How to take control of your own (computer) updates

Every month I read the same complaints – mainly from writers – that they have been interrupted from working due to updates being installed.  Every month I refrain from replying to them with unsolicited advice.  Instead I decided to put up these guidelines!

Whatever electronic device(s) we use, they all have to be updated from time to time.  There is not much more annoying than finding that just as a Skype date (or even worse an interview) is looming, for example, the computer decides to update Skype without asking permission.

To avoid this and other more seriously disruptive updates, it is necessary to check one’s settings.  There is often a setting, which stops automatic download and/or installation of updates.  It is particularly important with mobile devices to make sure that updates are only allowed over wifi and not as data from a mobile provider.  Also when travelling, it is often useful to turn off automatic updates.  A roomful of people sharing a wifi connection may be slowed down by someone downloading large files.

I have heard stories of inconvenient upgrades to a new version of Windows.  I wonder how many people, who have been inconvenienced by having to wait for an automatic update to complete, have bothered to take preventive action afterwards.  To be inconvenienced repeatedly is not necessary.

This is not a technical article.  There are plenty of forums, help pages and the like, which may be found to address specific update settings problems.  What I am trying to do is increase awareness that electronic devices are tools, which we are able to control.  We do not have to allow them to disrupt our time management by leaving default settings unchanged.

On the other hand the updates are provided for good reasons.  It is always a good idea to install updates which address security soon after they become available.  My own view about accepting new systems, such as Microsoft Windows 10, is to wait until others have been using it for long enough that any teething troubles will have been fixed.

Sometimes updates are issued between the usual monthly updates for Microsoft, but usually these are on a Tuesday in the second week of each month (if you are in the US time zones) or the next day (Wednesday) in the UK.

I also like to check that all the updates have been installed successfully.  Occasionally there are problems. Persistent problems may be sorted out after consulting help pages or forums.

I hope you found this latest update to my blog of some interest.  Do you have any stories about ill-timed computer updates?


Why having more than one internet-enabled device is almost essential

My laptop stopped working about two weeks ago. It was flashing between a partly loaded desktop screen and a blank screen the colour I chose as my background for the tiles.

I used my phone to find out how to start windows 8.1 in safe-mode. Then I managed to restore my computer to a point before some updates. I found I needed to reinstall my virus protection as it failed to update. After this I did a scan and a virus was removed. The whole process took quite a long time, but my computer was working again after a few hours.

In fact it seemed to be working better than before it crashed.

Just when I thought the problems were over another update from Microsoft caused a minor problem. My computer stayed on a screen “shutting down” for a long time. I pressed the power switch, waited a short time and switched it back on. It was still shutting down. I seem to remember this happened more than once.

Finally I held the power button down firmly. Then I waited until after my next meal before I switched it on again. It behaved. Out of curiosity I researched this latest problem and learned from a forum that I had done what was recommended. (No mention of food, though!)

My computer had taken over most of my time for a weekend, but I was able to go on holiday, knowing that it would be working on my return.

I am not ready to install Windows 10 yet, but no doubt this will happen in a few weeks or months. I just need to find a spare day or two to prioritise the upgrade!

One time it is inconvenient to have more than one internet-enabled device is when emails appear as unread on one gadget, when they have been read on another.  Has anyone found a solution to this?  Answers on a postcard…

…Oh, you’re on-line.  Just comment below, please!