Sometimes the worst happens, and an update goes wrong—just follow these tips to get out of trouble
Ideally, Windows Update should be virtually invisible—other than alerting you when updates are ready to be installed, and while they’re being configured on startup.
In the real world, we all know better, of course. Some Windows updates might require two or three attempts before finally installing, while others may stubbornly refuse to install, period. Windows Update might even stop functioning completely, or your PC may suddenly refuse to reboot after you’ve installed the latest updates. So, what’s the solution?
If Windows Update refuses to work correctly—it throws up errors when you attempt to install or scan for updates, for example, or you’re struggling to install a specific update—start by running the Windows Update troubleshooter. In Win 10, go to “Settings > Update & Security > Troubleshoot,” click the “Windows Update” link, and click “Run the troubleshooter.” Older versions hide the troubleshooter under “Control Panel > System and Security > Action Center > Troubleshoot common computer problems.”
When the wizard opens, click “Advanced” and choose “Run as Administrator,” before clicking “Next” (Windows 7/8.1 only). Wait while the tool scans for issues—if it finds and fixes any, click “View detailed information” if required, to find out more, then click “Close,” reboot, and try again. If the fix involves installing pending updates, but it’s those updates refusing to install that is causing the problem, click “Skip this fix” to keep searching for other potential issues.
If the problem persists, you may need to perform more drastic steps. The “Reset Windows Update” guide opposite explains how you can use the Windows Repair Tool to get around this—download and install the tool (or extract the portable version) from www.tweaking.com. It will attempt a deeper fix via Safe mode.
Often, the problem isn’t with Windows Update itself, but a specific update that refuses to install. You may get advanced warning—a message during reboot that Windows is reversing a failed update—or your PC may keep attempting to install updates after every reboot. If the problem persists over two or three reboots, it’s time to take further action.
Check the status of updates via the Windows Update tool. Simply click “View update history,” where you’ll see a list of previously installed updates and whether
they were successful or not. If there are multiple updates failing, it’s likely only one of them is the culprit. Windows 8.1 and 7 users can click to review updates, then select updates one at a time. This may be enough in itself (four stubborn updates on our Windows 8.1 PC all installed singly with no issues, having failed to install together), or it will at least narrow down your search to the specific malfunctioning update.
Another possible fix is to download and install the problem update manually. Search for the update number (including KB) at www.catalog.update.microsoft.com. You’re given a list of matches based on Windows version, plus system architecture—x64 is for 64-bit versions of Windows, x86 for 32bit. Download the file, double-click it, and follow the instructions to install it.
If this doesn’t work, then you’ll need to dig deeper. Any failed updates are accompanied by an error code in Windows 10; Windows 8.1 and 7 users need to double-click a failed update to review an error report including the error code. Older versions of Windows also provide a “Get help with this error” link, although this usually fails to yield any meaningful results.
Instead, make a careful note of the error code and the update KB number. Google the code—try it with “Windows Update,” your version of Windows, the KB number, or just on its own to see what you find. Ignore ads and focus on genuine websites, including reputable sources such as https://answers.microsoft.com. Focus on newer results first—particularly if they correspond to your specific KB number.
With a little luck, you’ll stumble upon a solution that’s been found by other users. There’s no rhyme or reason to certain updates failing, but if all of the troubleshooting techniques we’ve described here—including the Windows Repair tool—fail to yield a solution, don’t panic. Simply ping our resident troubleshooting master an email at doc[email protected]imumpc.com, and he’ll see if he can steer you toward the solution.
“You may get a specific warning that Windows is reversing a failed update—or your PC may keep attempting to install updates after every reboot.”
The WindowsUpdate troubleshooter is capable of fixing a wide range of issues that lead toproblems with installingupdates.
Be sure to select the correct version of Windows when downloading updates manually.