How to roll back Windows updates

Recently installed a Windows update and feeling regretful already? Have no fear, it's possible to reverse the process and retrieve the former version.

This guide will run you through the dos and don'ts of rolling back Windows updates. 

 

Types of Windows updates 

Although older operating system models like Windows 7 are still used by tens of millions of people worldwide, Windows 10 now has over one billion active users and is by far the most widely used OS rolled out by Microsoft. 

Broadly speaking, Windows 10 updates can be divided into two distinct categories, each with a slightly different purpose. This is a relatively new development, pushed forward after it was determined that huge updates implemented every three or four years were slowing down the integration of new features. 

Quality updates are small, incremental updates that lead to minor changes regarding how the system functions, including plugging any holes in the security perimeter or rooting out and fixing a specific bug. They are sometimes referred to as 'cumulative updates' for this reason. 

Feature updates, on the other hand, are major updates that only come along once in a while, but make fundamental changes to the OS such as design alterations and security enhancements. They are much larger than quality updates but will include fewer individual or distinct changes, and these can sometimes take multiple reboots to complete. 

Why do users roll back updates?

Ironically, even though updates are usually implemented to fix existing performance problems or patch bugs, they can sometimes have the exact opposite effect for certain users.

The primary reason a user will want to roll back a Windows update is that installation has coincided with (and therefore likely caused) a marked drop in system performance. But dodgy updates can also lead to a fundamental, negative outcome for your PC, such as data loss, if not dealt with appropriately.

How to roll back a Windows update: step-by-step

Rolling back a Quality update

  1. Press the Windows key+I to open the Settings app.
  2. Navigate to 'Update and Security'.
  3. Click on the Update History link.
  4. Click on the 'Uninstall Updates' link. The Control Panel's 'Installed Updates' window should open. 
  5. Read through the updates displayed in the panel; select the first update in the Microsoft Windows category as it will be the most recent. 
  6. Click the 'Uninstall' button that appears on the toolbar.
  7. Complete any further Windows instructions.

Rolling back a Feature update

  1. Press the Windows key+I to open the Settings app.
  2. Navigate to 'Update and Security'. 
  3. Click on 'Recovery'. 
  4. Scroll to 'Go Back to the Previous Version of Windows 10'.
  5. Click 'Get Started'.
  6. Complete any further steps Windows instructs you to.

Automatic update installation

 

If you uninstall a dodgy update wreaking havoc on your PC, Windows will still try to re-install it the next time you review your updates and security options. To stop this from happening, you can reconfigure your PC settings to pause updates.

A recent example

How frequently do bad updates occur? They aren't common, but they're also not a rarity. The Windows 10 update made available in October of last year that left hundreds of thousands of users unhappy is a prime example of an update gone wrong. 

After attempting installation, many users reported it stalling between 80% and 90% or getting stuck at the final restart stage of the process. System crashes and blank screens were also reported by a lot of disappointed customers.

The advice was, as it is with all updates that don't quite go to plan, to uninstall it immediately and wait for the next one or a fix - but as with all Windows updates, you have to act quickly. If you want to roll back or uninstall an update, you only have ten days before it becomes permanent and you can no longer revert back to the previous iteration of Windows.

What if my computer doesn't load Windows at all?

If you've updated your computer and it's not just bugging out, but refusing to launch whatsoever, then it should automatically roll back the update for you. 

If you're using Windows 10, the latest version of Windows, then press and hold the power button as your computer is powering on to turn it off and force it into displaying recovery options, after which you can navigate to the advanced options page inside the troubleshooting area and uninstall the updates from there. 

Written by: Aaron Drapkin

After graduating with a philosophy degree from the University of Bristol in 2018, Aaron became a researcher at news digest magazine The Week following a year as editor of satirical website The Whip. Freelancing alongside these roles, his work has appeared in publications such as Vice, Metro, Tablet and New Internationalist, as well as The Week's online edition.

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