How to turn off automatic restart after updates on Vista

After enjoying the satisfaction of being protected from harmful viruses by having Vista destroy more work in one badly timed restart than I’m likely to ever lose to a virus, I looked into how to fix this while still leaving automatic updates on. As usual with Microsoft products, there’s no problem that can’t be fixed by an obscure administrative tool. If you are running Vista*, here’s how to keep your computer from spontaniously restarting itself without your permission:**

  1. In the start menu, type “gpedit” in the search box and hit return. (If you’re running Windows XP, type “gpedit.msc” in the “Run…” dialog box that can be selected from the start menu.) This will start the “Group Policy Object Editor.”
  2. Drill down to Computer Configuration | Administrative Templates | Windows Components | Windows Update | No auto-restart for scheduled Automatic Updates installation. Completely intuitive, no?
  3. Click “Enabled. Remember, enabled here means you’re disabling the automatic updates. Make sense?

*This apparently also happens with XP running SP2, though I’m not sure if these instructions apply.

**There’s a sentence I never thought I’d have to type.

Update: Vista SP1, which is coming later in February, apparently changes the location of the group policy tool. Please see the comment below from chris.

Note: it appears that not all versions of Vista make this available. I have Enterprise, so if you have another version, your mileage may vary. I’ll try to figure out if there is a way to turn off auto updates in the Home version. In the meanwhile, you can just turn off automatic updates in the Windows Update program for now.

32 responses to “How to turn off automatic restart after updates on Vista”

  1. Windows Vista SP1 changes the tools that administrators use to manage Group Policy. Administrators requested features in Group Policy that simplify Group Policy management. To do this, Windows Vista SP1 uninstalls the GPMC; GPEdit.msc edits local Group Policy by default. An enhanced version of GPMC will be included in Windows Server 2008 as well as the Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT) for Windows Vista SP1 shortly after Windows Server 2008 is released. The updated GPMC includes new features such as Group Policy preferences, Starter GPOs, comments, and search and filter capabilities.

  2. Thanks! This was also driving me nuts. The enabling of “Do not…/No…/Disable…” options is stupid to me also. Why not just write it “Auto-Restart for scheduled updates” so we can disable it?

    The people who write these options lists are morons… highly paid morons.

  3. Thanks, Aziel. I agree with your estimation of Microsoft engineers. If you were a software engineer, would you want to work at Google, Apple, Adobe or Microsoft? That’s the reason they’re trying to buy Yahoo; not for its technology, but for its engineers.

  4. I hate the reboot. I have video editing programs run over night and wake up to find hours with of render time lost from auto updates. Thanks I would have paid for this.

  5. Thanks for this.
    I was trying to formatt a new hard drive that i just bought overnight and i wake up to find my computer off. It has happened so many other times too when i have something running overnight. Its really annoying. I have SP1, and it is so hard to get this to work. I downloaded some docx file from the microsft site thanks to chris (hope it works as gpedit somehow), and now i have to download a file converter from microsoft so i can see the docx in office…it took so long already, but i just hope at the end that my hard drive is alright even though it was shut down in middle of the first format

  6. So the docx file is really nothing, I dont know where to go to get the file to make gpedit work, I have no idea what is going on, and cant stop my computer from automatically restarting
    This is extreamly annoying, if anyone knows what to do for Vista SP1 please tell me. I am really frusterated with this.

  7. Ah. I incorrectly assumed all versions had it. I’m very sorry for the misleading post; that must’ve been frustrating. Thanks for figuring out that it was the version–I’ll update the post.

  8. Well, there is a way to set it with ‘policy registry keys’. As I said, I am not sure how to do that.

  9. The correct way to do this (Vista Only, but inlcudes Home) is:

    go to Control Panel> Security> Windows Update> Change Settings (on the left), and choose Download updates and let me choose whether to install them (or whatever option you want to use).

    This sounds like you are preventing the machine from donwloading updates, but it actually means that it will download them, but wait for your approval to install.

    Another win for Microsoft’s “Menu Semantics Team” 🙂 I sometime wonder if they used Google translator to arrive at their US version’s language….
    Hope this helps.

  10. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. After not being able to use my home computer for a week because of it getting stuck in that updating 3 of 3 vortex, I now can use it.

  11. I do karaoke using the computer at least 3 times during the week, can you imagine if this would of happened during one of my shows. thank you for this info. Still, its always one thing after another, I think I’ll be switching to mac as soon as possible.

  12. Wow I had no idea this option existed, thanks for that.

    Previously I had been stopping the service manually, either using services.msc or the command line.

    The worst thing is being bugged to restart and you are mid-sentence and accidentally tell Windows to restart immediately! 🙁


  13. Thank you. I was in the middle of a poker game and the question window must have appeared in the background if at all. I lost money not to mention being confused and pissed off. This is a bad feature.

  14. You can also stop Windows from rebooting at the dreaded “blue screen of death.” This helps a lot, because you can usually Google the stop error and find a fix. Beats a reinstall any day!


    1. Click on Start \ Run… (or press Windows key – Win+R) and type sysdm.cpl and click OK.

    2. In System Properties window, click on the Advanced tab, then click on Settings button under Startup and Recovery.

    3. In Startup and Recovery window, uncheck Automatically restart under System failure section. Click OK to save setting (then click OK to close System Properties Window).

    Have fun with those PC’s and don’t forget to keep good backups!


  15. That feature of Vista drives me absolutely bonkers, so hanks for the tips. I hate it so much when I’m away from my pc for a while and Vista has decided to reboot itself after installing updates. Why can’t it just wait for confirmation? I think the default setting should be to wait for information and have people who would like Vista to do its own thinking (not recommended) go look for obscure solutions to change this standard setting. Not the other way around.

  16. Nice post. I had a system crash, and jumped past vista and had windows 7 installed. At first, thought it was great, but now not so impressed.Get a lot of stalling problems, luckily no auto restarts yet. Seems like microsoft keeps heading south with their updates:)

  17. :S If I type in gpedit in the search I dont get any results :S
    (I have vista home premium sp2)
    sorry if I’m stupid but I really need help on this! I hate when my computer restarts when I leave it on to work overnight!

  18. You’re not at all stupid; it’s apparently been moved in Vista SP2, whereas I wrote this post back before Vista had any service packs out. Try finding the management console, which is under administrator tools. Maybe typing gpedit.msc? It also might not be available depending on your version of Windows. If none of this works, just let me know and we’ll try to come up with something. One sure fire way to avoid the problem is to turn off automatic updates, and have the updates download but not automatically install.

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