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Windows 11: How to Configure Active Hours to Avoid Forced Reboots

We show you how to configure Windows 11 Active Hours Using Settings and Group Policy and how to reschedule pending restarts when a Windows update has been downloaded already.

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Windows 11, like its predecessor Windows 10, is designed to streamline the update process, often automatically downloading and installing updates. While this feature ensures your system is always up-to-date with the latest features and security patches, it can sometimes lead to an inconvenient experience. One of the most common frustrations users face is the system’s tendency to reboot automatically to apply these updates, often at inopportune times. This can disrupt work, cause loss of unsaved data, and generally be a nuisance, especially if you’re working on a tight deadline or in the middle of an important task.

To address this, Windows 11 includes a handy feature known as “Active Hours”. This feature allows you to specify the hours during which you are most likely using your computer. The primary purpose of Active Hours is to prevent Windows from automatically rebooting your computer after an update during these specified times. This ensures that updates occur at a more convenient time, minimizing disruptions to your workflow.

Configuring Active Hours in Windows 11 can be done in several ways, catering to both general users and those with more technical knowledge. For the average user, the settings can be easily adjusted through the Windows Settings menu, allowing you to specify the start and end times of your active period. For more advanced users, options are available through Group Policy and Registry edits, offering a more granular control over the Active Hours settings and other update-related behaviors.

In this tutorial, we will guide you through the various methods of configuring Active Hours in Windows 11. Whether you’re a casual user looking to make a quick adjustment to your settings or an IT professional seeking to implement these changes across multiple systems, this guide will provide you with the necessary steps to tailor the update process to your specific needs and schedule.

How to Configure Windows 11 Active Hours Using Settings

This methods the simplest and most straightforward method to configure Active Hours in Windows 11 – using the Settings app. This method is ideal for general users who prefer an easy-to-navigate interface without delving into technical complexities. You’ll learn how to specify the time frame during which you’re actively using your computer, ensuring that Windows 11 will not automatically restart to apply updates during these hours. This approach is user-friendly and does not require advanced technical knowledge, making it accessible for anyone looking to customize their Active Hours with just a few clicks.

  1. Open Windows 11 Settings
     
    Windows 11 - Open Settings
  2. Navigate to “Windows Update” and open “Advanced options”
     
    Windows 11 - Settings - Windows Update - Advanced Options
  3. Set “Active hours” to your preference
     

    • Expand the “Active hours” section.
    • Set “Adjust active hours” to “Manually”.
    • Configure “Active Hours”: This option allows you to manually set the start and end times for Active Hours. During these hours, Windows will avoid restarting your device automatically for updates. This is particularly useful if you have a consistent schedule and know the exact time frame during which you don’t want interruptions due to system restarts. 
       
      Windows 11 - Settings - Windows Update - Advanced Options - Active Hours Manually - Specify Start & End Time

How to Configure Windows 11 Active Hours Using Group Policy

For users with administrative privileges or those managing multiple computers in a business environment, configuring Active Hours through Group Policy is an effective approach. (See here how to use Group Policy also with Windows 11 Home) This section will guide you through the process of using Group Policy Editor to set Active Hours, offering a more centralized and controlled way to manage updates across various systems. This method is particularly useful for IT administrators who need to ensure that updates do not disrupt operations during critical business hours.

  1. Open the “Group Policy Editor” with the command gpedit.msc
     
    Windows 11 - Open Gpedit
  2. Open the “Turn off auto-restart for updates during active hours” policy
     
    Navigate to “Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Update > Manage end user experience” and double click on “Turn off auto-restart for updates during active hours”.
     
    Windows 11 - Gpedit - Manage End User Experience - Open Turn Off Auto-restart
  3. Set the policy to “Enabled” and choose the “Active Hours”
     
    When you set this policy to “Enabled”, you are instructing Windows 11 not to automatically restart the computer after installing updates during the specified active hours. “Active Hours” are the hours during which you expect the computer to be in use. For example, in an office environment, this might be set to the typical working hours, say from 8 AM to 5 PM. During these hours, even if updates are installed, Windows will not automatically restart the computer to complete the update process. Outside of the specified active hours, Windows can automatically restart the computer to complete the installation of updates. This means that updates will still be applied, but at a time that is presumably less disruptive.
     
    Windows 11 - Gpedit - Manage End User Experience - Turn Off Auto-restart - Enable - Specify Active Hours - Accept
  4. To switch to standard behavior again, set the policy to “Not Configured”
     
    In Group Policy settings, “Not Configured” means the policy is not actively applied, and the system will follow its default behavior or user settings. On the other hand, “Disabled” explicitly deactivates the policy’s effect, allowing the system to perform actions that the policy would otherwise restrict. With the “Turn off auto-restart for updates during active hours” policy, “Not Configured” lets Windows manage restarts based on its default logic, while “Disabled” explicitly allows Windows to restart during active hours for updates.
     
    Windows 11 - Gpedit - Manage End User Experience - Turn Off Auto-restart - Disable - Accept

How to Reschedule Windows 11 Automatic Restart Using Settings for an Update

Sometimes, you might find that an update requires a restart outside of your designated Active Hours. In this part of the tutorial, we will cover how to reschedule an automatic restart for updates in Windows 11 using the Settings app. This method provides flexibility, allowing you to choose a specific time and date for the system to restart and apply updates. It’s a convenient way to maintain control over your system’s update process, ensuring that restarts happen at a time that best suits your schedule.

  1. Open Windows 11 Settings
     
    Windows 11 - Open Settings
  2. Navigate to “Windows Update” and click on “Schedule the restart”
     
    This option will only appear if an update has been downloaded and is ready to be applied. If you have nothing to do, you can alternatively click “Restart now” to apply the update immediately and continue using your computer normally afterward.
     
    Windows 11 - Settings - Windows Update - Open Schedule the Restar
  3. Schedule a time for the restart
     
    Turn the feature on and select the day and daytime for the update to be installed and the restart to happen.
     
    Windows 11 - Settings - Windows Update - Schedule the Restar - Turn On Schedule a Time - Pick time & Day

How to Configure Windows 11 Automatic Restart Deadline Using Group Policy

This method is tailored for advanced users and IT administrators who need to set a firm deadline for automatic restarts after updates are installed. By using Group Policy, you can define a specific time frame within which the system must restart, ensuring that updates are applied in a timely manner while still respecting the Active Hours settings. (See here how to use Group Policy also with Windows 11 Home) This method is particularly useful in organizational settings where maintaining up-to-date systems is crucial, but there’s also a need to minimize disruption to users.

  1. Open the “Group Policy Editor” via the command “gpedit.msc”
     
    Windows 11 - Open Gpedit
  2. Open the “Specify deadline before auto-restart for update installation” policy
     
    Navigate to “Computer Configuration > Administrative Templates > Windows Update > Legacy Policies” and double-click the “Specify deadline before auto-restart for update installation” policy on the right side.

    Windows 11 - Gpedit - Legacy Policies - Open Specify Deadline Before Auto-restart
  3. Enable and set up the “Specify deadline before auto-restart for update installation” policy
     
    The “Specify deadline before auto-restart for update installation” Group Policy in Windows is designed to give administrators control over the timing of automatic restarts following update installations. This policy allows you to set a deadline for when updates must be installed, after which the system will automatically restart if necessary. This is particularly useful in managed environments where it’s important to ensure that all machines are updated within a specific timeframe for security or compliance reasons.
     
    The number of days setting allows you to specify the number of days after a quality update or a feature update is available before the system will automatically restart. You can set a deadline ranging from 2 to 30 days. This means if an update is not installed (and the system not restarted) by the user within this period, Windows will automatically initiate a restart.

    • Quality Updates:

      • These updates are primarily focused on security and reliability improvements.
      • They typically include security patches, bug fixes, and other minor improvements to ensure the smooth and secure operation of the Windows operating system.
      • Quality updates are usually smaller in size compared to feature updates.
      • They are released more frequently, often on a monthly basis (like the Patch Tuesday updates from Microsoft).
      • The main goal of quality updates is to keep the existing system secure and functioning optimally without introducing significant changes to the user experience or system capabilities.
    • Feature Updates:

      • Feature updates, on the other hand, bring new functionalities and major changes to the Windows operating system.
      • They often include new features, significant system improvements, user interface changes, and enhancements to existing functionalities.
      • Feature updates are typically larger in size and are released less frequently, usually once or twice a year.
      • These updates can lead to noticeable changes in how the operating system looks and feels, and they may include overhauls of system components or the introduction of entirely new services and applications.
      • The installation of a feature update is more like upgrading to a newer version of Windows.
         

        Windows 11 - Gpedit - Legacy Policies - Specify Deadline Before Auto-restart - Enabled - Specify Number of Days - Accept

  4. To switch to standard behavior again, set the policy to “Not Configured”
     
    In Group Policy settings, “Not Configured” means the policy is not actively applied, and the system will follow its default behavior or user settings. On the other hand, “Disabled” explicitly deactivates the policy’s effect, allowing the system to perform actions that the policy would otherwise restrict. With the “Specify deadline before auto-restart for update installation” policy, “Not Configured” lets Windows manage restarts based on its default logic, while “Disabled” explicitly allows Windows to restart during active hours for updates.
     
    Windows 11 - Gpedit - Legacy Policies - Specify Deadline Before Auto-restart - Not Configures -Accept

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions About Windows 11 Active Hours

How can I temporarily extend Active Hours for a day I know I’ll be working late?

While Windows 11 doesn’t allow for a one-day extension of Active Hours, you can manage this by manually postponing a restart when notified. When an update requires a restart, Windows will send a notification, and from there, you can choose to schedule the restart for a later time. It’s also prudent to regularly check the Windows Update section in Settings for any pending restarts, especially if you plan to work beyond your usual Active Hours.

Can Windows 11 automatically adjust Active Hours based on my usage pattern?

Windows 11 offers the capability to adjust Active Hours automatically based on your device usage patterns. To enable this feature, go to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update, and select “Change active hours.” Here, you can switch to automatic adjustment, and Windows will learn your activity patterns over time and adapt Active Hours to minimize disruptions during updates.

What should I do if an update causes issues and I need to work during usual Active Hours?

If a recent update causes system issues, you have a few options. First, you can uninstall the problematic update from the Windows Update section in Settings under “View update history” > “Uninstall updates.” Alternatively, if the issue is severe, you might consider using System Restore to revert your PC to a state before the update was installed. Remember to schedule any critical work or meetings outside of the new Active Hours you set up after addressing the issue.

Is it possible to set different Active Hours for weekends and weekdays?

Windows 11’s Active Hours feature applies universally across all days and does not differentiate between weekdays and weekends. However, you can manually adjust Active Hours for weekends by changing them in Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update > Change active hours as your weekend approaches, and revert back to your weekday schedule afterward.

How do I handle updates if I have an irregular schedule and can’t predict my Active Hours?

For those with irregular schedules, leveraging the “Pause updates” feature might be more effective. This can be done in Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update by selecting “Pause updates for 7 days.” This feature temporarily halts all updates, allowing you to choose when to download and install them. Remember, you can also manually schedule restarts for specific updates to ensure they don’t interfere with your unpredictable schedule.

Can I use Active Hours to prevent updates while my computer is in use for presentations or meetings?

Setting Active Hours can help prevent updates during key times like presentations or meetings. However, for added security, consider manually checking for updates and potential restarts before important events. This can be done in Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update. If a restart is pending, you can schedule it for a later time, ensuring no disruptions during your critical activities.

What impact does setting a restart deadline have on Active Hours?

Setting a restart deadline enforces a maximum period after an update is installed during which the computer must restart, potentially overriding Active Hours if the deadline falls within them. Use this Group Policy feature judiciously, especially in environments where uninterrupted use during Active Hours is critical. Ensure that the deadline is set outside of peak usage times to minimize disruptions.

If my computer is off during Active Hours, will it restart immediately once turned on?

If your computer is off during Active Hours and updates are pending, Windows may not restart immediately upon startup but will likely schedule the restart for the next available time outside of Active Hours. It’s advisable to manually check for pending updates and restarts after turning on your computer, especially if it was off during your usual Active Hours.

How do Active Hours affect updates that require immediate attention due to security concerns?

For urgent security updates, Windows might prompt for a restart outside of your designated Active Hours to ensure system security. It’s recommended to apply these updates promptly. However, Windows will generally try to respect your Active Hours and provide notifications and options to schedule these critical updates and restarts at a more convenient time.

Can I configure Active Hours for multiple users on the same computer?

Active Hours are set at the system level and affect all users on the computer. If multiple users share the device, consider discussing and agreeing on a common Active Hours schedule that accommodates everyone’s needs, or adjust Active Hours as needed based on who is using the device at any given time.

What happens to running tasks if Windows restarts outside of Active Hours?

Before a scheduled restart, Windows attempts to close all applications and save work. However, unsaved data may be lost, and ongoing tasks could be interrupted. To mitigate this, save your work frequently, especially when updates are pending, and close unnecessary applications when not in use. If a critical task is running, you can temporarily defer updates or schedule restarts at a more convenient time.

Does enabling ‘Metered Connection’ affect how updates are handled during Active Hours?

Setting a connection as metered in Windows 11 primarily limits the download of updates to conserve data on limited or costly internet connections. While this doesn’t directly impact Active Hours, it may result in fewer updates being downloaded and thus fewer restarts needed. Critical updates, however, may still be downloaded over a metered connection, and you should be mindful of restarts due to such updates.

How can I ensure that updates and restarts don’t interrupt overnight processes like backups or downloads?

To prevent updates and restarts from interrupting overnight tasks, consider scheduling such activities during your designated Active Hours. Alternatively, you can manually pause updates or schedule specific restart times for pending updates to ensure they don’t coincide with critical overnight processes.

Can Active Hours settings be exported and applied to another Windows 11 computer?

While there’s no direct option to export and import Active Hours settings between Windows 11 computers, you can replicate the settings manually on another device. In managed environments, IT administrators can use Group Policy or PowerShell scripts to uniformly apply Active Hours settings across multiple devices, ensuring consistency in update management.

How do I update Active Hours if my time zone changes due to travel?

Active Hours are based on your system’s current time zone, which Windows 11 can automatically update if you have “Set time automatically” and “Set time zone automatically” enabled in your Date & Time settings. If your schedule changes due to travel, you may need to manually adjust your Active Hours in the Windows Update settings to reflect your new active periods in the new time zone.

Extra: How to Check Windows Update History and Uninstall Updates

Sometimes a Windows Update breaks your PC and its necessary to know which one it was. Checking Windows update history can help you troubleshoot by providing build/KB numbers. These allow the discovery of known issues or you can uninstall it or get help. Thankfully, you can view the Windows updates history quite easily via the Settings menu, but it can also be done via the legacy Control Panel if you’re more familiar. Our other guide shows exactly how to use both methods.
 
How to View Windows Update History in Windows 10

Extra: How to Limit Bandwidth for Windows Update Downloads

Windows Update downloads can often be frustrating because they are several gigabytes in size and can slow down your internet connection. That means your device may work with reduced performance while the update is downloading. In our other guide, we show you how to limit bandwidth for Windows Update downloads, so they won’t bother you again.
 
Featured - Windows 11 How to Limit Bandwidth for Windows Update Downloads

Extra: How to Reset Windows Update to Fix Update Errors

OS updates are something we all take for granted, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying when they experience issues. If you’re experiencing an unexplicable Windows Update error, check out our other guide to learn how to reset Windows Update and fix errors using Windows PoweShell scripts.
 
How to Reset Windows Update in Windows 10

Markus Kasanmascheff
Markus Kasanmascheff
Markus is the founder of WinBuzzer and has been playing with Windows and technology for more than 25 years. He is holding a Master´s degree in International Economics and previously worked as Lead Windows Expert for Softonic.com.