How to handle Windows 10 and 11 updates

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Confused about how updates work in Windows 10 and Windows 11? Join the club. Since Windows 10 was first released in 2015, Microsoft has transformed what was once a straightforward procedure into an ever-changing, often complicated process that varies according to whether you have Windows Home, Windows Pro, or an enterprise or education edition — and that varies according to the specific version number of the operating system. As a result, there have been lots of misperceptions about how Windows Update currently works, and how to best use it.

With this article, we hope to make things clearer for you. We’ve delved deep into Windows Update and come up with answers to users’ most pressing questions: whether you have to accept all updates, whether you can uninstall existing updates, and how to reduce the bandwidth some updates use. We’ve also included some extras, like how to stop all updates if you want.

We have updated this article for the current Windows 10 release, the November 2021 Update (also called version 21H2). The features that are described here and the screenshots you see may differ from what you see if you have an older version of Windows 10.

We’ve also expanded the story to cover the initial version of Windows 11 released in October 2021 (also called version 21H2). Windows Update works the same way in Windows 11 as in Windows 10, although there are some minor differences in appearance, menu selections, and so on, which we’ll detail below.

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Checking for new updates in Windows 11. (Click any image in this story to enlarge it.)

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