To be begin with, you should look at the Automatic Updates Configuration to see how it is currently setup. There are a number of options which can account for the feature not working in the way that you are expecting.
Depending on your Operating System, you will access the configuration of Automatic updates in a different way.
Windows XP and Windows 2003 Server
Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 2008 and Windows 2008 R2
After accessing the option you will be given three options. These are pretty self explanatory, but are basically
The option you choose depends on the one that you are most comfortable with.
The updates will be downloaded in the background using a feature called smart downloading which uses spare bandwidth to download the updates, thus not interfering with your browsing and other work.
On Windows 10 you will see additional options, such as being able to Pause updates for 7 days and changing the Active Hours. There will also be an Advanced Options, which allows you to choose to receive updates for other Microsoft products as well.
If you have the new Automatic Updates client (yellow shield) then you have a number of command line options available to you. These commands do not apply to Windows 10. For Windows 10, use usoclient.exe.
wuauclt /detectnow - this forces the client to detect any updates on the automatic updates server. This could be the server at Microsoft or an internal Automatic Updates (WSUS) server.
wuauclt.exe /resetauthorization /detectnow - as well as forcing the client to look for updates, this resets the cookie that is used by the process. If you have changed the configuration of the server, for example by setting up group targeting, then this will ensure that the latest settings are used. The switches must be used in the order shown.
wuauclt /demoui - this allows you to see what icon is currently in use and how it prompts for updates. Useful for demonstrations of the process to new users, or creating user guides
wuauclt /showsettingsdialog - this shows you the settings for automatic updates
wuauclt /showwu - On Windows XP this will start Windows Update, on Windows Vista and higher (including 2008) this will open the Windows Update GUI
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