Configuring Windows 10 Automatic Updates for Miners
While Windows 10 actually brought some improvements to the cryptocurrency mining game, including the improved ability to detect and utilize multiple GPUs (with Windows 7 and earlier it was a pain to get more than 4-5 GPUs up and running), it also came with its own thorns. One of the biggest ones that I hear miners complain about all the time is Windows near insistence of automatically applying patches. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, the mechanism they use for users to control and schedule these updates have been for the most part stripped away or hidden from view.
With earlier versions of Windows you could simply set “Never check for updates”, or perhaps “Check for updates but let me choose…”, hit OK and that was that, Windows would obey your wishes. Windows 10 is not so easily dissuaded however, so this guide is going to cover one way of minimizing these annoyances and will help prevent the worst mining offenses such as updating your video drivers behind your back or rebooting your rigs at random times.
So I do not disable to update mechanism completely, if that is even possible, but there is a tool that you can use to adjust various aspect of the built-in update policy.
This tool is called Group Policy Editor, or GPEdit for short. It is mainly used in corporations to give IT personal granular control over how the OS works in their IT environment and is used along with Active Directory. However, we can also use the tool to modify the local group policy on our mining rigs. I suppose if you had a lot of rigs and were crafty, you could roll them out in a domain fashion and utilize Active Directory to push policies instead, but that is beyond the scope of this article.
To start simply type gpedit into the Cortana search and select Edit group policy from the results as shown in the above image.
This will bring up the group policy editor as shown below. There will be two main categories displayed on the left hand side under Local Computer Policy, one for Computer Configuration and the other for User Configuration. All of our settings will be under the Computer Configuration category. Note that there is a section for windows updates under the user configuration heading, but these are rather limited and mainly aimed at preventing users from making changes to windows update settings, not at all what we want to do here.
From here we will further drill down to Computer Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Windows Components -> and finally Windows Update.
You will need to scroll way down toward the bottom to find the Windows Update section as there is a long list. Once there, simply double click on the Windows Update folder to open the relevant folder containing the policies we wish to modify.
There will be three policies we will interact with which and that I have highlighted in the image below. These are: Configure Automatic Updates, Do not include driver with Windows Updates, and No auto-restart with logged on users for scheduled automatic updates installations. Wow, that last one is a mouthful but not to worry as I will cover all three of the policies below.
Also, as you can see, there are many other policies affecting Windows Updates that you can peruse at your leisure and apply if you wish, but I have found these three to be the most useful for avoiding unexpected mining downtime.
Configure Automatic Updates
The first one we will go over is probably the most directly related to what we want to achieve and that is Configure Automatic Updates, which is shown below.
By default this entire policy will be set to disabled.
The first thing you need to do is select the Enabled radio button. By enabling this policy, you will now be able to choose which level of interaction you want to have with Windows Updates.
Myself, I still like to keep my rigs fairly updated, so I choose option 2 which will notify you when updates are ready but will not automatically apply them. You can read through the other options and select a different one if desired. You can also add a comment if you want to later remind yourself why you applied the policy. When finished click on Apply and OK to set the policy.
So now with this first policy set Windows 10 should act more like the older version of Windows and notify you when updates are ready, but doing nothing further without your approval. You will periodically get a notification, such as the one shown above, when updates are found and ready to be applied. There is no direct dismissal for this notification window, again due to Microsoft’s aggressive push for updates, but if you simply select View updates you will be presented with the list of available updates and can simply close that window and won’t be bothered again (at least for a little while). Of course if you are ready to apply the updates, you can proceed with that process as usual.
Do not include drivers with Windows Updates
So while the first policy takes care of the auto updates for the most part, there are still a couple of situations we need to address. One is how the update process treats device drivers.
When it comes to a dedicated mining rig, most people pick a video driver and stick with it unless there is a very compelling reason to change. Since most of us are not using these to game or perform other tasks, a functioning graphic driver that is delivering acceptable mining performance will usually last quite a few driver version iterations before needing to be updated. Also, considering that most rigs will have 5, 6, 7 or even more GPUs, it is often best to do any driver upgrades manually to address any issues immediately that may come up.
As a miner expecting his/her rigs to be running uninterrupted 24/7, relying on Windows to upgrade your video card drivers is the last thing you want to happen .
This takes us to the second policy that I like to configure, which is Do not include drivers with Windows Updates, as shown in the image above.
Again when you first open this policy it will be disabled. Simply select the enabled radio button and click on Apply/OK to set it. This policy is pretty straight-forward in that it does not have additional options and does basically what its title states, not to include drivers with updates.This is another case of enabling something to disable it, which can be confusing, but don’t think about it too hard.
Since we earlier set the policy to notify us only for updates, this new policy simply keeps any drivers from appearing in the list when we are notified of updates. I should note that this will apply to all drivers and not just video drivers, not that it would normally be an issue with a dedicated mining rig, but I thought I would mention it anyway just so you are aware. After all, I know there a a few people who mine when not otherwise using there main computer, so in these types of cases it could cause an issue.
Also there is some discussion online that sometimes Microsoft will deem an update so important that it will ignore the first policy we created altogether and apply certain critical patches anyway. So by enabling this second policy it will also act as a fail-safe in case of that type of event. While I have not encountered this behavior personally, it is hard to tell when/if this could get enabled in the future.
No auto-restart with logged on users for scheduled automatic updates installations
Lastly we get to the final fail-safe policy, as I like to think of it, which is to configure the No auto-restart with logged on users for scheduled automatic updates installations policy.
Again, there is not much to configure here except to enable the policy by checking the appropriate radio button and then click on Apply/OK.
Now you can read through the description under the Help section yourself for the details of this policy, but basically this acts as sort of a fail-safe as I mentioned before in that if some update is forcefully applied, it will still require the user to restart the computer rather than automatically doing so. This will help to prevent those 3 AM reboots that oftentimes miners report as experiencing and leaving there rigs unproductive until they notice it and can get around to fixing it. Assuming you have a user logged in, which I think in most cases would be true for most home miners, by enabling this policy you will be asked before any reboots will happen.
Well there you have it. By making three simple policy changes you should greatly simplify your mining life if you have been hit by any of the nasty automatic update surprises. Feel free to configure all three or pick and choose which ones will work best for you. There is also a selection of other update policies you can review if you need further customization, but I have found by running these three I have had no automatic reboots on any of my rigs for over a year.
I do periodically login and will allow the update mechanism to do its work, but this way it is on my schedule and I can do it in conjunction with other routine maintenance instead of letting Windows decide for me. It is all about taking back control.
I hope you enjoyed this article and found some information that will be useful to you. Be sure to share any comments below.