Control Windows 10 Updates with Active Hours & Restart Options

IMPORTANT NOTE: This article was written in reference to the Windows 10 Anniversary Update version 1607.  Keep in mind that Microsoft has already and continues to change update settings in more recent versions of Windows 10.

Since the release of Windows 10 in July 2015, there has been a bit of an uproar among the IT support world and Microsoft.  IT’s outcry came with good backing: Some of the critical mechanisms that IT professionals have been using to manage Windows Updates for YEARS have no effect on Windows 10.  Microsoft didn’t do too good of a job warning users of this, and upon release they didn’t release equivalent mechanisms that did provide the necessary control of Windows 10 updates for enterprise/corporate environments.

Probably the most detrimental change came with the ineffectiveness of the Group Policy setting “No auto-restart with logged on users for scheduled automatic updates installations.”  This setting has been the saving grace for many enterprises, including the one I work at.  There are many cases when we absolutely cannot have a computer restart automatically while it is logged in, and this setting ensures that.  When we discovered the setting did appear to apply to Windows 10 (RSOP would report it) but didn’t seem to have any effect, my hopes of being able to fully support Windows 10 for all my users died a bit.  My guinea pig Windows 10 users were already coming back to me reporting they were being forced to restart their machines in the middle of the day.

Luckily Microsoft has [finally…] provided a reliable solution which comes included in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update that was released this past August.  And that solution comes in the form of the all new Active Hours alongside added functionality to the existing Restart Options.

(The Anniversary Update is available for users to download through regular Windows Updates. For detailed info on Windows 10’s update history, see this handy page:

Active Hours

This new feature allows users to specify a time range that is considered their “active hours.”  Windows Updates which require a restart will not automatically restart the computer during this time.  Instead a small Windows notification will appear saying a restart will happen outside of active hours:


To modify active hours, go to Settings > Update & Security and click the Change active hours option. Remember this option will only be there if the computer has already completed the Anniversary Update:


A couple of important things to note:

  • Active hours default to 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • The maximum active length of time that can be set is 12 hours

Active Hours can be controlled via Group Policy.

Once GPMC is using the latest Administrative Templates for Windows 10, a few new Group Policy Settings can be found under: Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Windows Update

The setting that allows you to define Active Hours is called “Turn off auto-restart for updates during active hours.”  Keep in mind if this setting is applied then users will not be able to manually change their active hours.

Restart Options

Active hours are going to solve a huge chunk of the Windows Updates problems that Windows 10 introduced, but it doesn’t solve the issue for those who may need to work late beyond their active hours and need to dissallow a scheduled restart.  This is where Restart Options come in.

Restart Options existed in Windows 10 initially but have been revamped a bit in the Anniversary Update.  They are now found in the same area as Active Hours, within Settings > Update & Security and then under the Restart Options preference:


The most important thing to understand about Restart Options is they are only available when an update has already scheduled a restart (otherwise they are grayed out).  So when a restart is scheduled, users may temporarily override active hours and schedule a custom time for the computer to restart.  The time and day that are picked here are a one-time setting meaning that it will only affect the update that is already queued to install.

I can now support Windows 10.

Between the functionalities of Active Hours and Restart Options, I’ve now gained the control and confidence I need to fully support Windows 10 in my environment.


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