How to fix Windows failing to download and install updates

4 ways to fix Windows 10 failing to download and install updates

Windows 10 is the successor to Windows 8 and Microsoft’s best operating system to date. From its launch back in 2015, Microsoft has been continuously updating Windows 10, improving security, stability, and performance. Microsoft’s free upgrade program, allowing users to upgrade to Windows 10 from older versions of the OS, worked out very well. Currently, more than 73% of Windows PCs run Windows 10.

Microsoft has changed the way updates are installed for Windows 10. Users can no longer select which updates, patches, driver software, and feature updates to install. Hence, users have little to no control over the updating process. Users can only choose whether Windows will reboot automatically to install updates or receive notifications to schedule a reboot. Therefore, all updates are downloaded and installed automatically all at once.

How to fix Windows 10 failing to download and Install updates

Under the Windows end-user license agreement (EULA), users agree to the installation of all automatic updates, drivers, and patches provided by Microsoft as well as the removal or modification of updates without further notice.

Windows 10 updates are downloaded directly from Microsoft’s servers. However, in addition to that, updates can use a peer to peer distribution system with a user’s bandwidth being used to distribute the latest download updates to other users. Users can also choose to get updates via peer-to-peer only.

Windows 10 support lifecycle is dependant on cumulative updates as each new update is built upon all of the updates that preceded it. Therefore, the operating system needs to install the latest updates to remain supported. Still, to receive all of the updates, a device’s hardware must be compatible, drivers must be available, and the device must be within the OEM’s support period.

Nevertheless, in some instances, Windows may download that cause compatibility issues. To address this problem, Microsoft has implemented a troubleshooter program that allows bad updates to be uninstalled.

In October 2020, Microsoft released the eleventh stable build of Windows 10. The updated version. The update added new features that included “theme-aware” tiles in the Start Menu, an improved version of Microsoft Edge based on Chromium, new personalization options for the taskbar, as well as improvements to notifications, tablet mode, and Modern Device Management. Furthermore, in the latest build, the System tab in Control Panel was moved to the About page in Settings.

Now, as polished as Windows 10 appears to be, some users still experience problems with it. Windows 10 failing to download and install updates is among the most frequent issues that users encounter.

As previously mentioned, updates are mandatory, so unless you disable them entirely, Windows will install all of the available updates available at the time. However, in some cases, updates can be enabled, and Windows can accumulate pending updates but won’t download or install them even though Windows Update says updates are available.

There’s a variety of reasons why Windows can’t download updates, which include a poor Internet connection, corrupted system files, corrupted SoftwareDistribution folder, stopped Windows update-related background services, and so on.

Furthermore, Windows might stop updating after installing the Creators Update, which is the most recent major update for Windows 10. Also, using a proxy can prevent Windows from downloading updates as well.

Since there can be multiple reasons why your Windows Updates remain in limbo, we have compiled a list of methods that can help you resolve this issue and allow Windows to update. You may have to try several methods until you find the one that works for you. Please see the instructions below. You can also watch our video guide found below that shows all of the steps in more detail.

Table of Contents:

Method 1. Run Windows Update troubleshooter

You should start troubleshooting the issue of Windows not downloading and installing updates by running the Windows Update Troubleshooter, which was designed to resolve all update-related problems.

Open the Start Menu and type Control Panel and click the result

1. Open the Start Menu, type Control Panel, and click the result.

Select Large icon view

2. Select the Large Icons view to reveal the Troubleshooting menu.

Click Troubleshooting

3. Click Troubleshooting.

Click Fix problems with Windows Update

4. then, click Fix problems with windows update.

Click Advanced

5. Click Advanced.

Tick Apply repairs automatically

6. Check the Apply repairs automatically checkbox if it's unchecked and click Next.

6. If the troubleshooter detects any problems, it will prompt you to apply the fix or skip it.

7. Click Apply fix, and the issue will be resolved.

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Method 2. Start all Windows Update services manually

If one or more of the Windows Update-related services have been stopped, then the updater will be unable to initiate the download of updates. Therefore, you ought to start these services to resolve the issue.

1. Simultaneously hold down Windows+R keys to open Run.

Type in Services.msc and click OK

2. Type in services.msc and click OK.

Right-click Windows Update service and click Properties

3. Locate the Windows Update service, right-click it and click Properties.

Set Windows Update service to start automatically

4. Open the Startup type drop-down menu and select Automatic.

5. If the service is stopped, click Start under the Service status menu.

6. Click Apply and click OK.

Right-click BITS and click Properties

7. Then, locate the Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS), right-click it, and click Properties.

Set BITS to start automatically

8. Open the Startup type drop-down menu and select Automatic.

9. If the service is stopped, click Start under the Service status menu.

10. Click Apply and click OK.

Right-click Cryptographic Services and click Properties

11. Finally, locate the Cryptographic Services, right-click it, and click Properties.

set Cryptographic Services to start automatically

12. Open the Startup type drop-down menu and select Automatic.

13. If the service is stopped, click Start under the Service status menu.

14. Click Apply and click OK.

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Method 3. Rename SoftwareDistribution folder

If the first two solutions described above don’t work, you can fix the issue via elevated Command prompt. This method is for fixing the SoftwareDistribution folder if it was corrupted.

1. Simultaneously hold down Windows+R keys to open Run.

Type CMD in Run and click OK

2. Type in CMD and simultaneously hold down Shift+Ctrl+Enter to open the Command prompt with administrative privileges.

Enter commands to stop Windows Update services

3. Enter the following commands  and press Enter after typing in each individual one. Executing these commands will stop Windows Update-related services.

  • net stop wuauserv
  • net stop cryptSvc
  • net stop bits
  • net stop msiserver

Enter the commands to rename the SoftwareDistribution folder

4. Then, enter the following two commands to rename SoftwareDistribution and hit Enter after typing in each individual command.

  • ren C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution SoftwareDistribution.old
  • ren C:\Windows\System32\catroot2 catroot2.old

Enter the commands to start Windows Update services

5. Finally, enter the following commands and press Enter after typing in each individual one. Executing these commands will start Windows Update-related services.

  • net start wuauserv
  • net start cryptSvc
  • net start bits
  • net start msiserver

6. Reboot your PC.

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Method 4. Reset Windows 10 using Recovery

Note that using this method will allow you to keep all of your files but will remove all of the applications you’ve installed.

Open the Start Menu, type in Check for updates and click the result

1. Open the Start menu, type Check for Updates, and click the result.

Click Recovery

2. Click Recovery located on the left side of the window.

Click Get started

3. Click Get Started.

Click Keep files

4. Select Keep My Files.

Click Local reinstall

5. Select Local reinstall.

Click Next

6. Click Next.

Click Reset

7. Click Reset.

8. Wait for the resetting process to complete. This process will take a while, so be patient.

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Video guide on how to fix Windows failing to download and install updates

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About the author:

Tomas Meskauskas

I am passionate about computer security and technology. I have an experience of 10 years working in various companies related to computer technical issue solving and Internet security. I have been working as an editor for pcrisk.com since 2010. Follow me on Twitter to stay informed about the latest tech news or online security threats. Contact Tomas Meskauskas.

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