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How to configure Windows 10 active hours to avoid sudden restarts during updates

On Windows 10, one of the most annoying features is the system's ability to restart your computer to apply updates automatically when you're actively using it, which could cause the loss of unsaved work and precious time when working on a deadline.

Although there's not an option in the Settings app to disable updates entirely, Windows 10 ships with "active hours," which is a feature meant to make updates less intrusive by letting you specify the time you'll be working on your computer. This means that if an update is pending, the reboot will occur outside the active hours.

Also, starting with version 1903, Windows 10 introduces a new option that allows the system to configure active hours automatically based on your activities.

In this Windows 10 guide, we walk you through the steps to configure active hours on your device to prevent sudden reboots in the middle of your work to apply updates.

How to enable active hours on Windows 10

Starting with Windows 10 version 1903, there are two ways to enable active hours. You can allow the system to configure active hours automatically based on your activities, or you can set a specific time range manually.

Enabling automatic active hours

To enable automatic active hours on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Update & Security.
  3. Click on Windows Update.
  4. Click the Change active hours option.

  1. Turn on the Automatically adjust active hours for this device based on activity toggle switch.

Once you complete these steps, Windows 10 will analyze how you use the device, and it'll configure the active hours automatically. Also, this means that as your screen time schedule changes, the active hours will adjust accordingly.

Configuring custom active hours

To configure active hours manually on your device to prevent sudden restarts, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Update & Security.
  3. Click on Windows Update.
  4. Click the Change active hours option.

  1. Turn off the Automatically adjust active hours for this device based on activity toggle switch.
  2. Click the Change option.

  1. Specify the time range you usually use your device.Quick tip: The maximum amount of time you can set is 18 hours. If you specify a range that's more than that, it'll be marked as invalid.

  1. Click the Save button.

After you complete the steps, if an update is pending, the computer will only restart outside the active hours you specified, preventing interruptions while you're working.

How to reschedule automatic restart on Windows 10

To schedule a restart to apply an update outside of the active hours schedule, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Update & Security.
  3. Click on Windows Update.
  4. Click on** Schedule the restart** option. (Option available only when a reboot is pending to apply an update.)

  1. Under "Schedule a time," turn on the toggle switch.
  2. Schedule a time and date to postpone the restart (up to seven days in the future).

Once you complete the steps, the device won't reboot to apply updates after the schedule you specified.

Using the Local Group Policy Editor or Registry, you can also specify a new default schedule for auto-restart when an update is pending, and you can check these instructions to use these options.

Mauro Huculak is technical writer for WindowsCentral.com. His primary focus is to write comprehensive how-tos to help users get the most out of Windows 10 and its many related technologies. He has an IT background with professional certifications from Microsoft, Cisco, and CompTIA, and he's a recognized member of the Microsoft MVP community.

29 Comments
  • I have never experience a sudden update, I'm always the one pressing restart. Isn't this feature already in Windows 10 but by another name? I've never used it though.
  • There has been a feature, that you will get notified to plan the time for the restart. IMHO this is the best. But it has been replaced with the "Active hours", that is limited to 10. Maybe it's just me, but I'm longer active than 10 hours...
  • Active hours can be up to 18 hours. I have mine set from 6 am to midnight. Edit: Just realized this is an old comment. It used to be shorter.
  • Ive had it restart on me like that in the middle of work, highly annoying.
  • Same here.  The last TP did a spontaneous, no-warning reboot on me and caused me to lose some work.  Normally it says something but I thought this one was a crash until the update started. 
  • me too, I sometimes do it manually in my free time. No sudden restart for me.
  • I dislike the whole idea. Active hours just means Windows will wake the machine during the night to complete updates which I dont want. I prefer absolute control over if and when updates are installed and at what time restarts occur. I never find the custom restart time works reliably either so I just override the whole system and use group policy settings instead.    
  • So do the restart before Windows does it Oo.
  • Seems to be a bit of a fudge. Why not simply use Aegis? http://www.downloadcrew.com/article/34044-aegis
  • Did anyone heard of a gamer's livestream got cut off early because his pc suddenly reboot for update?
  • I came to this article to make that comment.  I bet he wished MS had this in RTM, since he was interrupted by the fall update.
  • I'd like to see the maximum time restriction (10 hours) removed. Some of us use machines for longer periods of time.
  • It's 18 hours now - the 10 hour limit was removed in a feature update (can't remember which).
  • Until and unless I have complete control over when and whether updates are downloaded and installed, Windows 10 won't be getting installed here.
  • I hate this nonsense forced baby-sitting Windows Updatr has become in Windows 10. I've always been controlling updates for almost a decade now and not a single malware has made it's way to my systems, simply 'cause I think before I click. Forced updates is just a frustrating baby-sitter to me. Fortunately, can disable it group policy on my Surface Pro 2, so, all is good, so long as the anniversary up still provides such option.   Sorry for typos, this Windows Touchscreen keyboad is buggy like many other Tablet features in Windows 10. http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/insider/forum/insider_wintp-insider_d...
  • This is why I use wsus
  • I often render 3D sequences outside the office hours on my machine. A sudden reboot would make me very unhappy in the morning :-(
    It's one of the nags I have with W10. Luckily my new W2102 server is almost set up, so I can set up WSUS. Hopefully I can control W10 updates a bit more by hand.
  • I do IT for a school district and this was the single biggest issue stopping us from deploying Windows 10 district-wide.  I'd hate for Windows to reboot itself in the middle of an online test or something like that.
  • I work at least 12 to 14 hours per day, so every day I have to remember to change the active hours content.  I am so over Microsoft, presuming we are all dumb wits who cannot control our own computers. I am spending more hours trying to google fixes for circumventing microsoft control than actually working. Sitting interstate, turn on the computer in the morning and I am stuck for 10 minutes while it automatically instals updates, no matter how often I have turned them off.  Using very precious phone data that I have hot linked to. I object to having to get up 30 minutes early just in case microsoft has done an update.  I work long enough and hard enough now. The sooner someone comes out with a viable alternative to windows the better, and watch people leave by the hundreds of thousands.
  • I am OK with automatic restarts during the weekend, but I often have documents open, that I need to deal with tomorrow and a restart during the night is highly annoying. So let me choose at what time you can restart (e.g. Monday morning at 1:00).  
  • Who the hell gives you people it dictate how many "Active hours" I have in a day? Did you egg heads ever think that perhaps I use my computer for work and recreastion?
  • Not happy with this feature. I set my active hours to end at 5PM. Sometime outside of that range, I put my computer into sleep mode and came back to find it restarting. Whatever happened to "We'll prompt you first"? IMO, I think would be better if the users were able to set a 'prompt hours' range, within which the OS would ask you if you wanted to restart. Better yet if there was some basic functionality to vary your set hours throughout the week.
  • Every time I turn around Windows 10 has taken more control away.  Change Active Hours doesn't exist on my page.  Why don't I have that choice???  My option is limited to changing the restart time.  Windows 10 has decided that I, a retired person who spends many hours day and night on my PC, should have active hours like 8:00AM - 5:30PM.  What a joke!!  One of my choices is Restart Options where I can go in and change the time from 5:35PM to my choice (I am ALWAYS on my PC at 5:35PM and on into the night).  My other choice under Update Settings is Advanced Options where you can set up to update other programs at the same time, etc.   Why doesn't Microsoft provide a SIMPLE OS for people who aren't trying to share every single detail about their lives with the world and are not on a work schedule and just want to use their PC for entertainment, information and maybe some online banking, etc??
  • I absolutely can't stand this... I've lost work progress several times now because my computer suddenly reboots out of nowhere while I'm doing something important, whether it be a personal project or something commissioned. This feature is simply never not annoying! What DID happend to "We'll promt you first"!? :S Wish I could at least set the active hours to a room of 23 hours, or even better be rid of it entirely. Sometimes it goes crazy. Recently, I got one random reboot, lost some work, redid the work, only to get ANOTHER random reboot only a few hours after the first one... This is hysterically bad.
  • Aaaand today my computer restarted in the middle of work DURING active hours. I set the hours to 14:00-02:00, and it was little before 18:00. What is actually going on.
  • I KNOW! What the heck? My active hours are 10 AM to 10 PM.  It's now 11 AM and it came on to alert me that restart would occur now!  I am sooooo confused! 11 AM falls between 10 AM and 10 PM doesn't it??? I had to do that restart option: custom restart hour.  What a pain!
  • I'm just astounded those genius engineers at Microsoft can't write some code to detect if I'm logged in and active. Seriously? I was regularly getting severe slowdowns until I realised Windows was updating in the background while I was trying to work. Changing Active Hours has helped massively, though I still occasionally bump in to my supposedly "inactive hours".
  • Actually, they're working on AI to do just that: determine if the user is active, as opposed to just stepping away for a moment.
  • Then they're over thinking it.