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Troubleshooting Windows Update problems

When it comes to repairing Windows based computers, there seems to be a couple of problems that I get allot of requests for help with. One of them is when a computer cannot get updates to Windows. So here are a few of my favorite resources for fixing Windows Update.

Troubleshooting Windows Update problems

There are several reasons why Windows Update can fail. There could be corrupted files and/or folders, the different services that Windows Update require are not starting, registry errors, etc.. The following is a list of some of the procedures I use in repairing Windows Update.

Note : Remember to always restart your computer after running any of these procedures before try Windows Update again.

Windows Update Troubleshooters

This is probably the easiest and most common way to repair Windows Update. Microsoft has a Windows Update troubleshooter for every version of Windows. The following link is a general page for troubleshooting Windows Update. Just select the version of Windows you are trying to repair and then click on the Windows Update Troubleshooter link. If you are prompted to run or save the file, I recommend saving it to your hard drive. That way if you need to run it again, you will already have it ready to go.

Repair Windows Update

So if the Windows Update Troubleshooter (repair) did not fix the issue, you can try resetting all of the Windows Update components. The following link has both the automatic Microsoft Fixit troubleshooter and manual instructions for resetting Windows Update components. I recommend using an automatic troubleshooter unless you are comfortable with going through all the of manual procedures. Again, when prompted to run or save the troubleshooter, I recommend that you save it to your hard drive, just in case you need to run it again.

Reset Windows Update components

Check your drive for errors

Now, if you have run both of the Windows Update troubleshooters (repair / reset) and Windows Update is still not functioning correctly, it's time to do some general system checks. Sometimes there can be an error(s) with the file system that is not allowing the troubleshooters to fix the issue(s). I have had this problem many times before. Nothing worse than feeling like a dog chasing his own tail. At this point, I recommend checking your hard drive for errors by running checkdisk.

Check your hard disk for errors in Windows Vista

Check your hard disk for errors in Windows 7

Check your hard drive for errors in Windows 8

Check your hard drive for errors in Windows 10

Once you are done with a checkdisk, go ahead and run the Windows Update Troubleshooters again. First run the repair troubleshooter and try checking for updates. If it doesn't fix it, run the reset troubleshooter. If Windows Update still won't work, then it is time to check to system files.

Check system files

SFC

Windows has a built-in program called System File Checker (SFC) that can check system files for corruption and incorrect versions. SFC is run inside of an administrative command prompt. Just follow the link below for your version Windows for instructions on how to bring up an admin command prompt.

Open a Administrative Command Prompt in Windows Vista / Windows 7

Open a Administrative Command Prompt in Windows 8 / Windows 8.1

Open a Administrative Command Prompt in Windows 10

SFC is basically the same in all of the currently supported versions of Windows, Here is the link to the most detailed instructions for SFC (Windows 10).

Check Windows 10 system files with System File Checker

Once you are done running SFC and have corrected any problems it may have found, go ahead try running Windows Update. If it still won't work, try running the troubleshooters (repair / reset) one at time, running Windows Update in between. If you still cannot run Windows Update successfully, it may be time to run the most advanced system corruption repair tools.

DISM (Windows 8/8.1, Windows 10) / SUR (Windows Vista, Windows 7)

Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) and System Update Readiness tool (SUR) are the most complete way of checking for file corruption in Windows. The link to the instructions on how to run both is below. DISM and SUR are meant to be used by advanced users, so if you don't feel comfortable running either one of these programs, please contact a local computer repair technician for assistance.

Fix Windows Update errors by using the DISM or System Update Readiness tool

After running either DISM or SUR check again to see if Windows Update will work. If Windows Update still will not work, it may be time to reset or reinstall Windows. The instructions on how to do this can be found online. If you require assistance with this process, please contact a local computer repair technician.

Check Windows 10 system files with System File Checker

I was thinking the other day about what program I use the most in doing computer repair. The one program I use the most on Windows based computers would have to be System File Checker (SFC). SFC checks for system files that may have gotten corrupt or replaced with incorrect versions. Here's how to check Windows 10 system files with System File Checker.

Check Windows 10 system files with System File Checker

SFC has been included in every version of Windows since Windows XP. In fact, you can also build it into the Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset (DaRT). There is no shortcut or link to SFC in Windows 10, as it runs inside of an Administrative Command Prompt.

How to open a Command Prompt with Administrator privileges in Windows 10

SFC running inside of Windows 10 Administrative Command Prompt

The following is the syntax and switches for SFC. The most commonly used syntax / switch is: sfc /scannow.

SFC [/SCANNOW] [/VERIFYONLY] [/SCANFILE=<file>] [/VERIFYFILE=<file>] [/OFFWINDIR=<offline windows directory> /OFFBOOTDIR=<offline boot directory>]

/SCANNOW (Scans integrity of all protected system files and repairs files with problems when possible.)
/VERIFYONLY (Scans integrity of all protected system files. No repair operation is performed.)
/SCANFILE (Scans integrity of the referenced file, repairs file if problems are identified. Specify full path <file>.)
/VERIFYFILE (Verifies the integrity of the file with full path <file>. No repair operation is performed.)
/OFFBOOTDIR (For offline repair specify the location of the offline boot directory.)
/OFFWINDIR (For offline repair specify the location of the offline windows directory.)

Examples

sfc /scannow sfc /verifyfile=c:\windows\filetobereplaced.dll sfc /scanfile=d:\windows\filetobereplaced.dll /offbootdir=d:\ /offwindir=d:\windows sfc /verifyonly

Once SFC is done scanning the system files, it will give one of four possible results:

  • Windows Resource Protection did not find any integrity violations.
    All system file are fine and you're good to go.
  • Windows Resource Protection could not perform the requested operation.
    There may be another program preventing SFC from running. In this case boot the system up into safe mode and run SFC from there.
  • Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files and successfully repaired them.
    All system files are now correct and you're ready to go. If you want to view the repair details, see below.
  • Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some of them.
    If you get this message, SFC found a file or files that it wasn't able to repair. The next thing you will need to do is find out what the name of the file(s) are. Using the Find String utility, you can filter out the SFC results with only the components that were scanned and create a text file with that information on your Desktop called sfcdetails.txt. Just copy the following code into an Administrative Command Prompt:
findstr /c:"[SR]" %windir%\Logs\CBS\CBS.log >"%userprofile%\Desktop\sfcdetails.txt"

Manually replacing a corrupt system file in Windows 10

Note: To replace a corrupt system file, you will need to have a known good copy of the file(s) in question. A good source for files is another computer or virtual machine running Windows 10. Since I do computer repair for a living, I have all of the versions of Windows that are still supported by Microsoft running inside of Oracle VirtualBoxes.

First thing to do is make note of the location (path) and name of the file(s) that need to be replaced from the sfcdetails.txt file. Once you have another copy of the corrupt file(s), you will need take administrative ownership of the file(s). To do this, modify the following command with the path\filename of the file you want to replace and then type it into an Administrative Command Prompt:

takeown /f path\filename

Example: takeown /f C:\Windows\FileToBeReplaced.dll

Next you will have to grant administrators full access to file(s) being replaced. To do this, modify the following command with the path\filename of the file you want to replace and then type it into an Administrative Command Prompt:

icacls path\filename /grant administrators:F

Example: icacls C:\Windows\FileToBeReplaced.dll /grant administrators:F

Third thing to do is copy over the new file(s) and replace the corrupt one(s).To do this, modify the following command with the path\filename of the file you want to replace and then type it into an Administrative Command Prompt:

copy path\filename path\filename

Example: copy C:\Temp\FileToBeReplaced.dll C:\Windows\FileToBeReplaced.dll

Maintain your hard drive with SpinRite

When it comes to maintaining a hard drive, running a disk check will usually find any software related issues. But when I need to check the hardware inside of a hard drive, I will use SpinRite from Gibson Research Corporation.

Intro screen from GRC SpinRite
Intro screen from GRC SpinRite

SpinRite is a magnetic storage data recovery, repair and maintenance program and works only on HDD's (Hard Disk Drive) and not SSD's (Solid State Drive). SpinRite includes a feature called DynaStat that can reassemble missing data from bad sectors. SpinRite is a self-contained program that runs on top of a version of FreeDOS (Free Disk Operating System).

Graphic Status Display screen from GRC SpinRite
Graphic Status Display screen from GRC SpinRite

SpinRite has five (5) levels of operation, each building on the previous level.

  1. Examine the hard drive surface. This level will read every sector of the selected partition(s) psychical surface looking for areas that appear to be healthily but could possibly fail in the future.
  2. Recover unreadable data on drive. This level will read every sector of the selected partition(s) psychical surface looking for unreadable data. Spinrite will then attempt to recover unreadable partition data using the built-in advanced recovery technology.
  3. Refresh the hard drive surface. This level will read and write every sector of the selected partition(s) psychical surface, essentially exercising the hard drive. It basically test and verifies every sector on the partition(s).
  4. Locates surface defects. This level will read, write and invert every sector twice of the selected partition(s) psychical surface. This tests and verifies that every 'bit' on the selected partition can be successfully written to and retrieved.
  5. Restore known good sectors. This level does everything that all of the other levels do and restores any areas that may have been previously mark as defective, but now are found to be reliable.

DynaStat Data Recovery screen from GRC SpinRite
DynaStat Data Recovery screen from GRC SpinRite

To run SpinRite you will need to create a bootable media, either a CD or USB drive. Normally, if your computer is running Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7, all you have to do is insert the bootable media and restart your computer. If your computer doesn't boot up to the SpinRite media, you may have to change the boot order in the system BIOS (Basic Input/Output System).

If your computer has Windows 8, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10, more than likely your computer has UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface) enabled BIOS. To run Spinrite on one of these systems, you defiantly have to go into the BIOS and turn off the UEFI boot functions temporality.

Now, if in either scenario SpinRite doesn't recognized your hard drive, you may have to also change the drive mode in the BIOS from AHCI (Advanced Host Controller Interface) to ATA (AT Attachment) temporarily.

SpinRite is available from Gibson Research Corporation for $89 (as of this writing). For more information on SpinRite, just follow the link below.

Gibson Research Corporation SpinRite

How to replace a CD/DVD/BD drive in your desktop computer

When it comes to desktop computer repair, one of the most common hardware failures are CD/DVD/BD drives. If you're having problems with getting the disk tray to eject or disks are not being recognized, it may be time to replace it. Here's how to replace a CD/DVD/BD drive in your desktop computer.

How to replace a CD/DVD/BD drive in your desktop computer

So you're tired of trying to get your old desktop CD/DVD/BD drive to work and are ready to replace it with a new one. Having to use a paper clip to manually eject your computer's CD/DVD/BD drive tray can get old really quick. Replacing a desktop CD/DVD/BD drive is fairly easy; you just have to make sure you get one with the correct connections and dimensions.

Find a new drive

The majority of CD/DVD/BD drives on the market nowadays will have SATA (Serial ATA) connectors for data and power. But there are still quite a few older systems that still use PATA (Parallel ATA) for data and 4 Pin Molex for power. SATA type drives are the de facto standard, so finding PATA replacement drives can be tricky. Newegg and TigerDirect are good places to find these older style drives.

SATA and PATA drive connections
PATA and SATA drive connections

Desktop CD/DVD drives have standard width and height dimensions, so all you have to do is check the depth of your existing drive. Sometimes you have room to put a deeper drive in and sometimes you don't. Always check to see what kind of space you have available before purchasing a replacement drive.

Uninstall the old software

Once you have your new CD/DVD/BD drive you will need to uninstall the software that came with your old CD/DVD/BD drive. It's usually a version of Nero or PowerDVD and it is branded to your old drive. Once you remove the old drive, the software that came bundled with it won't work anymore. Your new drive should have come with its own disk burning software.

Install the new drive

From here we need to turn the computer off, disconnect the power cord from the back of the system and open up the case. Now there are two possible ways of mounting the CD/DVD/BD drive in the case: screws or quick release rails. You may have to remove the front bezel from the case to get the CD/DVD/BD drive, as it will need to come out the front of the case. Make note of the connections and remove the old drive and replace with the new one.

Drives attached by screws and quick release rails
Drives attached by screws and quick release rails

Install the new software

Once you get the system back together, power it up and let Windows discover the new CD/DVD/BD drive. Windows may require a restart to finalize the setup. After that you are ready to install the software that came with the new drive.

The most common computer video display connectors

When it comes to computer repair, you have to be prepared to work on different types of systems. One of the biggest issues is having the correct video display connector. With more than ten different types of connectors it can be difficult to identify the correct one. Here is a list of the most common video display connectors.

What type of video connector do you have?

Most common video display connectors  
S-Video
3 variations - 4, 7 or 9 pins.
S-Video display connector
VGA (Video Graphics Array)
2 variations - DE-9 (9-pin) & DE-15 (15-pin).
VGA display connector
DMS-59 (Dual Monitor Solution, 59 pins)
It provides two DVI or VGA outputs in a single connector. An adapter cable is needed for conversion from DMS-59 (digital) to DVI (digital) or VGA (analog).
DMS-59 display connector
DVI (Digital Visual Interface)
5 variations - DVI-I (Single Link), DVI-I (Dual Link), DVI-D (Single Link), DVI-D (Dual Link) & DVI-A .
  • DVI-I (integrated, combines digital and analog in the same connector; digital may be single or dual link).
  • DVI-D (digital only, single link or dual link).
  • DVI-A (analog only).
DVI display connector
HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface)
Electrically compatible with the DVI.
HDMI display connector
DisplayPort
Backward compatible with VGA and DVI through the use of adapters.
DisplayPort display connector

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Geeks in Phoenix is an IT consulting company specializing in all aspects of Computer Repair / PC Repair / Laptop Repair. Since 2008, our expert computer repair technicians have been providing outstanding Computer Repair, Virus Removal, Data Recovery, Photo Manipulation and Website Support.

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