Here are the (bad) reasons why people disable automatic updates

Turns out there are a whole raft of - mostly bad - reasons why people disable automatic updates on their PCs and Macs.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

Turns out there are a whole raft of - mostly bad - reasons why people disable automatic updates on their PCs and Macs.

See also: Stop disabling automatic updates, people!

Following yesterday's post where I asked for people to stop disabling automatic updates, I received a lot of feedback from users as to why they've chosen to disable automatic updates. And what's clear is that people have some strong opinions related to updates, and that for most, the reason behind disabling or delaying updates comes down to having had a bad experience.

Here's a selection of the feedback I received, along with some commentary from me.

"Updates always seem to want to install at annoying times!"

I hear you, although Windows 10 does now have tools to allow you to better control when updates are applied.

"I keep getting hassled to install Windows 10 and I don't want it."

I get it that Microsoft was proud of Windows 10 and wanted to get it out to as many people as possible, but the way the company used the Windows Update mechanism to hassle end users was a pretty big and egregious breach of trust that caused a lot of distrust when it came to automatic updating.

"Updates take ages."

I hear ya. The bulk updates that go to iOS or macOS can be quite a stress-test on your internet connection, as can Windows if you've left it for a few months. But you have to feel the pain at some point.

"Updates change too much stuff."

This is why I hate it when security updates are mixed in with feature updates. For example, with iOS, the only way to get updates is to take an entire update package, new features and all. Yes, that's annoying, but you just have to roll with it.

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"Updates trashed my system or caused big problems."

I feel your pain. Every so often updates seem to go through a bad patch where they cause mayhem and damage. This sort of stuff is again a pretty severe breach of trust and companies need to be pulling out all the stops to prevent this from happening, because each time it happens, there will be the inevitable flood of "here's how you turn off automatic updates" articles.

"I don't trust Microsoft/Apple/Google!"

Then why are you running a Microsoft/Apple/Google operating system?

"I don't use automatic updates, and instead I apply patches manually."

I think this is where someone's well-meaning beliefs can run them into the tarpits. While it's possible to manually update your operating system and apps, it's a huge job, and demands that you keep on the ball all the time. One slip and you're at risk from malware.

You can use tools such as Flexera's Personal Security Inspector to help keep on top of things, but it's more work for sure, and there are no guarantees that you aren't going to download a duff patch and that the process isn't going to be annoying. In fact, I can guarantee you it's going to be more annoying.

As Flexera themselves point out, "on a typical private PC, you have to master between 25 to 30 different update mechanisms to patch approximately 75 programs, if you do not have an automated solution." That's a pretty big workload.

"If it's not broke, don't fix it."

This is an understandable point. Fiddling with stuff that's working violates the tech prime directive and can lead to all sorts of grief. But bear in mind that the need to apply patches means that the system is technically broken.

"It's my system. I can do with it as I want."

Yup. Can't argue with that.

The bottom line

I get it, patching is a major pain. It's time-consuming, it can mess with workflow, it can be inconvenient, and it can be a roll of the dice as to whether you're going to break something. But all that said, it's what you have to do.

If you're a home user, well, you can roll the dice and take a chance, and if things go bad then you brought it on yourself.

But for enterprise it's an entirely different matter.

If you're an IT admin that's dicing with danger, then know that you're skating on thin ice. If you worked for me and took that kind of lax attitude, I'd fire you (out of a cannon, into the sun). If pressure is coming from "up top" to cut corners and save money, and you know that that sort of attitude is potentially dangerous for the company, then you should be making unhappy noises (and probably keeping your CV updated, because a lot of companies don't have the resources to survive an attack).

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