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With Patch Tuesday arriving tomorrow, get Windows Automatic Update under control

December was a remarkable patching month. For those of you who use Windows Update, there were few surprises. (Manual updaters had it rough, though.) If you’ve been following along, you’ve already installed the December updates. Great. It’s time to get ready for January by temporarily turning off Windows Automatic Update.

If you’re a member of the “Get patched as soon as they roll out” team (a shrinking cohort, from my observation, anyway), my hat’s off to you. We need all the cannon fodder we can get. Be sure to keep us updated on AskWoody.

But if you figure there’s more danger from Pavlovian patching practices than from malware immediately following a Patch Tuesday, there are reasonably easy alternatives. Wait while we all watch the unpaid beta-testers take one for the Gipper.

Blocking automatic update on Win7 and 8.1

If you’re using Windows 7 or 8.1, click Start > Control Panel > System and Security. Under Windows Update, click the “Turn automatic updating on or off” link. Click the “Change Settings” link on the left. Verify that you have Important Updates set to “Never check for updates (not recommended)” and click OK.

Yes, this month’s Patch Tuesday brings the last free security patches for Win7. No, you shouldn’t let them install by themselves. We’ll have a lot of coverage of Win7 weaning worries in the coming weeks.

Blocking automatic update on Win10 1803 or 1809

Not sure which version of Win10 you’re running? Down in the Search box, near the Start button, type About, then click About your PC. The version number appears on the right under Windows specifications.

If you’re using Win10 1803 or 1809, I strongly urge you to move on to Win10 version 1903. Microsoft released it (to some consternation) in May of last year. It had a shaky start before plunging into a four-patch debacle in September/October, but now appears to be relatively stable. There are detailed step-by-step instructions for moving to Win10 1903 in “Why — and how — I’m moving Win10 production machines to version 1903.”

If you insist on sticking with Win10 1809 (thrice bitten, thrice shy, eh?), you can block updates by following the steps in last month’s Patch Tuesday warning.

There’s a better way with Win10 versions 1903 or 1909

In version 1903 or 1909 (either Home, Pro, Education or Enterprise, unless you’re attached up an update server), using an administrator account, click Start > Settings > Update & Security. At the top, click the Pause updates for 7 days button. 

1903 pause 7 days 4 Woody Leonhard/IDG

That button changes so it says, “Pause updates for 7 more days.” Click it two more times, for a total of 21 paused days. That defers all updates on your machines until 21 days after you click the button. Once set, you can’t extend the deferral any longer unless you install all the outstanding cumulative updates to that point.

Historically, 21 days has sufficed to avoid the worst problems, although the aforementioned Keystone Kops IE 0day patch bugs persisted for more than three weeks. 

If there are any immediate widespread problems protected by this month’s Patch Tuesday — a rare occurrence, but it does happen — we’ll let you know here, and at AskWoody.com, in very short order.

We’re at MS-DEFCON 2 on AskWoody.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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What’s in the latest Firefox update? Firefox 72 nixes fingerprinting, obnoxious notification appeals

Mozilla on Tuesday launched Firefox 72, which expanded picture-in-picture video mode to macOS and by default blocked “fingerprinting,” an advanced tracking method practiced by some sites and advertisers.

The open-source developers also patched 11 vulnerabilities, five labeled “High,” Mozilla’s second-most-serious threat rating. As usual, some of the flaws might be used by criminals. “We presume that with enough effort … it could be exploited to run arbitrary code,” the firm wrote of the CVE-2019-17017 vulnerability.

Firefox 72 can be downloaded for Windows, macOS and Linux from Mozilla’s site. Because Firefox updates in the background, most users need only relaunch the browser to get the latest version. To manually update on Windows, pull up the menu under the three horizontal bars at the upper right, then click the help icon (the question mark within a circle). Choose “About Firefox.” (On macOS, “About Firefox” can be found under the “Firefox” menu.) The resulting page shows that the browser is either up to date or describes the refresh process.

Mozilla now refreshes Firefox every five weeks; it last upgraded the browser on Dec. 3.

(In September 2019, Mozilla said it would reduce the intervals between upgrades. The earlier six-week stretch was shortened to five weeks between Firefox 71 and 72. Starting with March’s Firefox 74, the interval will drop to four weeks.)

PiP-pin for McIntosh?

A month ago, Mozilla introduced Picture-in-Picture (PiP) with Firefox 71, touting the new feature’s ability to display video in a separate, small window while the user continues to surf elsewhere or even works outside the browser. Then, PiP was limited to Firefox running on Windows.

Firefox 72 expanded PiP to macOS – and if Mozilla’s December pledge was honored, Linux as well – and the feature works just as in Windows. Videos that will run in PiP were marked with a small, blue-backed “Picture-in-Picture” message when the mouse cursor hovers over the image. Clicking on that puts a frame on the desktop, video inside, and the frame can be moved and resized at will.

Firefox PiP on macOS Mozilla

Mozilla expanded Picture-in-Picture (PiP) to macOS and Linux with this week’s Firefox 72.

Firefox’s implementation of PiP is significantly smoother than Chrome’s – which requires a pair of right-clicks – in the videos where it’s available.

Scratch sites’ begging to blast you with notices

Another new aspect of Firefox 72 that Mozilla highlighted is its dampening down of the distraction from sites asking users to allow future notifications.

Those irritating pop-ups rarely result in users acquiescing to the request, Mozilla asserted. According to the company’s research, 48% of those prompts are “actively denied by the user” and a whopping 99% go unaccepted. In other words, they’re a vast waste of both websites’ and users’ time.

Firefox 72 blocks the notifications from reaching the screen – and obscuring part of the underlying page – and instead adds a small comic-style speech bubble, one that briefly jiggles for attention no less, to the address bar. Users can click on the bubble to pull up the usual notification pop-up – perhaps to dismiss it entirely and lose the bubble – or just ignore it. (It jiggles just once.)

Users can, of course, check the long-available box marked “Block new requests asking to allow notifications” in Options (Windows) or Preferences (macOS) to avoid all such irritants. (To reach that, from the “Privacy & Security” section, choose “Permissions,” then click the “Settings” button beside “Notifications.”)

Fingering fingerprinters

Mozilla also trumpeted another addition to Firefox’s anti-tracking skillset that it baked into version 72.

“The latest Firefox browser protects you against fingerprinting by blocking third-party requests to companies that are known to participate in fingerprinting,” Mozilla said here.

Like cookie-based tracking, fingerprinting is used by sites and advertisers to follow users as they wander around the web, most infamously to continue to offer a product that an individual looked at previously. It’s akin to a salesperson following a customer not only around the store, dunning them to buy this or that, but leaving the store with them, tracking them across town and even all the way home.

Fingerprinting relies on piecing together clues – ranging from the browser version and device platform to installed fonts and extensions – to create a profile, hopefully one unique enough to distinguish from others’. Unlike cookie-based tracking, fingerprinting can continue to follow a user even after the browser’s been cleared or its privacy mode has been used to, supposedly, surf anonymously.

Firefox 72 has the fingerprinters portion of Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP), Mozilla’s name for its collection of anti-tracking technologies, turned on by default. Even if the user has switched off ETP by disabling the other tracker types, the “Fingerprinters” option will be engaged.

Mozilla turned to its partner, Disconnect – which already provided the tracker list that served as the foundation of ETP – as the source of the fingerprints. “Disconnect maintains a list of companies that participate in cross-site tracking, as well a list as those that fingerprint users. Firefox blocks all parties that meet both criteria,” Steven Englehardt, a Mozilla senior privacy engineer, said in a Jan. 7 post to a company blog.

“Expect to hear more updates from us as we continue to strengthen the protections provided by ETP,” Englehardt added, without going into specifics.

The next version, Firefox 73, should launch Feb. 11.

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What’s in the latest Firefox update? Firefox 71 plays picture-in-picture catch-up

Mozilla this week released Firefox 71, touting a picture-in-picture video mode and new ways to preview a VPN (virtual private networking) service that will be offered to customers next year.

Security engineers included patches for 11 vulnerabilities, six marked “High,” the second-most-serious threat rating. None were tagged “Critical.” Some of these flaws might be exploitable by cyber criminals, Mozilla said. “This could have caused heap corruption and a potentially exploitable crash,” the firm noted of one vulnerability, labeled CVE-2019-11745.

Firefox 71 can be downloaded for Windows, macOS and Linux from Mozilla’s site. Because Firefox updates in the background, most users need only relaunch the browser to get the latest version. To manually update, pull up the menu under the three horizontal bars at the upper right, then click the help icon (the question mark within a circle). Choose “About Firefox.” The resulting page shows that the browser is either up to date or describes the refresh process.

Mozilla refreshes Firefox every six to eight weeks; it last upgraded the browser Oct. 22.

PiP PiP, and all that

Mozilla trumpeted a new Picture-in-Picture (PiP) mode within Firefox 71. “Picture-in-Picture allows a video to be contained in a separate and small window, and still be viewable whether you switch from tab-to-tab or outside the Firefox browser,” wrote Marissa Wood, vice president of product, in a Dec. 3 post to a company blog._

Although PiP was available only in Windows’ version of Firefox 71, the feature will be baked into the next upgrades for macOS and Linux, Mozilla said. Currently, Firefox 72 has been pegged with a Jan. 7 release date.

(If that January ship date for Firefox 72 seems earlier than it should, it is. In September 2019, Mozilla announced it would speed up Firefox releases by reducing the interval between upgrades. Starting with Firefox 74, set to debut March 10, the interval will drop to just four weeks. Mozilla will shorten the interval in steps; the six-week stretch between Firefox 70 and 71 will be reduced to five weeks between 71 and 72, and between 72 and 73.)

Not every video will play in PiP; those that do will display a small blue-backed “Picture-in-Picture” when the mouse cursor is hovered over the image. Clicking on that message deposits a frame on the desktop, video inside. The frame can be moved and resized at will.

Firefox pip Firefox

Firefox 71 debuts Picture-in-Picture (PiP), letting users pull video off a tab so that viewing can continue even when working in another tab or application.

And as Wood mentioned, the video is independent of the tab from which it spawned; that tab does not need to remain active and, in fact, the user can step outside the browser to another application’s window and the video will continue.

Firefox is somewhat late to the PiP party. Apple’s Safari now has PiP – as of the October upgrade, macOS Catalina – and Google’s browser has had it since Chrome 70 (an October 2018 upgrade). But Firefox’s implementation is significantly easier to use than Chrome’s, which required two right-clicks to initiate in Windows (and Computerworld was never able to successful call up PiP in Chrome on macOS).

Testing, testing of services

Other than PiP, Mozilla’s other Firefox 71 area of attention is further testing of its “Firefox Private Network” (FPN), the browser extension the company released in September. FPN accesses a VPN-like service that encrypts browser-to-site-and-back traffic and was free to Firefox Account holders in the test phase that kicked off then. Website security vendor Cloudflare provided the proxy server for FPV.

That September offer, however, has been shuttered.

Instead, a second testing phase launched alongside the debut of Firefox 71. Like the first, this “limited-time free service” relies on the FPN add-on to encrypt to-and-from-browser transmissions but comes with a major restriction: Usage tops out at 12 hours each month.

After signing up for the free deal, users are given a dozen passes, each good for an hour of encrypted traffic. “To claim a pass, simply turn Private Network on,” the beta’s explanatory page stated. “Use Firefox as usual, and your browsing will be encrypted and sent through a proxy service provided by our trusted partner Cloudflare. Passes expire after one hour, even if you turn Private Network off. You’ll receive 12 new passes at the beginning of each month.”

Mozilla suggested that users switch on FPV (and so use one of the month’s 12 passes) when relying on a public network, such as at a coffee shop or an airport.

As an alternative, Firefox users can request an invitation to a full VPN service, which for $4.99 month encrypts traffic to and from up to five devices. Mozilla called this a “paid beta.” The VPN service uses servers around the globe controlled by Mullvad, a Swedish VPN that sells its services for €5 per month. Initially, the Firefox offer only applies to users running Windows 10, although Mozilla said, “other platforms coming soon.”

Mozilla has struggled to create non-search related revenue streams – in 2018, the vast bulk of its income came from deals that put various search engines as the Firefox default – and this effort is the second time the organization has tapped a paid VPN as one solution.

Elsewhere in Firefox 71, Mozilla added a “kiosk” mode for businesses and the browser now notifies users when Enhanced Tracking Protection (ETP) blocks cryptominers.

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Windows 10 November 2019 Update: Key enterprise features

It’s almost time for the next big Windows 10 update. Code-named “19H1” (for 2019, first half), the release is expected to arrive in May as version 1903, with “May 2019 Update” as its official name.

At first glance, there doesn’t appear to be a whole lot that’s new in the May 2019 Update. But several of these “little things” could affect the way you use a Windows 10 PC daily for work, or how you manage PCs in your office.

[ Further reading: How to handle Windows 10 updates ]

Here are a handful of useful features that have shown up in the previews of the May 2019 Update over the last several months. (Please note that Microsoft may decide not to include some of these features in the final release.) In addition, we’ve called out a few other new Windows 10 features that are not part of the May 2019 Update but that business users and IT admins should know about.

(See the subsequent pages of this story for key enterprise features introduced in earlier Windows 10 feature updates.)

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How to Update Google Play Services on Android

Want to learn how to update Google Play services? If Play Services doesn’t update, you probably can’t use many of your favorite apps. This means your phone is near useless, so you’ll want to run a Google Play services update as soon as possible.

Let’s look at what Google Play services is, how to update it properly, and why you can’t update it sometimes.

What Is Google Play Services?

First, here’s a quick explanation of what Google Play services actually is.

Google Play services is a program that allows apps to interface with Google’s software, like Gmail, Google Search, and the Google Play Store. Without Google Play services running, you cannot use any of Google’s first-party apps.

Those who can’t update it can still use alternative Android app markets

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The 4 Best Google Play Alternatives for Downloading Android Apps

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, like Amazon’s App Store, F-Droid, and others. If your phone won’t update to the latest version of Google Play, you can oftentimes get the apps you need through a process known as sideloading.

But before you give up on installing Google Play services, here’s how to get it running on most Android tablets, TV boxes, and smartphones (with a few exceptions).

How to Update Google Play Services

Most of the time, Google Play services should update on its own without issue. You’ll only need to look into a Google Play services app update if something get stuck.

Here’s how to install the latest version of Google Play services on your device manually.

1. Check Your Internet Connection

A flaky internet connection is the number one cause for Play Services not updating. Make sure you’re connected to a stable Wi-Fi network when you try to update.

If you’re still having problems, restart your device to clear up any temporary issues. Failing that, you should reboot your router.

2. Wipe Google Services Cache

Wiping Google Play services’ temporary file storage location, or cache, is the best way to resolve update issues. To do this, perform the following steps (which may vary slightly depending on your version of Android and device).

First, go to Settings > Apps & notifications. Next, tap See all X apps (the screenshot below shows All 95 apps).

From the list, find and tap on Google Play services. Then choose Storage & cache from the list of options on its app page. Finally, hit Clear cache on the resulting menu.

Once you’ve done this, restart your device. If it doesn’t help, repeat the above steps but select Clear storage instead.

3. Force an Update of Play Services

After restarting, you should try to force an update of Play Services. You shouldn’t need to do this in most cases, but it’s worth a try if you continue to experience issues.

To do this, visit the Google Play services entry in Settings as mentioned above. Expand the Advanced section and tap App details to open its page on the Play Store. If you’re on your phone, you can open the Google Play services Play Store page to jump right to it. The green button will show Deactivate if you’re up-to-date and Update if you can install a new version.

You also can do this by visiting Play Store in a web browser and signing in with your Google account. Open the above link to the Google Play services page on Google Play, and check for an update there.

Google Play Services in the web browser

For Advanced Users: Install Google Play Services Beta

The above should work in most situations. But if you’re desperate, installing a beta version (an experimental update that hasn’t been fully tested) of Google Play services may force an update.

We don’t recommend this option except as a last resort. At best, it might make your device functional again. But if this method works, it will not update you to the latest version of Google Play services. It will instead update to an experimental version of the software—which may break many of your apps.

The process is simple, and is best done on a desktop or laptop where you’re logged into the primary Google account associated with your device. First, navigate to the Google Play Services Public Beta Program page. On that page, follow the link under the Subscribe using the opt-in URL header and you’ll see the below. Click Become a tester to join.

become a google play tester

Once you’ve signed up, Google will push beta versions of Play services to your device automatically. You can try to force them by following step three of the above process.

If you change your mind, you can leave the program at any time. Visit the Google Play services beta opt-out page to drop out. However, this may require that you uninstall Play Services before it functions normally again.

When You Can’t Update Google Play Services

If you fall into one of these categories, your phone probably won’t be able to update Google Play services using the method outlined above.

Android 4.0 and Below Can’t Update Google Play Services

As of 2018, Google no longer supports Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich or below. That means if you own an Android device running one of those version, you can’t install or update Google Play services. These users can either install a custom ROM

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or try sideloading Google Play Store alternative as mentioned earlier.

Unregistered Phones Can’t Update Any of Google’s Software

If you purchased your device in India, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, or elsewhere in East or Southeast Asia, there is a chance it came with an unlicensed (or “uncertified”) version of Google Play services. Google recently blocked access to the Play Store for many of these users.

However, the company also left the door open to registration. However, the registration process requires jumping through a few hoops. Jump down to the Device Registration section below for info on how to do this.

Heavily Modified Android Devices

If you’ve installed a custom version of Android or modified its system directory through rooting, there are too many variables to consider when something goes wrong. The instructions provider here won’t be of much help.

Device Registration: Fix “Device Is Not Registered With Google” Error

Google Framework Services ID input window

In order to use Google’s software, such as Google Play, Gmail, and Google Calendar, device manufacturers must obtain Google’s permission. Some manufacturers don’t bother with this, and instead install uncertified copies of Google’s software on their smartphones. Google began cracking down on this practice on devices some time ago.

Unlicensed versions of Android can still update Google Play services. However, you will need to first register your device with Google. The process is easy; it requires visiting Google’s Uncertified Device Registration page.

Once you’re here, you’ll need to acquire your device’s Framework Android ID. The easiest way to do this is using the Device ID app. Due to your issue, you probably don’t have access to Google Play. Thus, you’ll need to download the APK manually and sideload it to install

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How to Manually Install or Sideload Apps on Android

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After you’ve retrieved it from the app, input the Google Services Framework Android ID into the Uncertified Device Registration page. The process is not immediate; it may take several hours. Once registered with Google, you then should be able to manually install Google Framework Services, which will allow you to continue using (and updating) Google Play services.

Downloading the Google Play Services APK

Hopefully this helped you update Play Services without much hassle. If you need more info than just getting Google Play services to update, we have another guide that might help you.

Check out our detailed instructions for fixing Google Play issues

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5 Simple Fixes for Common Google Play Store Problems

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. It also includes tips on legitimate websites that host the android installation files for Google Play services (as well as other essential Play Store software infrastructure). However, we don’t recommend manual installation in all cases. This comes with risks, such as getting a malware infection or destroying your device. Additionally, a manual install can take hours of your time. Sometimes upgrading your device is the only cost-effective option.

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Patch Tuesday alert: Make sure Windows Auto Update is temporarily disabled

For those of you who haven’t patched since May, there’s exceedingly bad news on the horizon. Per Catalin Cimpanu at ZDNet, Metasploit’s working-but-just-barely BlueKeep exploit is about to get a significant bug fix. That’ll put BlueKeep infection capabilities in the hands of mere mortals. The script kiddies won’t be far behind.

If you’re using — or you know someone who’s using — Windows XP, Vista, Win7, Server 2003, Server 2008 or Server 2008 R2, get patched nowThe fix is easy. Even  Aunt Martha can handle it.

Think of it this way. Would you rather spend the holidays with Aunt Martha over tea and crumpets, or cleaning a BlueKeep infection off her cute little PC? Your choice.

Yes, you have to get patched eventually. But there’s very little reason to jump head first into the pernicious patching pit. Sit back and watch like a pro. Get automatic update disentangled for a while, and wait while we all watch the unpaid beta testers take one (or more) for the Gipper.

Blocking automatic update on Windows 7 and 8.1

If you’re using Windows 7 or 8.1, click Start > Control Panel > System and Security. Under Windows Update, click the “Turn automatic updating on or off” link. Click the “Change Settings” link on the left. Verify that you have Important Updates set to “Never check for updates (not recommended)” and click OK.

Blocking automatic update on Win10 Pro 1803 or 1809

Not sure which version of Win10 you’re running? Down in the Search box, near the Start button, type About, then click About your PC. The version number appears on the right under Windows specifications.

If you’re on Win10 Pro version 1803, you have three options: Stick with version 1803 a while longer (the last scheduled patch for 1803 arrives Tuesday); upgrade to version 1809; or go for 1903, which has had teething problems lately. I have details on the options, what they entail, and how to pursue them here: Is Windows pushing you to upgrade? Don’t be bullied. There’s a middle path.

If you’re using Win10 Pro version 1809, or if you’re on Pro 1803 and want to stay there a bit longer, I suggest an update blocking technique that Microsoft recommends for “Broad Release” in its obscure Build deployment rings for Windows 10 updates –  it’s intended for admins, but applies to you, too. (Thx, @zero2dash)

Step 1. Using an administrative account, click Start > Settings > Update & Security. 

Step 2. On the left, choose Windows Update. On the right, click the link for Advanced options. If you’re using Win10 version 1803 or 1809, you see the settings in the screenshot. 

1809 sac 365 15 Microsoft

Step 3. The first box – “Semi-Annual Channel” – is no longer recognized by Microsoft. It’s changed the terminology over and over. In our newly-redefined update world, choosing “Semi-Annual Channel” adds 60 days to the “feature update” setting discussed in the next step. I recommend that you nod, wink and, in the first box, choose Semi-Annual Channel.

Step 4. To further delay new versions until they’ve been minimally tested, roll the “feature update” deferral setting all the way up to 365 days. That tells the Windows Updater (unless Microsoft makes another “mistake,” as it has numerous times in the past) that it should wait until 425 days after a new version is released (60 days for Semi-Annual Channel + 365 days deferral) before upgrading and re-installing Windows on your machine.

Of course, nobody expects Microsoft to keep its mitts off your 1803 machine until Jan. 12, 2020 (that’s the version 1809 release date + 425 days) or refrain from upgrading your 1809 machine until July 19, 2020 (version 1903 release date + 425 days): Even though those settings appear here, Microsoft is sure to ignore them and blast you onto the next version, somehow, at some point. We just don’t know how or when quite yet.

If you’d like to block a forced upgrade to 1903 for the foreseeable future, follow the instructions in How to block the Windows 10 May 2019 Update, version 1903, from installing.

We also don’t know exactly when Microsoft will start pushing the inevitable upgrade to Win10 version 1909. While it’s likely that the upgrade will be far less traumatic than every Win10 upgrade in the past, you might want to hedge your bets on this one, too. To keep 1909 off your machine until you’re good ‘n ready to take it, follow the instructions in How to block the Windows 10 November 2019 Update, version 1909, from installing.

Step 5. To delay cumulative updates, set the “quality update” deferral to 15 days or so. (“Quality update” = cumulative update = bug fix.) In my experience, Microsoft usually yanks bad Win10 cumulative updates within a couple of weeks of their initial release. By setting this to 10 or 15 or 20 days, Win10 will update itself after the major screams of pain have subsided and (with some luck) the bad cumulative updates have been pulled or re-issued. Notably, in February 2019, it took Microsoft 18 days to fix its first-Tuesday bugs.

Step 6. Just “X” out of the settings pane. You don’t need to explicitly save anything.

In the past I’ve recommended that you avoid clicking “Check for updates” simply because, until a few months ago, clicking “Check for updates” would automatically install everything Microsoft had backed up for your machine without giving you a chance to peruse the items on offer. It now appears as if Microsoft has seen the error of its ways, and no longer dumps everything on your machine, should you have the temerity to “Check.” Still, I’m a superstitious old cuss with a long memory. I won’t be clicking “Check for updates” any time soon.

If there are any real howlers – months where the cumulative updates were irretrievably bad, and never got any better, as they were in July 2018 – we’ll let you know, loud and clear. 

Tired old approach for Win10 Home 1803 and 1809

If you have Win10 Home, version 1803 or 1809, your only reasonable option (other than installing a third-party patch blocker) is to set your internet connection to “metered.” Metered connections are an update-blocking kludge that seems to work to fend off cumulative updates, but as best I can tell still doesn’t have Microsoft’s official endorsement as a cumulative update prophylactic. Worryingly, there are some reports that Microsoft is pushing for upgrades even if they go over metered connections.

To set your Ethernet connection as metered: Using an administrator account, click Start > Settings > Network & Internet. On the left, choose Ethernet. On the right, click on your Ethernet connection. Then move the slider for Metered connection to On.

To set your Wi-Fi connection as metered: Using an administrator account, click Start > Settings > Network & Internet. On the left, choose Wi-Fi. On the right, click on your Wi-Fi connection. Move the slider for Metered connection to On.

If you set your internet connection to metered, you need to watch closely as the month unfolds, and judge when it’s safe to let the demons in the door. At that point, turn “metered” off, and just let your machine update itself. Don’t click Check for updates.

There’s a better way with Win10 version 1903

I’m close to installing 1903 on my production machines, but haven’t yet made the plunge. It still hasn’t been stable enough, for long enough, to get my wholehearted endorsement. If you’ve already upgraded to 1903, though, your patching life is considerably simpler

In version 1903 (either Home or Pro), using an administrator account, click Start > Settings > Update & Security. At the top, click the Pause updates for 7 days button. 

1903 pause 7 days Microsoft

That button changes so it says Pause updates for seven more days. Click it two more times, for a total of 21 paused days. That defers all updates on your machines until 21 days after you click the button. You can’t extend the deferral any longer unless you install all the outstanding cumulative updates to that point.

Historically, 21 days has sufficed to avoid the worst problems.

It looks like Win10 version 1909 will be distributed just like a cumulative update later this month, possibly on Patch Tuesday. We’ll have more details as the update/upgrade/version/service pack unfolds.

We’re at MS-DEFCON 2 on AskWoody.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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Disappearing Windows Update deferral pane suddenly reappears

Think of it as the patching prodigal son.

When Microsoft released Win10 version 1903 — indeed, in the later beta test copies of 1903, dating back to early this year — a funny thing happened. Many testers discovered that Win10 1903 hid its update deferral settings, if you had the temerity to change them.

For those who haven’t changed their update deferral settings, Win10 version 1903 Pro invites you to change the settings in a portion of the Windows Update advanced options dialog (to see it, click Start > Settings > Update & Security > Advanced options). 

1903 update deferrals zero Woody Leonhard/IDG

Many of you discovered that if you change either the feature update deferral setting or the quality update deferral setting — made either of them non-zero — then rebooted, that part of the advanced options dialog disappeared entirely.


Here’s the kicker. Even though you can’t see, or change, the 1903 deferral settings in advanced options, they’re still in effect. If you elect to defer quality updates for 15 days, for example, when you reboot the deferral option won’t appear anywhere in the advanced options dialog — but quality updates (cumulative updates) will be deferred for 15 days.

It’s bizarre. The option doesn’t appear anywhere. You can’t change it, short of rummaging around in Group Policy or the Registry. But it still, silently, controls the fate of your Windows updating.

It was, and is, one of the most frustrating bugs in Win10 version 1903. I’ve talked about the bug, repeatedly, since 1903 hit the fan. It’s one of the main reasons why I haven’t installed 1903 on my production machines.

And now it looks like Microsoft is poised to fix the bug.

Based on an initial report by Bree in Tenforums, I’m very happy — and startled — to announce that the bug has apparently been fixed in Win10 1903’s KB 4522355, the “optional, non-security” second cumulative update for October. It’s thus poised (but not guaranteed) to be present in next week’s Win10 version 1903 Patch Tuesday update.

As @Tex265 noted, and confirmed by @b, @PKCano, and my own tests, installing KB 4522355 (which I still don’t recommend for “normal” users) brings back the mislaid part of the advanced options dialog.

update deferral showing in 449 Woody Leonhard/IDG

It’s a Festivus miracle!

As best I can tell, Microsoft has never mentioned this bug. Its fix in KB 4522355 isn’t documented anywhere I can find. But, for anyone who cares about controlling Windows updates, the deferral setting reappearance is exceedingly good news.

Take a victory lap with us on the AskWoody Lounge.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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Will Windows 10 Update If My Computer Is in Sleep Mode?

Windows logo

Windows 10 will keep you safe and secure by applying updates automatically. Typically, users schedule “active hours,” so Windows 10 doesn’t install updates at inconvenient times. Will Windows 10 update if a PC is asleep? Technically, no.

Windows 10 Wakes Your Sleeping PC to Update

When your Windows 10 PC goes into sleep mode, it saves the current system state and stores that information into memory. The PC then goes into low-power mode, shutting mostly everything down save for the RAM sticks.

What happens next depends on your PC, its active power profile, and wake timers. The latter is your PC’s “alarm clock” within Windows 10 that pulls it out of sleep.

If you’re on a laptop, wake timers can be disabled while running solely on a battery. That means your laptop definitely won’t wake to update and overheat while stuffed in a bag. Plug the computer in, and it will likely wake only for important scheduled tasks.

Go into the power options where you’ll see three wake timer settings: Disable, Enable, and “Important Wake Timers Only.” System updates are one of many scheduled tasks that fall under that “important” umbrella.

You can also determine which tasks jolt your PC awake using the PowerShell, Event Viewer, and Task Scheduler.

Prevent Windows 10 from Waking by Disabling Wake Timers

Windows 10 provides the means to stop automatic updates while it sleeps, it’s just not apparent. Go into Settings > Update & Security > Advanced Options, and all you will find are settings to delay and pause “feature” and “quality” updates.

You can disable wake timers altogether so that nothing wakes your PC—not even drive scans or antivirus sweeps. As previously stated, this setting resides within your power plan listed in the Control Panel.

First, type “Control Panel” in the taskbar’s search field and select the resulting Control Panel desktop app. Select the “System and Security” option in the following window.

Next, under “Power Options,” click the “Change When the Computer Sleeps” link.

Change When Computer Sleeps

Select the “Change Advanced Power Settings” link in the next window.

Change Advanced Power Settings

The Power Options pop-up panel appears. Click the “+” next to “Sleep” in the list to expand this setting. After that, click the “+” next to “Allow Wake Timers” to expand this setting.

On a desktop, a single setting might say “Enable” or “Important Wake Timers Only” by default. Click this setting and select “Disable” in the drop-down menu.

Power Options Wake Timer Desktop

On laptops, you should see two specific settings: “On Battery” and “Plugged In.” Select “Disable” for both.

Power Options Wake Timer Laptop

Windows Update Won’t Wake Your PC from Hibernate

A hibernating PC won’t wake to update. It’s powered off, as hibernate is a deeper version of sleep mode that saves the current system state to the local hard drive or SSD, not the memory. The only difference between this mode and fully shutting down your PC is that apps, programs, and files remain open after waking from hibernation.

If you want to control how your PC hibernates, we have a guide for that, too. In summary, this setting resides in the Sleep section under Power Options. The path to this panel is Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Power Options > Edit Plan Settings > Change Advanced Power Settings.

For desktop, you’ll see a “Hibernate After” setting. You can set it to “Never,” enter a specific time in minutes using the arrow buttons, or manually enter numbers with a keyboard.

On laptops, you might see hibernate enabled by default to conserve the battery charge. You’ll find the same “Hibernate After” entry broken into two settings: “On Battery” and “Plugged In.” Again, you can choose when hibernation begins—if at all—by entering the time in minutes.

A hibernate option is also located in the “Battery” section under “Power Options” on laptops. It’s one of three choices for the “Critical Battery Action” setting.

If your PC doesn’t have hibernation enabled, check out our guide to re-enable this mode in Windows 8 and Windows 10.

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Can’t Update Your iPhone or iPad? 8 Ways to Fix It

Having problems updating your iPhone or iPad to the latest version of iOS or iPadOS? There are a few reasons why you could be facing these issues. Don’t be disheartened, though—there’s almost certainly a solution to the problem.

Let’s look at some fixes that will help you get the latest software running on your device properly. Here’s how to fix your iPhone or iPad when it won’t let you update iOS or iPadOS.

Preliminary Tips to Fix iPhone Update Issues

Before you dive into advanced troubleshooting, it’s a good idea to check a few basics first. Don’t forget to run through these simple troubleshooting steps when your iPhone won’t update.

1. Charge Your iPhone or iPad

Your device won’t let you upgrade if you don’t have enough battery power. This is to prevent your device from turning off in the middle of an update, which can cause catastrophic damage to your phone.

Make sure you plug in your device and have plenty of charge before updating. It’s a good idea to leave it on the charger while the process runs, too.

2. Make Sure You’re Eligible to Update

iOS 13 Compatibility

Unfortunately, Apple eventually drops support for older devices, so not all iPhone and iPad models can update to the latest iOS iteration. To make sure your device can get the latest release of Apple’s mobile operating system, scroll down to the bottom of Apple’s iOS info page or iPadOS info page and look for your model.

3. Give It Some Time

When you try to update to the latest version of iOS as soon as it comes out, you might run into trouble. Apple’s servers go under heavy load when thousands of people are trying to update at once.

If you receive an error when trying to update to the latest version of iOS, try waiting for a while. You might have better luck later when the update servers aren’t under such a strain.

4. Force-Restart Your Device

restart iphone two iphones

A one-off bug can prevent you from updating your iPhone. Restarting your phone will refresh its processes and hopefully clear up any temporary glitches. Follow our guide to restarting your iPhone

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to learn the steps for your specific device.

Once you’ve done this successfully, you’ll see your screen turn black. Afterwards, an Apple logo will appear, and you’ll be greeted by your lock screen. Your device is now fully refreshed, so you can go ahead and try to update again.

5. Free Up Space

A lack of device storage a common culprit for a faulty update process. Luckily, modern versions of iOS help you free up space easily. Here’s how:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Scroll down and tap General.
  3. Tap iPhone Storage.

In this menu, you’ll see how much storage you have. Depending on what’s taking up space, your phone will provides a few recommendations, including:

  • Offload Unused Apps
  • Review Large Attachments
  • iCloud Photos
  • Auto-Delete Old Conversations

Offload Unused Apps deletes any apps that you rarely use. This won’t delete any of your personal data, though; only the app data itself will be deleted.

Review Large Attachments lets you see the largest photos and videos inside of Messages so you can delete them. This is often an easy way to gain a big chunk of storage, to give your iPhone a bit more room for the update.

iCloud Photos allows you to back up all your photos to iCloud. After doing this, you’re free to delete as many images as you want from your device. However, if you decide to do this, you’ll only be able to access your photos via an internet connection later on.

Auto-Delete Old Conversations has your phone clear out messages and attachments that were sent years ago in order to save space.

Once you’ve freed up some space, try the update again. Follow our ways to free up space on your iPhone

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if you need to clear more.

6. Force Update via iTunes

itunes windows menu sync and update iphone

While most people are used to updating iOS right on their device nowadays, you can still run the update through your computer.

On Windows or macOS Mojave and earlier, you can update your iPhone through iTunes by following these steps:

  1. On Windows, download iTunes for Windows if you don’t have it already.
  2. Connect your iPhone or iPad to your computer with its charging cable.
  3. Open iTunes.
  4. Sync your iOS device.
  5. Click Check for update.
  6. Click Download.
  7. Once the download is finished, select Update.

Since Apple retired iTunes in macOS Catalina, you’ll need to do this through Finder instead. Connect your device to your Mac, open Finder, and click the device name on the left sidebar. This will bring you to a panel similar to the old iTunes interface, where you can follow the steps above.

After doing this, the update will install onto your device. If you have trouble, see what to do when your iPhone won’t connect to your computer

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7. Reset Your Wi-Fi Settings

If you can’t update through iTunes either, the next step is to take a look at your Wi-Fi connection. A slow or unreliable Wi-Fi connection means you may not be able to update properly.

Make sure you’re connected to a strong Wi-Fi network when you try to update. It’s worth restarting your router if you haven’t done so in a while. You might also try connecting to another network and seeing if you have the same issue there.

If you can’t update on any Wi-Fi network, you can reset your device’s network settings to start fresh. Note that this will clear out all network preferences you’ve saved, so you’ll need to reconnect to all previously saved Wi-Fi networks again. This will also reset any VPN configurations you use.

To reset network settings on your iPhone or iPad:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap on General.
  3. Scroll down to Reset.
  4. Select Reset network settings.
  5. Enter your passcode and confirm you want to do this.

8. Factory Reset Your Device

If none of the above has fixed your problem, you should consider completely wiping your device. In the Reset menu mentioned above, you can either reset all settings on your device, or perform a factory reset to erase everything.

Resetting your settings probably won’t fix an update issue, but it’s worth a try if nothing else has worked:

  1. Launch Settings.
  2. Open General.
  3. Tap Reset.
  4. Select Reset all settings.
  5. Confirm with your passcode.

All your settings are now reset. Try to update again. If it works, you’ll need to put all your settings (including app preferences, display options, and similar) back as they were.

Failing that, you can go the more extreme route and reset your device to factory defaults. Keep in mind this will erase all the data on your iPhone or iPad. Make sure you’ve backed up your iPhone

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before proceeding so you don’t lose any information.

Here’s how to factory reset your device:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Tap General.
  3. Tap Reset.
  4. Select Erase All Content and Settings.
  5. Confirm with your passcode.

Your device will now revert back to its factory state. Because everything is fresh again you’ll hopefully be able to update without issue. You can restore your iPhone backup when you set up your phone after the reset.

iPhone Updating Troubles: Fixed!

It’s frustrating when your phone won’t let you update. Hopefully, one of these fixes solved your problem and you can now enjoy the latest version of iOS.

Speaking of which, after you’re finished updating, check out the best features you should try in iOS 13

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How to block the Windows 10 November 2019 Update, version 1909, from installing

While Windows 10 version 1909 reminds me of an old-fashioned Service Pack — an update that squashes lots of bugs while tying together pieces that rattle when they run — you must keep in mind that the package includes updates for most parts of Windows. As such, it’s an upgrade that should be treated with respect — and some amount of trepidation.

My guess — no, my fervent hope — is that Windows 10 version 1909 will prove itself to be rock-solid sooner rather than later. But while you’re waiting for the inevitable screams of pain to subside, you should take these steps to make sure you aren’t accidentally swept up in an unwanted upgrade.

Step 1. What version are you running?

The method for blocking unwanted version upgrades varies greatly depending on which version of Windows 10 you’re running. To find out, click Start > Settings (the gear icon) > System, and on the left side at the bottom, click About.

You’ll see something like this screenshot:

win10 pro v1809 about window IDG

Take note of both the edition (Pro, Home, Education, Enterprise) and the version.

If your computer is connected to a network that has an update server (such as WSUS or SCCM), you don’t have any control over your version — the network admin gets to sweat this one out. But if you’re connected to a normal network, or not connected at all, read on. Enterprise and Education users who aren’t connected to a network with an update server can follow along with the Pro instructions below.

Step 2. If you’re on version 1803 (or earlier!), it’s time to move on.

For Home and Pro customers, the last security updates for Windows 10 version 1803 arrive on November 12, 2019. That means you should feel comfortable running 1803 until the next Patch Tuesday — December 10 — but your days are numbered.

For Windows 10 Pro users, there’s a weird pirouette you can perform that will move you to a genuine, completely legitimate, copy of Windows 10 version 1809. It involves setting the correct feature update deferral in the Windows Update advanced options pane. I have full details in “Is Windows pushing you to upgrade? Don’t be bullied. There’s a middle path.”

Windows 10 Home version 1803 is another kettle of fish. At this point, we don’t know exactly how Win10 1803 Home machines will be upgraded by Microsoft after 1909 becomes available — you may have little control over the process or where you end up. I strongly recommend that Windows 10 Home users upgrade to Windows 10 1903 in order to take advantage of its better update blocking features.

To move from Windows 10 1803 Home to 1903 Home, remove all updating blocks (for most people that means turning off metered connections) and let Windows Update take its time and do its thing. You may have to reboot once or twice, or wait for an update task to trigger at some random time of day. But don’t click Check for updates.

If you move to Windows 10 version 1809, follow Step 3. If you jump ahead to 1903, follow Step 4.

Step 3. If you’re on version 1809, you have a tough decision to make.

I’m using Windows 10 version 1809 on my production machines right now, although I’m seriously considering moving on to 1903. You’re going to face that fork in the road sooner or later.

Staying on 1809 is relatively easy if you’re using Windows 10 Pro. Using an administrator account, click Start > Settings > Update & Security. Click the link marked Advanced options. Make sure you have the channel set to Semi-Annual Channel and feature update deferral set to 365 as shown in the screenshot below.

win10 pro v1809 windows update advanced options IDG

With the channel and feature update deferral settings like that, Microsoft won’t try to push you onto Windows 10 version 1903 or 1909 until you’re ready to give the go-ahead. (Unless the company, uh, “accidentally” forgets to honor its own settings, as it has several times in the past.)

Just remember: Don’t ever click Check for updates.

For Windows 10 version 1809 Home users, the only way to take control of version updates on your machine is to move to 1903 (as outlined in Step 2) and proceed to Step 4.

As Windows 10 version 1809 reaches end of support on May 12, 2020, you can expect that Microsoft will start bending the rules a bit and push harder to get you onto 1903 or 1909 (or some future version). We’ll keep you posted on those developments at Computerworld.

Step 4: If you’re on version 1903, don’t click that link.

If you’re running Windows 10 version 1903, sooner or later you’ll see a Windows Update notice (Start > Settings > Update & Security) like the one in the screenshot below.

win10 windows update v1909 available IDG

The notice will appear on both Windows 10 1903 Home and Windows 10 1903 Pro. (Yay!)

If you want to avoid installing Windows 10 version 1909, don’t click the Download and install now link. It’s that simple.

For the first time ever, blocking a forced Windows 10 upgrade won’t tie you in knots. It only took Microsoft four-plus years to give us the tools. Just avoid clicking the Download and install now link, and you’ll continue on 1903 forever — or rather, until Microsoft decides the end of 1903 is nigh (currently scheduled for Dec. 8, 2020) or it needs to push you off for whatever reason.

We follow all things patches on the AskWoody.com Lounge.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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