anyways because my concentration was getting broken every 10 minutes, I decided to go figure out how I could shut it off or break it so I didn’t have to look at it again. The information and screen shots provided in this blog entry are the fruits of my worthwhile quest to do something about this nag screen once and for all. (by the way, there is something more idoitic than that Automatic Updates nag screen popping up every 10 minutes – Me, for putting up with it for years before finally looking into how I could fix it.)

Now it’s clear what Microsoft was trying to accomplish with this feature, mainly to get users to restart their computers so that the latest security patches and such that have been installed by Automatic Updates will take effect as soon as possible (think hotfix Microsoft, think hotfix! – that’s another whole rant so I will have to leave it there). However, what I can’t understand is why they haven’t added a simple “Don’t show me this again” check box to this or a control (spinner or dropdown) that would allow the user to say how long to wait before re-prompting or, at the very least, Microsoft could have increased the default setting of the re-prompt to something higher than every 10 minutes. I’m sure just about anything would have been a better solution to the problem of “we can’t get users to reboot their computers so that the updates take effect in a timely fashion because the users are either too lazy or they forget or they just plain don’t know that these updates and security patches are not hotfixes”.


Taming the Nag Screen

In fairness to Microsoft, they have provided ways to tame the above nag screen. It’s just that the fix isn’t something the average user would intuitively know and it is not nearly as simple as a check box would have been. There’s also the little issue of security, which can make the solution I’m about to lay out completely unaccessible to a user depending on permissions of account login. That having been said let’s look at one of the ways to make the Automatic Updates nag screen a little less annoying, maddening, irritating, infuriating, bothersome, exasperating, aggravating, frustrating, trying, and grating.

Step 1

Go to Start -> Run and then type in “gpedit.msc” and click the OK button provided.


Step 2

After completing Step 1 you should be presented with the following Group Policy screen. In the treeview provided on the left-hand side of the screen navigate to Local Computer Policy\Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Windows Updates as shown in the image below. After clicking on the Windows Update node you should be presented with a list of settings on the right-hand side and the setting you want is “Re-prompt for restart with scheduled installations”. Double-click on that setting and then proceed to Step 3. (SIDE NOTE: You may also wish to set the “No auto-restart for Scheduled Automatic Updates installations” to Enabled. If you are of the mind that the user should decide when and if a computer is rebooted and not the vendor of a software product, then this may appeal to you.)


Step 4

After Step 3 you should have the following dialog (see below) displayed on your computer screen. Click the Enabled option button to select it and then enter in the number of minutes you wish to have between each re-prompt of the Automatic Updates nag screen. I’ve entered in 1440 because that is the largest period the spinner box allows. Next click the Apply button and close the dialog (alternately you can just click the OK button once you have entered your desired settings).


Step 5

Reboot your system. It’s a shame that this step is even necessary since the Policies can be easily refreshed using the command “gpupdate /force” as shown in the image below. However, this doesn’t work since the Automatic Updates nag feature doesn’t re-check the policy before re-prompting the user (or it may be that the previous registry settings are cached and only refreshed once the system is rebooted – see “Under the hood” at the end of this blog entry). I guess this reboot is a small last price to pay to get rid of the most annoying, maddening, irritating, infuriating, bothersome, exasperating, aggravating, frustrating, trying, and grating nag screen ever devised. (SIDE NOTE: I didn’t try restarting the service. Maybe someone reading this could try running “sc stop wuauserv” and “sc start wuauserv” from the Run dialog and see whether that allows the new settings to take effect without the reboot. If you do, please comment here with your findings.)


That’s all there is to it

With the 5 steps outlined above you will see much less of the Automatic Updates nag screen and you will be more productive whenever updates and security patches have been installed via Automatic Updates. I must say that I have always been pretty happy with the Automatic Updates feature in Windows, but now that I no longer have to deal with that nag screen every 10 minutes, I am even happier.

Under the hood

If you’re wondering what was changed in the registry when you made those setting changes in Step 4 have a look at the image below. Two DWORD values (RebootRelaunchTimeoutEnabled and RebootRelaunchTimeout) were added to, or edited in, the following registry key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Policies\Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate\AU