Windows Update stuck? Here’s what to do

Even though Windows Update works well most of the time, I have seen the occasional situation where Windows begins installing an update and then locks up. Obviously, this isn’t something that happens all the time, but I have run into this problem often enough that I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about some potential causes and some things that you can do to try to resolve the problem of a Windows Update that gets stuck.

Make sure that you really do have a problem

If you find yourself in a situation in which a Windows Update seems to be stuck, then the first thing that I would recommend doing is waiting for a few hours to make sure that the update process truly has stopped working. Some updates can take hours to complete. That isn’t normal, but I’ve seen it happen. It’s usually a lot easier to walk away and work on something else for several hours while you wait to see if the Windows Update really is stuck than to try to troubleshoot the update process.

Roll back the struck Windows Update

If you discover that Windows Update really is locked up and stuck, the best thing that you can do is to reboot your computer. Most of the time, you will probably be able to reboot the system in the usual way, although on occasion, I have had to hold down on the power button in order to force a system to power off. When you turn the computer back on, Windows will usually attempt to roll back the failed update. Once that happens, you can either try installing the update again or you can begin trying to troubleshoot the root cause of the problem.

If rebooting the computer fails to roll back the failed update, or if it somehow makes the problem even worse, then your next course of action should be to boot the computer into Safe Mode. Some people have found that Windows Update is able to complete the installation of updates within Safe Mode, even if the process fails in normal mode.

If you are still unable to get the PC back to a good place, then the next course of action is to attempt a system restore. To do so, boot the system from the Windows installation media. Rather than installing Windows, however, choose the option to repair your computer. When the Choose an Option screen appears, click the Troubleshooting icon, followed by the Startup Repair option, shown in the image below.

windows update stuck
At this point, Windows will attempt to diagnose and resolve the PC’s problems. The system will likely reboot on its own and attempt to uninstall any failed updates.

As a last resort, you could reset Windows. To do so, open Settings and click on Update and Security. Next, select the Recovery tab and then click the Get Started button found in the Reset this PC section. As you can see in the next figure, there are two reset options. Both will uninstall all of your apps, but one of the options also removes your data while the other does not. Even if you choose the less destructive option, there is always a potential for data loss, so it’s important to back up your machine before resetting it.

What caused the update to fail?

Most of the time, when an update gets stuck, it points to an issue with that specific PC. Even so, there are a couple of things that may be worth checking as you attempt to pin down the root cause of the problem.

Does WSUS Have the resources that it needs?

If you use WSUS for Windows Updates and are normally able to successfully acquire updates from your WSUS server, then it may be worthwhile to make sure that your WSUS server is not suffering from resource depletion. I have seen at least one situation in which Windows Update began having problems because a WSUS server ran out of hard disk space. It isn’t a stretch to think that similar problems could occur if the server were to run low on other hardware resources such as memory.

If you’re not sure whether or not your Windows Update problems are tied to a WSUS server, then try running Windows Update on some other PCs. If those PCs are able to receive updates without issue, then the WSUS server probably isn’t the cause of your problems.

Peer-to-peer downloads

While I am on the subject of Windows Update problems that stem from an update server, it is worth noting that even if you do not use a WSUS server, Windows Update might not be getting its updates directly from Microsoft. If you open Settings and then click on Update and Security, you will be taken to the Windows Update screen. From here, click on the Delivery Optimization tab. This tab, which you can see in the image below, controls whether or not Windows Update is allowed to pull updates from other PCs (either on your network or on the Internet) rather than downloading updates directly from Microsoft. Try turning off the option to download updates from other PCs.

Use the Windows Update Troubleshooter

One last thing that you can do in an effort to resolve the problem is to use the Windows Update Troubleshooter. To access this troubleshooter, open Settings and click on Update and Security. Now, click on the Troubleshoot tab and then click on the Windows Update option within the list of troubleshooters. You can see what this looks like in the next image.

The Windows Update Troubleshooter will attempt to diagnose and automatically correct problems that may be occurring with the stuck Windows Update. Although I haven’t had such great luck with some of the other automated troubleshooters in Windows 10, the Windows Update Troubleshooter seems to work really well most of the time.

Featured image: Shutterstock

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1 thought on “Windows Update stuck? Here’s what to do”

  1. Run Disk Clean-up elevated (as admin) and let it delete all it can which include a possible corrupt local update database and cache. Run Windows update again.
    On Windows 7 this solved many cases, Windows 10 is much better here. Anyway you get rid of Gb that Storage Sence should take care of, but it doesn’t 🙂

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