[Easy Fixes] Windows Update Failed

If you have been working with Windows for some time, you will probably have faced this scenario: Windows Update Failed. For some reason, the  updates failed partially, or did not get installed altogether.

And although Microsoft has been trying to improve things, failed updates happen will all versions of Windows, up to Windows 10.

Windows Update Failed – Common Error Codes

The reasons why Windows Update Failed are various. And as a result, there are many error codes associated with this problem. Some are generic, while others pertain to a specific update or specific problem.

Here are some examples of error codes that are linked to failed Windows updates:

0x800705b4 – related to Windows Defender
0x800F0906, 0x800F081F, 0x800F0907 – .NET framework related
0x800F0922 – Windows 10 upgrade related
0x80240034 – downloading of update(s) failed
0x80242006​ – update contains invalid metadata
0x80244018​ – Internet connection related
0x80070070​ – disk space related

Some other examples are: 0x8007000E, 0x80D02002​, 0x8007000D​, 0x80246008​, 0x80096004​.

This list is definitely not complete. Sometimes there is a useful error description, but often it is not quite clear what caused the Windows Update process to fail.

Windows Update Failed – Common Causes

The obvious question to ask is: what caused the Windows Update to fail?

As in many cases with complex software, there can be quite a few causes. It is important to realize that the update process is basically a sequence of downloading and installing software. So availability of the source, a reliable connection for the download, and storage space for the download are the first essentials. But after that, the execution of the update installation can still cause problems.

To sum it up, the common causes for Windows Update to fail are:

  • Insufficient disk space – space is needed for storing the downloaded updates, as well as for the execution of the update installation.
  • Dependencies – An update can depend on something like a specific version of the .NET framework being installed, or a specific service having been started.
  • Failed previous updates – If a previous update has failed, it might have left (partial) installation files behind, or installed only partially causing problems with the next update.
  • Install sequence – If you have a lot of updates pending, all are downloaded in one go and installed once downloaded. If a specific sequence is required for some updates, this might fail.
  • Hardware incompatibility – In general, Windows prevents installing updates on incompatible systems. But there is a reason why Windows 10 is not supported on older systems. Hardware conflicts and limitations can definitely cause problems with software being installed.
  • Driver incompatibility – Windows 10, by default, includes device driver updates in the install process. If a new driver version is incompatible with the hardware version present, the update may fail.
  • Corrupt update files – This can be the result of download issues, where the update files did not completely download correctly.

Given the possible causes above, this also means that there are some relatively simple steps that can help solve Windows Update Failed situations.

Windows Update Failed – SIMPLE FIXES You Can Try Now

Try these steps – preferably in this sequence – to see if they are the cause of your Windows Update problem.

Check your disk space and free up space if needed. Although Windows Update reserves space for update files, it is still possible that a disk space limitation is the cause of the problem. Just check the available disk space on the system drive (check the Properties for the C: drive in most cases). And run a disk cleanup to free up some more space.

Restart your PC and try again – If the installation sequence is important for the updates being installed, simply reboot your computer and restart Windows Update to fix the issue.

Select which updates to install – If you are running other Microsoft software (like Office), it can help to limit Windows Update to the core only.

Using the Advanced options in Windows Update, you can tell Windows to not Receive updates for other Microsoft products when you update Windows.

Disable updates for other MS products

Unplug external devices – In most cases, this will pertain to USB devices. Examples are printers, scanners, webcams, end external drives. Make sure not to unplug the mouse and keyboard if they are connected through a USB port, because then you can’t reboot the PC anymore.

Unplugging external devices can also help in case the Windows Update failed as a result of driver updates, or hardware incompatibility. It is also possible to disable automatic driver updates in Windows. That will prevent new driver updates from being downloaded automatically. Simply update the drivers after the Windows Update problems are resolved.

We recommend downloading DriverFinder for this. DriverFinder is a separate driver update program that will find the right – and latest – drivers for all your hardware.

After unplugging the devices, restart your PC and try Windows Update again.

Windows Update Failed – DEEP DIVE Fixes

Reset the Windows Update Cache

As with many computer actions, the Windows Update process uses temporary storage. One such element is called the Windows Update Cache. It is also referred to as the SoftwareDistribution directory.

Clearing the Windows Update cache is really nothing more than deleting the SoftwareDistribution directory (or its content). But since this file location is used by the Windows Update service, you can’t delete it when this service is running.

To delete the SoftwareDistribution directory:

  1. In the Search box on the taskbar, type ‘command’.
  2. In the Search results, right-click the Command Prompt.
  3. In the popup menu, click Run as administrator.
    Windows 10 Administrator Command Prompt
  4. When the User Account Control window shows, click the Yes button.
  5. Once the Command Prompt window shows, type the following commands (press Enter after each command).
    net stop wuauserv
    net stop bits
    rd /s /q %windir%SoftwareDistribution
    net start wuauserv
    net start bits
    Windows 10 - Clear Update Cache
    Note: If you are not comfortable deleting the SoftwareDistribution directory, you can rename it rather than deleting it (ren %windir%SoftwareDistribution SoftwareDistribution.bak).
  6. Close the Command Prompt window, and then retry Windows Update.

If for some reason these steps fail or seem too complicated for you, there is another way.

To ensure the SoftwareDistribution directory can be deleted, you can start your PC in Safe Mode.

  1. Click the Start menu icon, and in the Start menu click Settings.
    Windows 10 Settings
  2. In the Settings window, click the Update & Security option (last entry, so depending on the size of the window, you might need to scroll down).
    Windows 10 Update & Security
  3. Next, select the Recovery option.
    Windows 10 Update Recovery
  4. And finally, click the Restart now button in the Recovery window.
    Windows 10 Recovery Restart
  5. Once your PC restarts, you will see the Choose an option screen. Select Troubleshoot.
  6. In the Troubleshoot screen (next step), select Advanced options.
  7. In the Advanced options screen, select Startup Settings.
  8. The last step here is to click the Restart button in the Startup Settings screen.
    Windows 10 Recovery Restart
  9. Again the PC will reboot, after which you will see a list of options. Press the 4 or F4 key on your keyboard to start the PC in Safe Mode.
    Windows 10 Startup Settings
  10. Once Windows starts, you can open a File Explorer window, navigate to the Windows folder (typically C:Windows) and delete the SoftwareDistribution folder.
    Tip: Press and hold Shift and then Delete to permanently delete the folder rather than moving it to the recycle bin.
    Winodws 10 SoftwareDistribution folder
  11. After this, reboot your PC again (it will start in normal boot mode), and retry the Windows Update.

Run the System File Checker

The System File Checker, or SFC, does exactly what the name says: it will check and repair system files. This tool has been part of Windows since Windows XP and is still present in Windows 10.

The exact function of the tools is described as “Scans the integrity of all protected system files and replaces incorrect versions with Microsoft versions”. This is a useful tool to use for many Windows problems, not just if Windows Updates failed.

How to run the System File Checker.

  1. Open a Command Prompt window with Administrator access.
  2. For Windows 8 and later it is recommended to run the DSIM tool before running the SFC tool. DSIM (or full: Deployment Image Servicing and Management) can be executed using the command: DISM /online /cleanup-image /restorehealthWindows 10 run DSIM
    Note: Like the SFC command, the DSIM command can take a bit of time to complete.
  3. In the Command Prompt window type the command: SFC /SCANNOW and press the Enter key.
    Windows 10 run SFC / SCANNOW
  4. Now, wait for the command to complete. This can take some time.
    Windows 10 SFC complete
  5. Once the command completes, close the Command Prompt window and restart the computer.

Run the Windows Update again after this to check if the issue is resolved.

Download and Install Updates Manually

Although it is best to have the automatic update process install Windows updates, it is possible to download and install them manually.

Microsoft has a download page for Windows 10. This page can be used to download the Windows 10 upgrade tool and Windows 10 installation media. Useful if you need a copy of Windows 10 installation files to recover corrupted system files, or if you need to reinstall Windows 10.

Apart from that, major updates can also be downloaded from there.

For individual Windows Updates, you need to visit the Windows Update Catalog. There you can search for individual updates (KB numbers).

To know which updates to search for, simply go to the View update history (in the Windows Update settings).
View Windows 10 Update History

Look for the entries that show “Failed” instead of “Successfully” and take note of the KBxxxxxxx number.

Now visit the Windows Update Catalog in a browser. Type the KB number in the search field, and click Search.
Microsoft Update Catalog

Use the Download button to download the update manually. If more than one result shows, you typically want to download the top one (newest date).

After you click the Download button, a new window will show with a link to the .CAB file. Click the link to download the file.
Download Cab file from MS Update Catalog

Once the file completes downloading, you can open the file. In this example, which uses an Edge browser update, simply click the Open file link. This will open a Windows Explorer window with the default download folder selected.

The file should be an .MSI file (Microsoft Installer), which can be executed by double-clicking it. You can also select it and press Enter on the keyboard.

Follow the installation instructions presented to complete the installation of the Windows Update.

Disable Your Anti-Virus Software

This solution should really only be used if all others fail since you will put your PC at risk for a short while. But in some cases, the download of Windows Update files does not complete due to Windows Defender or another AV program.

IMPORTANT: Make sure you re-enable the your anti-virus software immediately after completing the Windows Update!

How to disable Windows Defender in Windows 10.

  1. In the Search box on the taskbar, type ‘windows defender’.
  2. In the Search results, click the Windows Defender Firewall icon.
    Windows 10 Open Defender
  3. This will bring up the Windows Defender Firewall windows. Click the link named Turn Windows Defender Firewall on or off.
    Windows Defender Settings
  4. In the Customize Settings window, select the radio button labeled Turn off Windows Defender Firewall (not recommended) in the Private network settings section.
    Windows 10 Disable Windows Defender
  5. Click the OK button to confirm.
  6. Close the Windows Defender Firewall window.

With Windows Defender disabled, run Windows Update again to see if the problem is resolved.

Check Your PC’s Download Settings

Disable LAN-Proxy Settings

If you’re using a proxy, try disabling it to see if it will fix the update failure issue.

  1. In the Search box on the taskbar, type ‘internet options’.
  2. In the Search results, click the Internet Options icon.
    Windows 10 Internet Options
  3. This will open the Internet Properties dialog box. Select the Connection tab (1).
  4. Now click the LAN settings button (2).
    Internet Connection Properties
  5. This will bring up the Local Area Network (LAN) Settings window. Make sure you have the checkbox named Automatically detect settings selected.
  6. In the same window, also make sure you have the checkbox named Use a proxy server for your LAN (…) unchecked.
    LAN Disable Proxy
  7. Click the OK button to confirm.
  8. Click the OK button in the Internet Properties dialog box.

After this, try Windows Update again.

Background Intelligent Transfer Service

BITS is short for Background Intelligent Transfer Service. Windows update uses this service to download updates in the background, while you can still actively use your Internet connection.

So just make sure the BITS service is running properly on your system using these steps:

  1. In the Search box on the taskbar, type ‘services
  2. In the Search results, click the Services App icon.
    Start Windows 10 Services App
  3. This will bring up the Services window. Scroll down in the list until you see the Background Intelligent Transfer Service.
    Tip: You can widen the Name column by clicking and dragging the header separator (1).
  4. Right-click the Background Intelligent Transfer Service line, and in the popup menu, select Properties (2).
    BITS service
  5. This will bring up the BITS Properties window, with the General tab selected. Change the Startup type to Automatic (Delayed Start).
    Automatically start BITS in Windows 10
    Note: This change will ensure the BITS service is started automatically when the computer starts. The Delayed Start option will result in the service being started after all other services, which can reduce startup times.
  6. Click the OK button to confirm.
  7. Finally, close the Services window.

After this,  restart your system and try Windows Update.

Hardware Devices and Drivers

As mentioned earlier, hardware device and driver compatibility issues can Windows Updates to fail.

Drivers are a critical part of the Windows operating system as they ensure all devices function properly. But that also results in driver problems often being the cause for failed Windows Updates.

Unplugging external, non-essential devices is a first step in trying to fix Windows Update failed errors (if caused by devices or drivers).

Disabling automatic driver updates in Windows is another step to exclude drivers from being updated by Windows. This will help if the hardware device that is causing problems cannot be disconnected/removed.

After either of these two steps, run Windows Update again to see if the problem is fixed.

If none of the above works, try the Windows Update Driver Cleanup feature.

If driver updates are a reason for a Windows Update to fail, you can try to clean up existing or old driver installation files. It can be done with a single command.

  1. Simply open a command prompt with administrator-level access (see earlier instructions in this article).
  2. In the Command Prompt window type the command:
    rundll32.exe pnpclean.dll,RunDLL_PnpClean /DEVICES /DRIVERS /FILES /MAXCLEAN
    And then press the Enter key.
    The command will complete without showing any output in the Command Prompt window. The result of this command is actually added to a log file C:WindowsINFsetupapi.dev.log. So if you are interested in the details, open that file and scroll down to the bottom of the file for the latest changes.
  3. Close the Command Prompt window.

After that, run the Windows Update process again to see if your problem is solved.

Specific Tips for Windows 10

NOTE: ALL of the above troubleshooting tips can also be tried if you’re using Windows 10. The following though are specific to this particular Windows version.

In Windows 10, Microsoft has incorporated a special Update Troubleshooter. It analyzes the system for common causes and problems related to failed Windows Updates. If it finds a problem, it will try to fix it automatically.

Run the Windows Update Troubleshooter

  1. Click the Start menu button, and in the Start menu, click Settings.
  2. In the Settings window, select Update & Security.
  3. Next, select Troubleshoot, and then click the link called Additional troubleshooters.
    Windows Update Failed - addional troubleshooters
  4. Now, click the Windows Update option under Get up and running, and then click the Run the troubleshooter button.
    Run Windows 10 Update Troubleshooter
  5. The Windows Update troubleshooter will start analyzing the system. Wait for it to complete. Any problems that were found (and fixed) are shown in the window.
    Windows 10 Troubleshooter Complete
  6. After completion, click the option to Close the troubleshooter.
  7. Restart your PC and run the Windows Update again.

If after restarting, Windows Update fails again, try running the Windows Update troubleshooter a second time.

Pause and Un-Pause Windows 10 Updates

Although this might seem like a strange suggestion, pausing the updates will clear the downloaded updates. So un-pausing the updates after this might fix your problems with Windows Update.

In Windows 10 follow these instructions:

  1. Click the Windows Start button, and then click Settings.
  2. In the Settings window, click Update & Recovery.
  3. Next, select Windows Update.
  4. In the Window Update window, select Advanced options.
    Windows Update Advanced options
  5. In the Advanced options screen, scroll down until you see the Pause updates option.
  6. Click the Select date control and simply select a date in the future. Since we are just pausing the updates briefly, the duration of the pause period does not matter.
    Windows 10 Pause Updates
  7. No need to save anything. Once you changed the date, close the Settings window and restart your PC.
  8. After the PC restarts, go to the Settings again, select Update & Recovery, and then Windows Update.
  9. It will show Updates paused. Click the Resume updates button to un-pause the Windows Update process.
    Windows 10 Resume Updates

Windows will immediately start checking for updates again and hopefully complete downloading and installing updates after this.

Windows Update Failed – Still Not Solved?!?

If Windows Update still keeps failing, try skipping an update.

Of course, this needs to be assessed on an individual scenario basis. Critical security updates should not be skipped, while optional, non-essential updates can be.

If nothing works, and critical updates fail, or too many updates fail, the only real solution might be to do a fresh install of Windows on your system.