Readers respond on controlling reboots

By Brian Livingston

Patching Windows is good, and rebooting right after you’ve patched is good, too. But if you’re right in the middle of something, seeing Windows reboot when you didn’t expect it can be very bad.

My top story on Mar. 2 revealed several little-known settings you can use to control how often Windows reminds you to reboot after installing patches — or whether you want any reminders at all. The problem is that, by default, Windows reminds you every 10 minutes. And, if you happen to be typing in some application and you press the N key when the reminder window pops up, you’ve launched Windows’ Restart Now option. There’s no way out of it.

I want to re-emphasize the importance of rebooting before and after installing patches. I’ve heard warnings about the way patches can leave Windows in an “unstable state” until it’s rebooted. (No one’s given me any verifiable examples of this, though.)

Having said that it’s important to reboot, it’s also true that unexpected reboots are simply unacceptable. Microsoft should never have programmed the reboot-reminder dialog box (see illustration) to grab the keyboard focus and launch instantly from an accidental key press. Clicking the Restart Now button with a mouse, or pressing Alt+N, should be the only ways the reboot process gets kicked off.

If it’s so important for a PC to be rebooted before and after patches are applied, Microsoft should make this a requirement for every such patch. Windows users should be informed that their applications must be closed before patching begins, so no work is lost.

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All Windows Secrets articles posted on 2006-03-16: