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Troubleshooting Windows Update problems

Updated July 7, 2020

When it comes to repairing Windows computers, there seems to be a couple of problems that I get a lot of help requests. 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 or folders; the different services that Windows Update requires are not starting, registry errors, etc. The following is a list of some of the procedures I use to repair Windows Update.

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

Windows Update Troubleshooter

This is probably the easiest and most common way to repair Windows Update. Microsoft has a Windows Update Troubleshooter for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 online. Just follow the link below and then click on Update Troubleshooter for Windows 7 and Windows 8. You can either run the troubleshooter or save the file. I recommend saving it to your hard drive. That way, if you need to rerun it, you will already have it ready to go.

Windows Update Troubleshooter

Windows 10 has several troubleshooters built-in, including one for Windows Update. All of the Troubleshooters are located in Windows Settings. There are a few different ways to get to Windows Settings.

  1. Left-click on the Start Windows logo menu and left-click on Settings (the gear icon)
  2. Right-click on the Start Windows logo menu or press the Windows logo key Windows logo + X and select Settings from the Power User menu
  3. Press the Windows logo key Windows logo + I

Once you have Windows Settings open, select Update and Security, then Troubleshoot in the left-hand column, then select Windows Update in the right-hand column.

So if the Windows Update Troubleshooter (repair) did not fix the issue, you could try resetting all of the Windows Update components. The following link has a PowerShell script for resetting the Windows Update components automatically. It also has instructions on how to reset the Windows Update components manually. I recommend using the PowerShell script unless you are comfortable with going through all the manual procedures. When prompted to run or save the script, I recommend that you save it to your hard drive, just in case you need to rerun it.

Reset Windows Update components

There is another way to reset the Windows Update components. The Reset Windows Update Tool is s script-based application that performs the same functions as the script above. Along with resetting Windows Update components, it can run Secure File Checker (see below), repair invalid registry keys, and repair the Windows system image using DISM (see below).

Reset Windows Update Tool

Check your drive for errors

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 does not allow the troubleshooters to fix the issue(s). I have had this problem many times before. Nothing worse than feeling like a dog chasing his tail. At this point, I recommend checking your hard drive for errors by running checkdisk.

Check your hard disk for errors in Windows 7 and Windows Vista

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 rerun the Windows Update Troubleshooters. 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


Windows has a built-in program called System File Checker (SFC) to 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 an Administrative Command Prompt in Windows Vista / Windows 7

Open an Administrative Command Prompt in Windows 8 / Windows 8.1

Open an Administrative Command Prompt in Windows 10

SFC is 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, try running Windows Update. If it still doesn't work, try running the troubleshooters (repair/reset) one at a time, running Windows Update in between. If you again 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 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 shop like Geeks in Phoenix 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 does 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 shop like Geeks in Phoenix.

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