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Windows Update Fails to Update

Windows Update Fails to Update
Illustration: Gordon McAlpin

I’m sure this has happened to some of you. You run Windows Update, and it just stops mid-update. The PC is frozen, or you get a Blue Screen of Death, or it fails mid-install and won’t give you control of your PC back. Or, you get control back, but the Windows Update screen won’t go away.

What to do?

Try these methods, which are both recommended by Microsoft. See if they work for you.

Windows XP:

  • Click Start
  • Click Run…
  • Type CMD.EXE and press Enter
  • Click OK
  • Type SFC.exe /scannow and press Enter. This will scan through Windows’ protected files. You may need your Windows XP disc handy in case Windows needs to reinstall anything
  • Close the window when done and run Windows Update again

Windows Vista & Windows 7:

  • Click Start
  • Click Control Panel
  • Click Administrative Tools
  • Double-click Services
  • Right-click on Background Intelligent Transfer Service and select Stop
  • Right-click on Windows Update and select Stop
  • Restart your PC
  • Click Start, then type CMD in the box and press Enter
  • Type rename C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution-Old and press Enter (assuming C: is the drive where Windows resides)
  • Restart your PC
  • Go back into Services using the first four steps above
  • Right-click on Background Intelligent Transfer Service and click Properties. Under Startup Type, select Automatic. Click OK. Right-click on the service again and click Start
  • Right-click on Windows Update and click Properties. Under Startup Type, select Automatic (Delayed). Right-click on the service again and click Start
  • Click Start, then Windows Update, and make sure it’s set to automatically download and install

This ought to clear up any Windows Update problems you’re having. Good luck!

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