Removing Microsoft Windows Updates: A Temporary Solution to Restore Productivity

3GAlthough most often harmless to existing installed software and computer configurations, occasionally, Microsoft Windows updates can negatively impact your system. It isn’t possible for Microsoft to test every combination of hardware and software prior to shipping these updates. Often, these updates are time critical due to security issues and they are released as fast as possible to prevent serious vulnerabilities from spreading throughout the internet community.

Recently, a client of mine ran into a situation where a specific Windows update (KB2585542 discussed here) caused issues with connectivity between Outlook and Kerio Connect mail server.  Mail could be received, but not sent.  Although I’m not advising to remove Windows updates as a long term solution, it can be an effective short term solution when business productivity is at stake.

Most people are very aware that Microsoft releases periodic updates to their operating systems. Users have several choices about how these are installed:

Windows 7 - Update Choices

Windows 7: Update Choices

From a computer security perspective, selecting “Install updates automatically” is definitely the way to go.  Although the user can select when these updates occur, they are most often scheduled in the middle of the night.  If the installation of the update requires a system reboot (which many do), you may lose any unsaved work when the reboot occurs. It is a good practice to save all work before you leave your computer for any length of time, especially at the end of the day.

In our scenario here, we have investigated and found that a Windows update was installed which breaks existing functionality in Outlook.  Although a fix from Kerio was available, it would require installing a new version of the mail server and appropriate testing. I chose a short term fix of temporarily removing the offending Windows update from the impacted systems until the Kerio update could be properly deployed.

So now that we know we want to temporarily remove a Windows update, how do we do that? Windows updates are treated very much the same as any other piece of software installed on your Windows system. This example uses Windows 7. From the Control Panel, select Programs.

Windows 7 - Programs View

Windows 7: Programs View

Next, select View installed updates.

Windows 7 - View Installed Updates

Windows 7: View Installed Updates

Finally, select the Windows update you would like to remove and click Uninstall.

Windows 7 - Uninstall Update

Windows 7: Uninstall Update

Windows should follow the normal software removal process from this point.

Although the process is similar for all modern versions of Windows, there is a slight change to how this is implemented if you are still running Windows XP.  In Windows XP, from the Add or Remove Programs area in the Control Panel, click Show updates as shown below with the red circle. From there, select the update to be removed and click Remove.

In no way am I advocating the removal of Windows updates as a long term solution to any issue. When in a pinch, where productivity and the ability to operate a business are at stake, temporarily removing an update is probably a reasonable course of action.

It is also worth noting that if the installation of Windows updates is set to happen automatically, the next time it runs it will reinstall the problematic update.  For slightly longer time frames, adjust the frequency of checking for updates or modify your settings to download the updates, but manually choose when to install them. To restore the removed updates, you may manually run Windows Update at any time.


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