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How can IT fix Windows Update issues?

Microsoft offers some built-in troubleshooting methods to resolve Windows Update problems. There are also some third-party options IT should be aware of.

From time to time, Windows Update may get stuck or experience a variety of issues when downloading or installing...


For example, Windows Update issues may occur when it is:

  • Unable to download or install updates using Check for updates in Start > Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update; or
  • Unable to clear the Restart needed flag set following an installation of cumulative and other types of updates, no matter how many restarts the user performs.

There is a well-defined set of tools to help with these Windows Update issues and a sequence of actions you can take as an IT professional to reset Windows Update when some or all of the preceding symptoms present themselves.

Microsoft Update Catalog and other troubleshooting techniques

Check the Microsoft Update Catalog. Sometimes, Windows Update issues arise from a single sticking point with a particular update. In that case, you should visit the Microsoft Update Catalog, where you can search for the problem update's Microsoft Knowledge Base number.

If you download the update version that corresponds to your install version of Windows 10, you can often install the update manually if Windows Update refuses to install it automatically.

Try Windows Update Troubleshooter. Microsoft offers two versions of the Windows Update Troubleshooter. The local version is built into Windows 10 and is accessible via the following pathway: Start > Settings > Update & Security > Troubleshoot > Windows Update. The other version, which does the same thing, is available online as a Windows 10 download from the Microsoft Support pages. You should use the local version first. If it doesn't work then you can turn to the online version. Either way, you can use Windows Update Troubleshooter to reset various services, restore the Windows Update files and database, and more.

Windows Update MiniTool, for example, can completely replace Windows Update.

Perform a Windows Update reset or an upgrade repair install. When a troubleshooting tool can't fix your Windows Update issues, you have two choices, both of which require some time.

A full-blown Windows Update reset can take 30-45 minutes. By comparison, an in-place upgrade repair install -- which essentially overwrites the OS files on an existing Windows 10 installation, including the Windows Update facility and supporting files and services, while leaving files, applications and some settings as is -- takes 15-30 minutes to complete on most reasonably capable PCs.

Try a third-party alternative

If Microsoft's troubleshooting tools don't address your Windows Update issues, you can try a third-party tool.

Windows Update MiniTool, for example, can completely replace Windows Update and uses its own software to contact the Windows Update servers independently of the built-in Windows 10 update checks.

MiniTool not only works when Windows Update does not, but it can also often fix whatever is ailing Windows Update. As a result, once Windows Update MiniTool fixes things for you, you can go back to using Windows Update.

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What is the biggest problem that can result from a failed Windows Update?

We have the bulk of our Windows 10 Pro workstations set on the Semi-Annual with 365 day deferral for Feature Updates.

Yet, 1803 updated on some of them on August 15th. 

What are we doing wrong?

I see numerous reports that certain specific Windows Updates reset or bypass deferrals. There are other methods to deal with this issue. I wrote about using a special "wrapper" program for the Windows Update MiniTool at TenForums.com in a post entitled "Stop Windows 10 Updates Properly and Completely." You may want to read it, but follow the thread to its end to make sure you grab the most current version of the wrapper if and when you choose to deploy it.
I am so glad to see the issue of Windows updates addressed. I hope I can find resolution. My updates download over and over in failed update attempts. It eats up (my very expensive) bandwidth and decreases the lifetime of my SSD in addition to being an enormous aggravation. I tried for a month to get one update installed, eating up days of valuable work time. I finally capitulated and had to reformat my drive and start over. That put me out of operation for about another 4 days as I re-installed my software critical software. This leaves me with a lot of resentment toward Windows' programmers.
Your annoyance should be directed at Microsoft management, not the programmers. Yes, programmers make mistakes, like any other engineers, and they should be caught by a healthy Quality Assurance team. From the number of long-standing bugs in Windows 10 it's clear that QA no longer exists in Microsoft. It's a disgrace, but what's more worrying is that its absence could bring Microsoft to ruin by escalating support costs and falling revenues. 
Dear Ftyhnne:
Couldn't agree with you more, from the standpoint that some of these situations simply shouldn't be appearing in publicly-released, production level code. That said, there are always many more systems (with many more idiosyncracies or unexpected and hitherto unencountered configurations) in the field than in the lab (and the Insider program population). Some surprises are bound to appear, but one would hope they'd be addressed more urgently an expeditiously. Sigh.
Indeed, sometimes Windows Update gets so bollixed that a clean install becomes the only viable option. I've been there myself recently with both of my Dell test machines (a Dell Venue Pro 11 7130 and a Dell XPS 2720, both sporting Haswell vintage processors). The key is to watch the time spent "fixing" things and to pull the plug when more than a couple of hours gets expended. Anything more than that is just a pure waste of your precious time. Sorry for your troubles!