Related to this question, it was proposed in the comments that it frustrates the user even more when when they go to shutdown their workstation and it takes forever to install updates. However, it's a guaranteed time when they won't be using their computer, hence the best time to do it. The alternative is to do it in the background while their working, however the used CPU percentage will be perceived as 'System Slowness' and generate calls to the helpdesk.

Suuuuure, one can 'wait' for some undetermined amount of time for a user to leave their machine at the login prompt for a couple hours (I don't know yet how successful I'll be at trying to make this a policy), signifying that they've left for the day (maybe), but patching machines by happenstance isn't really the greatest way to protect machines from threats.

So I ask: What's the best time to deploy these updates? Even if I can't deploy them during this opportune time at least the theory behind it will point me in the right direction. Off-hours is an idea but I can't force a reboot which puts the computer in an unpredictable state, potentially generating a call to the helpdesk.

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    What is the impact of installing these updates? Is the system inoperable?
    – Mervin
    Jun 7, 2013 at 18:24
  • A reboot may be required (literally might is Microsoft's language, as they don't know if the files will be in use when the update is installed), and also this could use a fair amount of processor power.
    – MDMoore313
    Jun 7, 2013 at 18:38
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    User may have machine locked, thus the possibility of data loss if the user didn't save their data. I would absolutely love to, but it's out of my hands right now.
    – MDMoore313
    Jun 7, 2013 at 18:52
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    Yep, that is just "tough". With OS updates you can't avoid annoying a user at some point. The trick is to avoid the moments that would be most annoying - like when I want to go home or start work - and give your users a choice. Most users will just comply with the reboot request. If the helpdesk gets repeated support calls from a user about the same issue with the same resolution, they'll soon learn to tell that user to apply that resolution first before they even look into anything else. Jun 8, 2013 at 9:38
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    Do you need to control this, or can you let the user choose the time? (Granted, I may be the example for why you don't want to do this; I've had the IT "updates ready; reboot required" message sitting off the edge of my screen for a week now.) Jun 10, 2013 at 19:43

3 Answers 3


Well, definitely not at startup unless the updates are really quick to perform. The computers at our school update at startup and it's a nightmare. Sometimes a PC takes half an hour to boot for this reason (Even if you just wanted to do a quick web search...).

Also, letting your users manually choose wether to update or not in a dialog is not a really good idea either because many users don't see why updating is important and always click no.

I think shutdown (not reboot) is the best moment because the user doesn't need the PC anymore. This can however still cause fustration if the user wants the PC to shut down quickly.

So I think this is a good idea:

  1. Download updates while idling. When a user resumes his/her session, pause downloading and continue when the user is idling again.

  2. Every week or so, at shutdown, finish downloading if not yet fully done and install them.

This is a good way of installing updates at shutdown while still keeping shutdowns not that long. And only doing it every week will lower frustration too.


One technique that has been used on the PS3 and some Smart Phones is to schedule a time when the computer will most likely not be in use. For example the user could set the time of 2:00 AM to update when updates are available. At 2:00 AM if the computer is for some reason in use it would prompt the user if they want to update right now or delay until the next day. If the computer is not in use the updates would begin automatically, install when they are completed, and restart the computer.

The user could also manually check for and install updates.

99% of the time the computer automatically gets updated overnight and the user never has to worry about it.


The alternative is to do it in the background while their working, however the used CPU percentage will be perceived as 'System Slowness' and generate calls to the helpdesk.

At least OS X and Linux do perform many updates while the system is running. Don't know about Windows.

The reason systems wait for startup and shutdown isn't because of slow-downs. It's because background updates are not always possible.

Some kinds of updates can only be performed at startup or shutdown time because they involve updating the "guts" of the OS in a way that cannot be done while it's running.

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