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How to approach and resolve Windows 10 update problems

When users run into Windows 10 update problems, admins must identify the causes, which can include connectivity disruptions and mishaps with the System Reserved partition.

Windows Update has been a staple of the Windows OS for many years, and Windows 10 is no exception. Still, Windows 10 update problems are relatively common. Fortunately, diagnosing the cause of such problems and fixing them is usually an easy process.

Windows Update normally works well, but a number of conditions can cause problems with the update process. When that happens, admins can take some simple steps to check for the causes of the Windows 10 update problems, or they can use the Windows Update Troubleshooter to diagnose the issues.

What to do first with Windows 10 update problems

Make sure the device has connectivity: It might seem basic, but step one of troubleshooting Windows Update failures is to make sure the device can access the internet. After all, Windows Update cannot check for updates or download updates if it cannot connect to the internet.

Check the error code: If Windows Update fails, the error message is accompanied by an error code. The best move is to use a search engine to look up what the code means. Often, a quick internet search can reveal the cause of the Windows Update failure and free admins from troubleshooting the problem themselves. The search results may be unhelpful, which leaves admins to troubleshoot the problem without the aid of the internet.

Check the hardware specifications: Admins can also check to make sure the device meets Windows 10's minimum hardware requirements. Errors 0xC1900200-0x20008 and 0xC1900202-0x20008, for example, typically indicate the device's hardware does not comply with the minimum specifications the update requires. The device might not have enough memory or a fast enough processor, for example.

Problems with the System Reserved partition

When admins install Windows, the installer usually creates a System Reserved partition separate from the partition the C drive uses. The OS uses the System Reserved partition during the update process. Errors such as 0x800F0922 or 0xC1900104 commonly stem from problems with the System Reserved partition.

All newer Windows OSes create a System Reserved partition as a part of the installation process. Admins can run into problems if someone removed the System Reserved partition manually. This can happen when users try to reclaim "wasted" hard disk space by deleting the System Reserved partition.

Windows 10 update problems can also occur if the System Reserved partition exists but does not have an adequate amount of space available. Windows controls the size of the System Reserved partition, so users shouldn't normally have any problems with the partition being too small. There are third-party security utilities, however, that write to the System Reserved partition and could potentially leave the partition without enough space to handle the OS update.

If nothing else works, admins can use the Windows Update Troubleshooter.

Admins can use the Disk Management console to check for the existence of the System Reserved partition. Disk Management also shows admins how much space is available on the partition (Figure A). Admins can access Disk Management by entering the diskmgmt.msc command at the Run prompt.

Disk Management console
Figure A. The Disk Management console shows admins the partitions that exist on the system.

Windows is low on space

Similarly, Windows Update can fail if the OS is low on space. If admins suspect this to be the problem, they can use Disk Cleanup to reclaim some of their storage space. To do so, open File Explorer, right-click on the OS volume -- usually the C drive -- and select the Properties command from the shortcut menu. When the disk's Properties sheet appears, go to the General tab and click the Disk Cleanup button (Figure B).

Disk Cleanup
Figure B. Click the Disk Cleanup button to look for ways of reclaiming disk space.

The Windows Update Troubleshooter

If nothing else works, admins can use the Windows Update Troubleshooter (Figure C), which checks for conditions known to cause Windows 10 update problems. In many cases, the tool can fix the problem automatically.

Windows Update Troubleshooter
Figure C. The Windows Update Troubleshooter looks for common update problems.

Next Steps

How to deal with Windows Update issues

What to do when Windows 10 fails to activate

Explore four common Windows 10 problems

This was last published in June 2017

Dig Deeper on Microsoft Windows 10 operating system

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