Is your Windows Update broken? Obviously there are a lot of reasons why Windows Update can fail but here are some of the most common things that you can look for before you get into serious troubleshooting.
When solving any technical problem it’s always best to start at the start and work on the Occam’s Razor explanation is often the correct explanation, so don’t skip these first steps.
1 – Reboot
If your Windows Update is having problems the very first thing you should do is restart the entire computer. Do not just log off and log back in; reboot the computer.
In addition to restarting all of the services, a reboot will also forcibly log off anyone else who is on the computer which may have something open that is causing problems.
2 – No Internet Access
That’s right. You would be shocked at how many times we have worked on both desktops and servers that just weren’t connected to the Internet (or in the case of many corporate machines, we’re not able to talk to the WSUS Server).
If you are testing connectivity to the Internet do not use a site you have already been to. Test Internet connectivity to a site you have never been to, in an effort to avoid anything that has been cached . If your machine can surf the Internet (i.e. to URTech.ca or PartisanIssues.com ), then try getting to the Microsoft Catalog https://www.catalog.update.microsoft.com, search for anything (like “windows 11 cu” and then try to download it.
We had a situation with a client that had locked down servers internet access to only a few dozen sites. The sites included the Microsoft Update Catalog, but did NOT include the download site!
These are all of the web pages your computer may need to access to successfully download a Windows Update:
3 – Not Enough Disk Space on C:\
Again, you might think this is just too obvious but we have seen it over and over again. If you don’t have enough disk space on C: \ Windows Updates will fail.
If you wanted to know how much disk space you should have, a rule of thumb is to triple The size of the patch or patches that you are trying to install. You need triple space to allow for the original download, the uncompressed version of that download and then the install itself.
4 – Check The Windows Update Service
You could try to run the Windows Update Troubleshooter (Select Start > Settings > System > Troubleshoot > Others > Windows Update) as it will check a few things including the service but we like to look at it manually.
A reboot should have corrected this but we have seen situations where the windows update service just didn’t start when the machine booted up or was shut down for some other reason and it’s a 5 second fix to turn it back on.
- Click the START button
- Type SERVICES.MSC then press ENTER or click on Services
- Scroll down to near the very bottom and find Windows Update
- If it is not running start it. If the Windows Update service is running, restart it.
- You can do both of these by simply right clicking on it
5 – Update Is Stuck
At this point downloading and installing the latest Windows “Cumulative Update” manually is an easy and fast way to fix Windows Update problems.
Alternately, if just one particular update is failing to install, try to download it and install its standalone installer from the Microsoft Catalog:
- Google the name of the the update you are looking for and add the word CATALOG to it
- For instance if I want the September 2023 Cumulative Update For Windows Server 2022, I would Google Catalog September 2023 Cumulative Update For Windows Server 2022
- Click the Google link
- Find the update in the list and select DOWNLOAD button
- Click the blue link to the standalone installers, EXE, MSU or MSI
- After the download has completed, try to install it
If this doesn’t work, the error message that comes out of it may give you some idea what is walking your Windows Update.
6 – Corrupt Windows Update Database
This also occurs much more than you would think and fortunately it’s very easy to fix. Simply:
- Stop the windows update service
- Click START and type SERVICES.MSC then press ENTER
- Delete C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution
- yup, the whole folder
- Start the windows update service
- this will instantly recreate C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution
7 – Updates Are Already Installed
Yep, that’s a thing. Look at the screenshot below and notice that windows update has failed on a particular to install a particular update but after downloading it manually and trying to install it, we were told it was already installed. We then looked at the history windows update history and found that that was correct, it had already been installed.
8 – Antivirus or Malware Protection Misconfiguration
Yes, there is a pattern of more or less silly things that stop you from patching. More than a few times we have seen slightly misconfigured anti-malware, antivirus, and firewall software like, Norton, McAfee and Cylance block access to either Windows Update websites or stop patches from installing.
Disable your antivirus or anti-malware software and try again.
9 – Virus / Malware
On the flip side to anti-malware and antivirus software problems, are viruses that very frequently block access to Windows Update and AntiVirus websites. On a different computer, download a standalone antivirus scanner like:
- TrendMicro’s HouseCall Free Antivirus Tool
- Emsisoft Emergency Kit
- MalwareBytes Free Antivirus Tool
- Microsoft Safety Scanner
10 – Call Microsoft For Free Help With Windows Updates
Most people do not know that Microsoft provides free technical support to anyone who has problems with Windows Updates. https://support.microsoft.com/contactus/