Tuesday, August 2, 2016

How to Speed Up Windows Update's 'Check for Updates' Feature on Windows 7

If you are the type of Windows 7 user who prefers checking for new Windows Update patches manually instead of letting them all quietly install in the background you may have noticed that for around the past year, the "Check for Updates" scan has taken increasingly longer- often to the point that many people think there's something wrong with their computers and they abort the operation or reboot before letting the scan complete. I get a lot of questions about this since many people who use my GWX Control Panel program are also the kind of user who run update checks manually, and they sometimes think my program is the result of the slowdown when in fact this issue has affected millions of Windows 7 users around the world.

We may never know the true reason for this slowdown (it does not happen on Windows 8.1 or Windows 10), but over the past few months, Microsoft has released several patches that, combined, restore the faster scanning speeds Windows 7 used to enjoy in years past.

I credit Woody Leonhard for collecting this info in two articles: This one and this one. Below are some quick steps for downloading and installing these patches so you can restore your Windows Update performance. For more information (and a number of other handy Windows Update troubleshooting steps), check out topic #17 at my GWX Control Panel Troubleshooting Guide.

Thanks also to commenter Chuck for suggesting an additional patch for addressing the issue.
  1. Before you start, restart your computer- this puts Windows Update into a fresh state where it isn't busy working on background tasks. (You won't be able to install the following patches if Windows Update is busy in the background.)
  2. For each of the following links, download the correct version of the listed patch for your specific version of Windows 7 (32-bit/x86 vs. 64-bit/x64, etc), then install the patch, and finally restart Windows if you are prompted to do so. This bypasses having to get the updates via super-slow Windows Update, which is the problem we're trying to fix!

    Over time, specific Windows Update patches can be superceded by others. Just download the updates Microsoft recommends instead if this happens. (And let me know so I can update my links!)
  3. KB3020369
  4. KB3138612
  5. KB3148522/MS16-039
  6. KB3168965/MS16-090
  7. KB3172605
  8. The next time you run Windows Update you should experience improved performance. If you still encounter issues, please check out topic #17 of the GWX Control Panel Troubleshooting Guide for more steps.

Monday, August 1, 2016

How to Uninstall GWX Control Panel

Microsoft's initial campaign to annoy and trick users of Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 into upgrading to Windows 10 "for free" appears to have ended. The July 29 cut-off date has passed, and I no longer see the dreaded KB3035585 "Get Windows 10" patch showing up as an available download in Windows Update on my own Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 systems- and my test computers that have Microsoft's Get Windows 10 app installed and enabled no longer display Microsoft's icon in the notification area.

Microsoft has hinted that they might run more free upgrade campaigns again in the future, but I'm putting together these uninstall/removal instructions for anyone willing to wager that Microsoft won't try something similar in the coming months.

Should you uninstall GWX Control Panel now that the July 29 deadline has passed?
At the moment we're not certain whether Microsoft will kick off another nag-em-to-death upgrade campaign, or what form a future campaign would take. It's just too early to say whether it's really over for Windows 7/8.1 users, or whether the settings GWX Control Panel puts in place are enough to protect against any future Microsoft efforts to get you onto their new platform.

Before You Start
Any Windows settings changes you made with GWX Control Panel will "stick" even after you uninstall the program, so you should still be protected from surprise upgrades unless Microsoft changes their tactics somewhere down the road. If, however, you want to leave open the possibility to upgrade to Windows 10 after removing GWX Control Panel, be sure to do the following before you uninstall the program:
  1. Launch GWX Control Panel by double-clicking it or by using the Display GWX Control Panel option on the Monitor Mode icon's right-click menu.
  2. If the Get Windows 10 app is installed, you can click Enable 'Get Windows 10' App to make it possible for Microsoft's icon to come back when/if the company decides to put it back into service. Clicking this button might not make the icon appear immediately, because Microsoft appears to have made the program dormant for the moment.
  3. Also, if these buttons are available, click Allow Windows 10 Upgrades and Enable Non-critical Windows 10 Settings to restore Microsoft's ability to upgrade you to Windows 10. (Again, this will not cause your computer to upgrade automatically; just opens up the possibility that it can be upgraded if Microsoft reinstates their free upgrade offer.)
Uninstalling GWX Control Panel
These instructions should work for any GWX Control Panel user, regardless of whether you used the standalone version or the GWX Control Panel installer.
  1. Restart Windows and log in to an account that you know has Administrator rights. (If you have multiple user profiles on your computer, you might have trouble uninstalling GWX Control Panel unless you make absolutely sure that only one user is logged in and that user has admin privileges.)
  2. Open your Programs and Features control panel (Appwiz.cpl). In the Search Programs and Features box, type: GWX. An entry for GWX Control Panel should appear under Uninstall or change a program if you used the GWX Control Panel setup program to install the application. If you see it, select GWX Control Panel and then click Uninstall.

    Note 1: If you don't see an entry for GWX Control Panel on this screen, then you are using the standalone version of the program. Continue to the next step.

    Note 2: If you encounter errors while running the uninstaller, please see topic #15 at the troubleshooting guide.
  3. If you are running the stand-alone version of GWX Control Panel, first you'll want to disable Monitor Mode if it's currently enabled. If you see the blue "10" icon in your notification area, right-click it and then select Display GWX Control Panel from the shortcut menu. Click the Disable Monitor Mode button. The GWX Control Panel Monitor Mode Status field should now read, "Disabled. Not running." If the field instead says, "Enabled (username). Running." then you need to perform a different step: Right-click the GWX Control Panel title bar and then pick Enable/disable Monitor Mode for current user from the shortcut menu. The status should change to "Disabled. Not running."
  4. With Monitor Mode disabled, all you have to do now is delete the GWX Control Panel program file you downloaded. For most users this file is probably in your Downloads folder. If you moved the file or you're not sure where your downloads go, you can search for the file: Open up Windows File Explorer (explorer.exe) and select your system drive under Computer (on Windows 7) or This PC (on Windows 8). Your system drive is usually drive C:. In the search box at the upper-right of the Explorer window, type gwx_control_panel and press ENTER. Any copies of the program should appear in the search results. Just right-click any entries you find in the search results, and then click Delete.
Thank you for your interest and your support. If Microsoft ever re-activates their Windows 10 annoyware down the road, you know where to find me.