It’s not unusual for Windows updates to get stuck. Many machines become trapped in an endless try/fail cycle and the cause of the problem can be difficult to spot. From a security perspective, it’s vital to have an up to date machine and with Windows 11 just around the corner, your machine will need to be running correctly to receive Microsoft’s latest version of the operating system.
We’ve got five simple fixes which should unblock your machine and get the updates running again.
Before we begin, use our guide to check which version of Windows is installed on your machine so you can gauge if any progress is being made.
Fix 1: Force the Issue
Let’s start with the simplest fix. The Windows updater is renowned for muddling its downloads, so a way to force the issue is to visit Microsoft’s Media Creation Toolkit website.
Depending on the age of your machine, internet connection speed and specific phases of the moon, Windows updates can take a phenomenal amount of time – particularly the larger ‘feature updates’. To give your machine a sporting chance, it’s easier to download the Windows update directly to your hard drive or to a USB stick, and then perform the update offline.
Take a trip to Microsoft’s Media Creation Toolkit website. To get the installer, select Download Now and run the file. Accept the license agreement and select Create installation media (USB flash, DVD or ISO file) for another PC.
The next screen allows you to select language, architecture and edition. If the Use the recommended options for this PC is selected, Windows should sort itself out.
The next screen has two options, so select the second one, ISO file. If you’re short of space or you’re trying to unblock a different machine, then follow our guide “How can I create a Windows 10 USB boot device?“. Select a save location for the ISO file – desktop is handy – and the download will begin. When complete, select finish (unless you want to burn a DVD).
Double click the downloaded ISO and then select setup from the window which appears. The procedure from this point is pretty straightforward, but keep an eye out for the Ready to install window.
Ensure that there is a tick in both Install Windows 10 Home/Pro and Keep personal files and app otherwise you’ll wonder why your software has evaporated. Click Install and Windows will get on with it.
Fix 2: Driver updates
If your Windows updates are still stuck then the next solution is to perform a driver update. Some out of date chipset drivers have been known to halt a stampeding update in its tracks, so let’s eliminate this from our enquiries. If you have a branded computer then visit the manufacturer’s website and search for your product – you should find a long list of compatible drivers.
If your machine is a custom build or you’re unsure as to what’s inside the box then Speccy will give you quick overview. On the other hand, if you reckon life’s too short for that sort of nonsense, try an automatic driver updater like Drivermax.
Now jump back to Fix 2 and try again.
Fix 3: Update reset
Still not working? Don’t panic, we’re not done yet. Download the Windows Update Troubleshooter from the Microsoft website.
Run the application and select Windows Update from the list of options. Click Next, select Try troubleshooting as an administrator, select Windows update (again) and click Next (seriously Microsoft, JFDI). It’ll whip through your system and correct any obvious errors.
If this still doesn’t find anything interesting then try a Windows’s file check.
For this we’ll need a command prompt, so press the Windows key to open the menu and type CMD. Right click on the Command Prompt icon and select Run as Administrator. In the box which appears type the following command:
dism.exe /Online /Cleanup-image /Restorehealth
Again, depending on machine speed and drive capacity, this may take a while. Eventually it’ll finish and, hopefully, will have cleaned up any gremlins.
Whilst the Command Prompt is open, type in this command:
SFC is System File Check and it’s another easy tool that’ll run through the system looking for things which are not right.
Whilst the bonnet is up, run this one too:
This command is Check disk and it’ll perform a quick test of your hard drive and display a report. The /f and /r tell the command to fix any errors and recover data from any bad sectors.
After you’ve tried all these, whizz back up to fix 2 and try again.
Fix 4: Flash the firmware
Recently we’ve seen a few updates halted by out of date firmware. This is the software stored within a chip on the motherboard which is responsible for the low-level elements of the machine – but also controls how Windows interacts with the hardware. Firmware is also known as UEFI or BIOS and can be updated with a download from the manufacturer’s website. The exact process will depend on your machine. I’ve picked an Asus Prime B550M-K as an example.
Follow our guide on how to format a USB stick as Fat 32, then download the BIOS file from the website and copy the unzipped file to the USB stick. Most systems have some sort of update tool, so check the device’s manual for guidance.
In our example, the manual has a step-by-step guide on how to use the EZ Flash utility. If you’re using HP, Dell or Lenovo then the HP Support Assistant, Dell Update or Lenovo Vantage tools may also help to update the firmware.
Once the flashing procedure has finished (and it can take a little while), reboot Windows and try Fix 2 again.
Still not updating?
If none of these fixes cure your stuck Windows updates, then you may have a hardware fault or perhaps a component inside the machine is blocking the process (some wireless cards are notorious for this). If you require professional diagnostics then contact your friendly neighbourhood computer shop for a quote.
Worst comes to worst, you could throw caution to the wind (only after throwing your precious data to a backup) and follow our guide on how to reset Windows.