In theory, Windows Update is a convenient way for users to keep their PCs up-to-date with the latest patches from Microsoft. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work as intended, and that’s just one of many reasons to hate Windows Update.
There are countless ways in which Windows Update can cease to function, from hanging while it checks for new updates to failing to complete the installation of a particular package. As a result, it’s sometimes difficult to determine the best course of action to pursue.
Here are a variety of different methods that you can use to get Windows Update un-stuck.
1. Use the Windows Update Troubleshooter
Microsoft’s official Windows Update Troubleshooter isn’t guaranteed to fix your problems with the utility, but it’s a good place to start. Even if it can’t deal with your situation outright, it might give you an idea of what needs to be done.
You can download the tool here and see if it offers any help before you delve into the solutions listed below.
2. Clear the Cache
If your update installation fails repeatedly, there’s a good chance that the files your system has downloaded were corrupted at some point in the process. The best way to rectify this is to clear the Windows Update cache.
To get started, type “command prompt” into the search bar (Windows key + Q), right-click the appropriate result, and select Run as administrator.
Enter the following text into the Command Prompt window:
net stop wuauserv
This will stop the Windows Update service from running on your computer. Next, open up a File Explorer window, head to the drive that Windows is installed on, and navigate to Windows > Software Distribution > Download. Click on the View tab and make sure that the box labelled Hidden Items is ticked.
Select all the items in the folder and delete them — at this point, you can uncheck the Hidden Items box if you wish. Open up a new Command Prompt and enter the following text:
net start wuauserv
This will start up the Windows Update process once again. Hopefully, since we removed any files that could be interfering with the process, it will now be working as expected.
3. Use the Services Console
If Windows Update slows to a halt while checking for new updates, you might be able to take advantage of the services console to jump-start the process. To access it, search for “services” on your computer, and select the desktop app that appears.
Find the Windows Update service, right-click it and select Restart. This action should bump the process onto the next step, or add to the completed portion of a progress bar — you may have to repeat this step several times before the check is completed.
4. Turn Off Automatic Updates
If your issues stem from an update failing the installation process, it might be worth turning off automatic updates to ensure that the process doesn’t cause more problems. Left to its own devices, Windows will repeatedly attempt to download the installation package, reversing updates in the event that it finds an error.
Open the Settings app and head to Update & security.
Head to the Windows Update section and select Advanced options, then click Choose how updates are delivered.
You should find an option that allows you to opt out of automatic installs, and instead force your computer to notify you before it begins the installation process.
Since the system has to notify you before installation gets underway, it’s easier to keep track of which individual updates are causing problems. This might not fix the issue outright, but it can certainly make diagnosis easier.
5. Manually Apply a Windows 7 Patch
Windows Update can be particularly problematic for users who are still working with Windows 7. Fresh installs and systems that haven’t been updated in some time can take several hours to check for new updates, but thankfully there’s a simple fix.
Manually patching the operating system can be an exercise in futility, unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. Download this patch, which contains improvements for Windows Update, and install it on your PC. Windows Update should work normally once again.
6. Use AutoPatcher
AutoPatcher is a third-party alternative to Windows Update that allows for a higher level of control over which updates are applied, and how they are installed. It offers a host of advantages over Microsoft’s solution, like the ability to download files ahead of an offline installation, and schedule updates for the future.
The software downloads all installation packages directly from Microsoft’s servers, ensuring that their contents are legitimate and won’t cause any harm to your computer. However, since it’s not an officially sanctioned Windows product, users have to be aware that AutoPatcher carries risks that Windows Update does not.
AutoPatcher is available for Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8 — a Windows 10 version is apparently feasible, but hasn’t been created as of the time of writing.
7. Check the News
If you’re experiencing Windows Update problems — especially on Windows 10 — it’s a good idea to perform a Google search and see whether anyone else is having similar issues.
The fact is that Windows Update difficulties can arise very suddenly. Even if Microsoft is yet to release a patch, a targeted search of terms like “Windows update problems” or “Windows 10 update” may yield reports on widespread issues.
Depending on what you find, the solution might simply be to wait until Microsoft distributes a patch — or one of the methods listed above might work. Windows Update distributes new updates and patches, so the problems affecting it change on a regular basis. Here are some more simple fixes that are worth trying out if all else fails:
- Reboot your system.
- Disconnect any attached media drives and disable any active VPNs.
- Check that you have enough disk space available.
- Temporarily disable your anti-virus software.
- If you experience Windows Update Error 0x80070057, it can be fixed, see link.
Windows Update, Unstuck and Working Now
Windows Update isn’t a perfect piece of software, but it’s clearly a big part of Microsoft’s plans for Windows 10, which means that many of us are simply going to have to live with it.
Do you have a tip on how to make Windows Update work as intended? Or are you experiencing issues and in need of assistance? If it’s still not working, see our other article on resolving a stuck Windows Update.