Wanted: Windows 10 users to join a crowdsourced experiment to block forced updates

Wanted: Windows 10 users to join a crowdsourced experiment to block forced updates
Credit: flickr/bgottsab

Windows 10 users can help test this simple method for blocking Microsoft's Automatic Update

One of the most reviled "features" in Windows 10 -- forced updating -- may be vulnerable to a simple crack using Microsoft's own tools. To test that, however, timing will be a key component. If you use Windows 10 -- any version, with or without a corporate update server -- you're welcome to join me in an experiment in patch blocking. There's no need to sign up, run anything weird, or even identify yourself. Simply stand back and watch and see if it works for you.

This experiment hinges on a Microsoft program called Wushowhide. In a nutshell, Wushowhide (Windows Update show/hide) lets you specify individual patches and hide them from Windows. It's similar to the Windows 7 and 8.1 "hide updates" function. Once you've hidden an update, Windows ignores it, until you "unhide" it and the Windows updater runs again. (Microsoft has a way of unhiding specific patches in Win7 and 8.1, but that's another story for a more complex time.)

There's one catch: In order to hide an update, you have to know specifically which update(s) to hide. In this screenshot, you see how I can hide a Silverlight update, a Visual C++ update, or an IE Flash Player update. There's no way to tell Windows 10 "Hide any new updates that come out today," for example, or "Hide the next Cumulative Update."

wow 2016 01 04 wushowhide

Wushowhide, an odd Windows 10 troubleshooter

I've assumed for almost a year that the only way to hide an update was to wait for the update to be installed, then manually uninstall it and run Wushowhide to hide the update. In essence, you had to let your computer get bit before you could inoculate it.

Windows veteran Noel Carboni, posting on AskWoody.com, has convinced me of the error of my ways. Noel contends that you don't have to wait for the patch to strike. All you have to do is wait until the patch is released and available on your system, then use Wushowhide to hide it, before Windows 10's forced Automatic Update kicks in.

Thus the experiment.

Today is Patch Tuesday, and it's likely that Microsoft will release a new cumulative update for Windows 10 -- it seems to happen every Patch Tuesday. The cumulative update typically comes out around noon, Redmond time, or 3 p.m. on the East Coast.

I'd like to see if Noel's approach works -- and I'd like to test the hypothesis on as many systems, in as many configurations, as possible.

If you'd like to join in, here's what to do:

Step 1: Go to KB 3073930 and download Microsoft's Wushowhide tool. (Click the link marked "Download the 'Show or hide updates' troubleshooter package now.") Drag the downloaded file, Wushowhide.diagcab, to any convenient location. I put mine on the desktop.

Step 2: Wait until this afternoon -- after the cumulative update is released. Watch @gabeaul or @woodyleonhard on Twitter, or check AskWoody.com for the go-ahead.

Step 3: When the patch is out, but before your system has a chance to swallow it (presumably on Tuesday afternoon or evening), double-click on Wushowhide.diagcab to run it. Click the link marked Advanced. Uncheck the box marked "Apply repairs automatically." Click Next.

Step 4: Wait for Wushowhide to look for all of the pending updates on your system. When it comes up for air, click "Hide Updates." There should be a box marked "Cumulative Update for Windows 10 Version 1511 for x64-based Systems (KB xxxxxxx)" or something similar. Check that box, click Next, and "X" out of Wushowhide.

Then wait until tomorrow. Let's see whether Wushowhide can delay a Windows 10 forced update before it happens -- and if there are any unforeseen complications. Post your results here or on AskWoody.com, and let's see if we can crowdsource this beast into submission.

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