When the Windows 7 update fails

From time to time, no matter how good your computer worked before, the Windows Update process can fail. You cannot receive new updates and every check will hog one of the CPU cores without any progress. This can be fixed with a bit of magic and the mighty tricks.

I noticed this problem on two laptops in a very short time. I didn’t noticed immediately that there was a problem, as both laptops are only used occasionally. Moreover, both laptops are with the Windows 7 operating system with different versions. Eventually I found that both have the same symptoms. The first symptom is that one CPU core is fully loaded and the computer has slowed. Second symptom is that the Windows update process neither finish nor throws any error.

I will not look for a reason why this happened. We need to do our best in order to resolve this problem and thereby restore the full functionality of the update process. I tried all these steps in the different situations. Sometimes it takes only the single step, but in other cases, all of the steps listed here.



Solving this problem I searched the Internet. I found that lots of the people ask for this problem related to updating. The problem occurs on different versions of the Windows operating system. Moreover, that problem can occur in different stages of the computer’s life. Some people reported that they cannot upgrade the newly installed system. Others had a system that worked and suddenly stopped updating.

Before we continue further, I assume that you have the Internet access. Please, read carefully the instructions in the every step. Avoiding to do so can lead to the serious damage of your operating system and the data lost. In that case you are solely responsible for any consequences that can arise.


Stop the Windows Update service

The first method that I will describe is the simplest. We should remove one specific folder. However, you cannot delete the contents of this folder until you stop the Windows update service. Alternatively, we need to run some updates manually. When the Windows Update service running, manual run may be unsuccessful.

We need to first stop the Windows update service and sometimes the Windows Modules Installer service. This step is very useful and we will repeat it a few times during the whole process. We can do that either from the command line or from the Services MMC graphical console.



Here are the commands from the command line:

net stop wuauserv

net stop TrustedInstaller




Delete the old update packages

This method is very simple indeed. It can help you in many situations. We will delete the contents of the local update cache folder. The Windows Update service will download files again and rebuild the contents with fresh files.

When we unlock the local software repository folder, we can remove it. We can do that either from the command line or from the Windows Explorer. If you want to be careful, you can first rename the target folder and later delete it. Our target folder is on the path C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution or %systemroot%\SoftwareDistribution.

You can use one of these commands:

move %systemroot%\SoftwareDistribution %systemroot%\SoftwareDistribution.old

rd /s /q %systemroot%\SoftwareDistribution

Remember that first command is safer.

We will now start the Windows Update service again. We don’t need to start the Windows Modules Installer service. It will be started by the Windows Update, when it’s needed.

net start wuauserv

We can leave the system to check automatically for the updates or we can manually run the update process. Be patient when you start the update process. This phase can last from just a couple of minutes to maybe 15 minutes or more. That depends on the link speed and the computer load. Try to stop all other running applications and not to use the Internet during this phase.

However, if you still have after 15 minutes a high load on the one CPU core and the Windows Update process is still in the checking phase, you should consider to going on to the next step.


Manually apply some patches

I found that there are two updates that we should manually download and install. The first update (https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/3102810) is related to high CPU utilization during the Windows Update process. The second update (https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/3161608) is cumulative RollUp update pack.

I downloaded both updates on both laptops. However, I solved one laptop in the time. This is the best approach. We avoid to messing anything up. You’re focused on the single problem. Moreover, you should take the notes about the steps you have completed.



This is right moment to mention this. The first laptop is with the Windows Thin PC operating system. This is actually the Windows 7 Embedded Standard operating system. The second one is with the Windows 7 Enterprise x64. Therefore, we should choose an appropriate update from the list.

I ran the procedure to stop the Windows Update service. Then I manually ran this update. You need to confirm that you want to install this update. In case of my second laptop, this update already existed, so I skipped this step.



We need to reboot the computer after successfully installing of the update. It’s highly recommended to reboot every time when changing anything related to the operating system.



After rebooting I downloaded and manually installed the second update. My opinion is that you can skip this first update and go directly to the installation of the second update. At the time of writing this article it is the June 2016 update rollup for Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1. You should always look for the latest Update Rollup package.

If you look on the list of the updates included inside this Rollup Update, you can see that there is one named KB3161647 Windows Update Client for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2: June 2016. That means that we will manually update the Windows Update service client. When, for any reason, we have outdated version of the Windows Update client, we can fix that with this update.

You should perform the installation of this Rollup Update now. Then again reboot your computer. After rebooting you can wait for either the Windows Update service to automatically run on schedule or run manually the Windows Update process. After several minutes we should see a balloon above the system tray with the message that the new updates are available. We need to wait a little longer and voila!



The actual number of the updates can vary between the computers. That depends on the number of the Microsoft products you have and how often you updated your computer. And you are updating it on regular basis, right?

We will run the update process. It will take some time to download and install all listed updates. When it’s complete, we will probably need to restart the computer again. That’s fine. After restarting, we will have the most wanted screen – our computer is fully updated.



In case some updates fail

Sometimes it may happen that some updates fail. That can be related to the existence of some other update, that need to be installed before that which fails. Or something is wrong with the subsystem that you try to update (for example the Dot Net Framework).

As a first step you should try to run the update process again to install those updates. If this fails again, you should have some error code in form of the number, like 8004005. Then you need to search on the Internet for the meaning (or an explanation) of that code.

I will share with you one trick about the Dot Net Framework. All updates are installed, but two related to the Dot Net 4.0. I found that error code is 66A. After some investigation, I found the solution to repair the installation of the Dot Net 4.0 Client Profile.

I went to the Control Panel, then to the Programs and Features. I found the Microsoft .Net Framework 4 Client Profile. Then I right-click on it and choose the Uninstall/Change option. I ran it. On the newly opened window I chose the option to repair the installation. I again run the updates after the repair process and both .Net updates applied without errors.


6 thoughts on “When the Windows 7 update fails

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