In the wake of recent Windows updates, lots of users have reported issues with Windows Update. This reminded me that there’s a built-in troubleshooter in Windows 10. Other recent versions of Windows — 7, 8, and 8.1, that is — required a Fix-It download from Microsoft instead. By contrast, Windows 10 users and admins have it easier: they need only type “trouble” into Cortana, then select the “Troubleshooting” Control Panel widget. From there, they can select “Fix problems with Windows Update” under the System and Security setting. This launches the Windows Update Troubleshooter.
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The Windows Update (WU) troubleshooter tackles most common update issues automatically.
What Does the Windows Update Troubleshooter Do?
As it runs, the Windows Update Troubleshooter performs three sets of actions:
1. It shuts down Windows Update Services and the associated Background Intelligent Transfer Services (BITS)
2. It renames the download target folder for updates from %windir%\SoftwareDistribution to …\SoftwareDistribution.old, and creates a new, empty \SoftwareDistribution folder. This clears the download cache to let WU start over afresh. This also means you’ll lose your current Update History, too. The troubleshooter also checks and, if necessary, repairs or instantiates (missing) registry keys for Windows Update.
3. It turns WU and BITS services back on.
Note also the “Advanced” button in the preceding screenshot. It’s important to click it, so you can run the troubleshooter with elevated privileges. That is, you must click the “Run as administrator” link, after checking the box next to “Apply repairs automatically.”
After clicking “Advanced,” click “Try troubleshooting as administrator” to safely mess with system files.
What if the Windows Update Troubleshooter Doesn’t fix WU?
If you run the troubleshooter, and WU still isn’t working, you can perform the same steps the troubleshooter automates from a Safe Boot into Windows. This is admirably described in an article at HowToGeek.com in step-by-step fashion, so I won’t repeat that information. Find it at “How to Fix Windows Update When It Gets Stuck,” in the final section entitled “Fix Windows Update by Deleting Its Cache Manually.” The story is dated 3/28/16, but still applies to the latest Windows 10 versions (the Anniversary Update, Build 1607, as I write this post).