Windows 10 V1903: The ‘broken’ defer update options

[German]Users of Windows 10 May 2019 Update (Pro version) maybe are missing the options to pause (defer) feature and quality updates known from previous Windows 10 builds. Below I sorted out (it costs me several attempts, to understand that), why Windows 10 acts in this way and what users need to know.


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What we are talking about?

Starting with Windows 10 May 2019 Update, version 1903, Microsoft is offering users the ability to defer quality updates by 5 x 7 days (35 days) in all versions (SKUs).

Update options in Windows 10 V1903
(Update options in Windows 10 V1903)

In Advanced options an the option to pause updates from the screenshot shown below are visible. Currently I have this screenshot only in German – but you can see the list box to select a date until updates are paused.

Erweiterte Update-Optionen in Windows 10 V1903
Advanced update options in Windows 10 V1903

I’ve discussed this briefly within my German blog post Windows 10 Home bekommt wohl ab V1903 Update-Pause. What is missing, however, are the options available in earlier Windows 10 Pro versions to defer quality and feature updates for up to 35 or 365 days.


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Advanced update options Semi-Annual-Channel
(Advanced update options Semi-Annual-Channel)

I’m talking about the two list boxes to defer Feature and Quality updates for 365 and 35 days. Martin Brinkman has discussed it also here for an older Windows 10 build – and I mentioned it within my German blog post Erweiterte Update-Steuerung in Windows 10 Version 1703.

Some discussions months ago

The topic has been around here since March 2019, because I came across the following discussion between Woody Leonhard and Tero Alhonen on Twitter.

Within the forum at askwoody.com there was this discussion thread. And Martin Brinkmann had written something about it at ghacks.net at that time. Since that was still a preview in March 2019, I put it on ‘hold and see’. Friday I came across of comments to an articles I’ve written for German IT magazine heise. A user complained about missing options to pause feature and quality updates in Windows 10, version 1903. Some users wrote, that they are having this option, others (and me) couldn’t see this option. My first interpretation, also based on Microsoft’s article about update control (see Windows 10 May 2019 Update brings back Update control) was:

Within the GUI, Microsoft has removed the old setting options, because features updates are no more getting automatically installed from Windows 10, version 1903 upward, until the end of the support period is reached. Rather, the user must click on the ‘Download and install’ link to initiate the upgrade. And we have an option to delay (quality) updates for 5 x 7 days, which is the 35 day defer option. From this point of view, the omission of the GUI elements under Settings … Windows Update seems logical.

But for professionals it’s pretty stupid and I was wrong – more about that later. There were also people who claimed that they had the option …

Group policies for update control

Of course I can use the group policies with gpedit.msc under Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Components > Windows Update > Windows Update for Business to force an update control.

Gruppenrichtlinien zur Win 10 Update-Steuerung

The above screenshot shows the policies (in German) in this branch, and the options are also available there as usual. An adjustment of the group policies didn’t change anything in my GUI display.

Confusing test results

Due to lack of time I could test little and my test system has exactly the options shown above (separate options to delay updates are not available). But at heise readers were willing and took the time for testing. A first feedback was (thanks again to the reader):

Now that I have brought a total of four computers to 1903, I notice the following:

All computers have been upgraded with the same DVD created with MediaCreationTool, so different installation sources are ruled out.

All computers were previously set back to Windows 10 Pro 1803 64bit, feature upgrades by 365 days.

first test run with laptop, automatic update search didn’t bring any 1903, so delay from 365 set to 0 and searched again. This time he downloaded and installed the 1809, the version I wanted to skip. When it was finished, I updated the DVD to 1903. This laptop has *no* entry in the advanced options to defer feature updates. Only quality updates can be postponed by 35 days.

second test run, desktop PC directly updated with DVD. This computer now also has *no* entry in the extended options to block feature updates. Only quality updates can be postponed by 35 days. Here I tried the tip with gpedit.msc. But still doesn’t let an entry appear in the settings.

third test run, Microsoft Surface Pro 4, updated with DVD. To my surprise, here I find the setting to pause feature updates in the advanced options, but set to 0 (we remember: all computers had previously set 365). So back to 365 again.

Fourth test run: Desktop updated with DVD. Everything is the same again: no possibility to reset feature updates.

We summarize: Four computers with the same DVD of the same Windows version (one exception via automatic update search) upgraded to 1903. Three no longer offer the option to defer feature updates, one does — but the setting was secretly reset to 0.

A pretty inscrutable mess that MS has done here again.

I asked the reader for screenshots because I wanted to report the whole mess to Redmond somehow via this blog posts. Then I got an even more confusing feedback from the reader:

It’s getting more and more inscrutable. I wanted to take a screenshot of the desktop, where I had set the 365 days via gpedit.msc before. I am absolutely sure that there was no such option in the advanced settings, neither before nor after.

Now it’s there. Greyed out because they are “managed by my organization”, what you expect when gpedit is used.

I’m also absolutely sure that under “managed from my organization” the defer of feature updates didn’t show up yesterday, now it’s there too.

Also hat irgendwer bei Microsoft das nun doch noch aktiviert…

So looked at the laptop (first try) – Option not available. I hadn’t played around in the gpedit.

So I altered the gpedit setting on the PC to “not configured” again. Windows Update still shows the grayed out option. So PC rebooted — no change. Windows Update says 365 days, greyed out, although not configured in gpedit..

Now I change this in the laptop via gpedit and am curious when the grayed out option appears. Maybe wait and see. It is not transparent.

Edit: Even a reboot does not produce the option on the laptop or makes it not configurable on the PC.

Edit 2: The option (grayed out in the advanced options of Windows Update if configured in gpedit.msc, or disappeared if not configured) is obviously triggered when manually checking for updates.

Why it is freely configurable on the surface under the advanced options is beyond me.

Now I have experimented enough. Let MS clean up the chaos itself.

I don’t have words for that and I had decided to throw the case to the developers. Because somewhere there is a mechanism that changes something in the GUI.

A registry entry helps (possibly)

Martin Brinkmann has dealt in this old blog post with the topic that there are two different types of GUI for update control and the BranchReadinessLevel DWORD value in the registry branch:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsUpdate\UX\Settings

Microsoft has a post here where the value is documented. In my Windows 10 V1903, the value is set to 0x20, which prevents the advanced update control options from being displayed.

BranchReadinessLevel-Wert
BranchReadinessLevel value

In Windows 10 V1903 the value probably can’t be changed by group policies anymore – at least I didn’t find anything on the fly – the options Martin Brinkmann describes are not available – you might have to import a new ADX file.

Colleagues at German site deskmodder.de have now received a reader tip that deleting this entry will cause the old update delay options to return. But this doesn’t seem to be very reliable (the colleague also writes and has delivered supplements in the text). My attempt to rename the value and then restart it didn’t work.

I then logged into an administrator account and removed the machine from the Insider Preview program (Release Preview Ring). It didn’t helped. At least I found the hint at deskmodder.de to set the registry values below, located within the same key, to 0:

DeferFeatureUpdatesPeriodInDays
DeferQualityUpdatesPeriodInDays

The screenshot above shows that the values are set to 0. I have also initiated a search for updates. Everything I tested didn’t work for me – not even after a restart.

Addendum: New findings

I played a bit with these settings and group policy options. Suddenly it is possible to use a scrollbar in the list field Anhalten bis (Stop until) within the advanced options and to extend the update pause to 35 days (see the following screenshot where in the text cut off here, suddenly says that updates can be suspended for 35 days).

Windows 10 V1903 Update zurückstellen

This corresponds to the old option of delaying quality updates by 35 days. However, since the feature update has to be manually triggered for installation until shortly before the end of the support period, this would indirectly be the old option to delay function updates by 365 days (now it will be about 15-16 months if the user waits until Microsoft performs the automatic forced installation).

The grayed out option to defere feature updates by 365 days shown in the screenshot below (see lower left corner) within this comment and hidden in gray does not occur to me (not even when adjusting the function update group policy to ‘Semi-Annual’).

Settings
(Click to zoom)

I cannot confirm the influence described in the comments here that Group Policies take precedence and change something. Here the 35 days remain, no matter what I set in the Group Policy. Even a change DeferQualityUpdatesPeriodInDays = 1 does not change anything. What I noticed: The message that updates are managed by your organization does not disappear when I disable and restart Group Policy or run gpupdate /force as a command in the command prompt. Only after I checked for updates did the option disappear. Restarts didn’t change anything.

I don’t have the time or the nerve to keep testing. My conclusion: Somewhere there is still badly broken, and Microsoft has to investigate that – or delivers an explanation how to view the additional advanced GUI options. At this point I would like to thank the readers at heise, my colleagues at deskmodder.de and my blog readers for their tests and comments.

It’s a frustrating as a Windows Insider MVP to see, how Microsoft has messed things up again – especially, after I have been confronted in an online meeting last week with the goals Microsoft has intended for Win Insider MVPs (e.g. create videos to promote Windows 10 and convince family and friends to use that stuff). My question to my MVP leads, that I see my MVP role more in an area where I filter technical issues and send it to the developers wasn’t  picked up at all – guess, that Win Insider MVP leads and me are living on different planets. So I don’t see that channel as helpful for feed back in. Also Windows Insider Feedback Hub is imho a waste of time.

I will try to convince Microsoft’s developers to have a look at that topic. If somebody has more insights, feel free to drop a comment.

Addendum: This tweet indicates, that it depends on patch level.

Addendum 2: Solving the riddle (partly)

Meanwhile I think, I understand quite a bit why Windows 10 V1903 shows this behavior.

You need to be an Admininstrator

Thanks to a tip from Jan Schüßler of German magazine c’t, I’m a step ahead regarding the two options for delaying updates and feature updates. security reasons, I work most of my time under Windows 7 with standard accounts. If I need administrative permissions, I use the user account control to get these permissions. Under Windows 10, I use the same procedure using standard accounts, but forget that the Settings app does not display commands that require elevated privileges. So there are ‘two faces’ to the settings page, depending on whether the current account is a member of the Administrators group or the default user group. Standard user accounts simply lack a number of commands in the Settings page. And in the Advanced Options, the option to delay updates is only visible for administrators (see screeshot below).

Erweiterte Optionen für Updates

Under an administrator account, the Advanced Options page looks like the screenshot above. The second list box for selecting the installation time for updates is now also available (missing under a default user account).

Insider Preview program matters

However, the above insight does not explain why I was initially offered only 7 days delay (see screenshots at the beginning of the article), but now have an interval of 35 days. And I also remember checking the Advanced Options page several times under an administrator account while fiddling with the registry keys.

After two days I re-registered my test machine again in the Insider Program in Release Preview Ring. And then suddenly there were the following options under my administrator account:


There are still the three options. But now Windows 10 V1903 told me that I could delay the installation of updates for 7 days. I logged into a standard user account in parallel. As expected, there was only the option Stop until with the date selection field visible. But there came the information that updates could be delayed by 35 days. I logged off and logged on again to the still active administrator account. And now the message appeared that updates will be deferable by 35 days.

Meanwhile I can saw also the behavior described above that the options disappear when defer values greater than 0 are entered in the defer list boxes. None of this is transparent – some people might get the idea to call it a mess.

Similar articles
Windows 10 Home bekommt wohl ab V1903 Update-Pause
Windows 10 May 2019 Update brings back Update control


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4 Responses to Windows 10 V1903: The ‘broken’ defer update options

  1. Pingback: Windows 10 1903: the case of the missing update deferral options - gHacks Tech News

  2. Pingback: This month’s Windows and Office security patches: Bugs and solutions – Tech News

  3. Les Moore says:

    FYI, by chance I noticed that the DWORD

    HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\WindowsUpdate\UpdatePolicy\PolicyState\DeferFeatureUpdates

    was set to 0x01, which I assume means it’s enabled. I still can’t see the “Defer feature updates” checkbox, however.

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  5. boudeman says:

    W10 Pro v1903
    I upgraded to v1903 on 14.07.2019. In the delivery settings I selected -as usual- postpone time for further updates/upgrades as long as possible (365 days, resp 35 days).
    On 21.07 I was surprised that an automatic update was taking place despite these settings. That update did not appear in the update history list. The option of deferring upgrades for 365 days was taken away by that update.

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