Think Windows updates broke your PC? This is what to do

Windows Update exists to keep Windows and other Microsoft programs up to date, usually with little intervention on our part. This includes security updates that are released on Patch Tuesday.

Unfortunately, sometimes one or more of those patches cause problems, ranging from serious ones, such as error messages that prevent Windows from starting, to less serious ones, such as video or audio problems.

If you’re sure the problem you’re experiencing started only after one or more Windows updates, whether manual, automatic, Patch Tuesday, or otherwise, read on for help on what to do next. This might also be a good time to check out our Windows Updates & Patch Tuesday FAQ page if you haven’t already.

Any of Microsoft’s operating systems can experience problems after installing Windows updates, including versions of Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, and Windows Server.

Read the sections How to use this troubleshooting guide and Are you sure this is a problem caused by a Windows update? before continuing with the troubleshooting steps? To get your PC back up and running, you need to understand how this troubleshooting is organized and make sure that the problem is most likely caused by a Windows update.

How to use this troubleshooting guide

Normally we wouldn’t explain how to use a troubleshooting guide, but since you have the great fortune of a theory about the cause of your problem, the help that we provide below is structured a bit differently than other tutorials that we provide. we’ve created where you work through some other problem with a completely unknown cause.

That said, the first thing you should do is read the section Are you sure this is a problem caused by a Windows update?

Even if you’re 100% sure that a Microsoft update caused the problem you’re having, do us a favor and read it anyway. If you spend an hour or two trying to fix a problem using the wrong assumption about its cause, you’re unlikely to walk away with a working computer.

Once you’re pretty sure the problem is directly related to installing one or more Windows Updates, the second thing you need to do is decide which set of troubleshooting steps to follow, either Windows starts fine , or Windows does not start correctly .

Just to be clear, here’s what we mean:

  • Windows starts up fine : You have normal access to the desktop or start screen. Some programs may not work properly, you may not have access to the Internet, scrolling through Windows slowly, etc., but you may be able to go all the way.
  • Windows does not start correctly : You do not have access to your desktop or start screen. You might get a blue screen of death, a black screen with nothing on it, a frozen login screen, a diagnostic options menu, etc., but it never makes it all the way through Windows.

To summarize, first read the section immediately below this paragraph, and then scroll down and follow the correct set of troubleshooting steps for your problem, determined by how much access to Windows you have right now.

Are you sure this is a problem caused by a Windows update?

High! Don’t scroll past this section because you’re not sure if these updates from Microsoft failed or broke your computer in some way. You’re probably right, considering you found yourself here, but it’s wise to consider a few things first:

  1. Are you sure the updates are fully installed? If the Windows Update installation is frozen, you may see a “Getting ready to set up Windows” message , “Setting up Windows Updates” message, or a similar message for a long time.

    The troubleshooting in the next two sections is very helpful if your problem is caused by fully installed patches . If Windows is stuck during the update installation process, see our How to recover from a frozen Windows Update installation tutorial instead.

  2. Are you sure the update that was installed was a Windows Update ? The help provided below is specific to problems caused by patches that Microsoft makes available for Microsoft products through Windows Update.

    Other software companies often push updates to your computer through their own software and therefore have nothing to do with Microsoft or Windows Update and would be outside the scope of this troubleshooting guide. Some popular companies that do this include Google (Chrome, etc.), Adobe (Reader, AIR, etc.), Oracle (JAVA), Mozilla (Firefox), and Apple (iTunes, etc.), among others.

  3. Is your problem outside the scope of an operating system? A Windows update cannot affect an area of ​​your computer over which no operating system, including Windows, has control.

    For example, if the computer no longer turns on, turns off immediately after turning on, turns on but does not display anything on the screen, or has some other problem before the start of the Windows startup process, then a recent Windows update was just a coincidence. See our section How to fix a computer that won’t turn on (points 2, 3, 4 or 5) for help on how to fix the problem.

    If you want to answer this question for sure, please physically disconnect your hard drive and then turn on your computer. If you see the exact same behavior with your hard drive unplugged, your problem is in no way related to a Windows update.

  4. Did something else happen too? While it’s true that your problem could be caused by issues caused by a Windows update, you should also take into account at least other likely variables, if they occur to you at all.

For example, around the time you think the update was installed, did you also install new hardware, or update a driver, or install any new software, or get a notice about a virus that was just cleaned, etc.?

If none of the above apply to your situation, continue troubleshooting as a Windows Update/Patch Tuesday issue by following the steps in Windows Starts Successfully , or Windows Does Not Start Successfully below.

Windows starts correctly

Follow this troubleshooting guide if you experience a problem after one or more Windows updates, but you can still access Windows.

  1. Restart the computer. Some of the issues seen after Windows update installations can be corrected with a simple reboot.

    Although it was more of a problem in earlier versions of Windows like Windows XP, sometimes one or more updates are not fully installed in a single computer reboot, especially when a large number of updates are installed simultaneously.

  2. Some problems experienced after Windows updates are less “hassle” and more hassle. Before moving on to more complicated steps, here are some relatively minor issues we’ve encountered after a few Windows updates, along with their possible solutions:
    • Problem : Some websites are inaccessible in Internet Explorer.
    • Solution : Reset Internet Explorer security zones to their default levels.
    • Problem : A hardware device (video, sound, etc.) is no longer working properly or is generating an error code/message.
    • Solution : Update the device drivers.
    • Problem : The installed antivirus program does not update or produces errors.
    • Solution : Update the antivirus program definition files.
    • Problem : The wrong program is opening the files.
    • Solution : Change the default file extension program.
  3. Complete a System Restore to uninstall Windows updates. This solution will most likely work, as all changes made by updates are reversed.

    During the System Restore process, choose the restore point created just before the installation of Windows updates. If there is no restore point available, you will not be able to try this step. System Restore itself must have had some problem before the Windows update that prevented the automatic creation of a restore point.

    If System Restore fixes the problem you’ve been experiencing, see How to prevent Windows Updates from being stuck on your computer before you do anything else. You’ll need to make changes to your Windows Update settings, as well as follow some best practices regarding installing updates again, or you may experience the same issue when patches try to install automatically again.

  4. Run the sfc /scannow command to check for problems and replace, if necessary, important Windows files that may be damaged or deleted.

    System File Checker (the name of the tool you run by executing the sfc command) isn’t a particularly likely fix for a post-patch update or other Windows issue, but it’s the most logical next step if a system restore does not work.

  5. Test your memory and test your hard drive. While no update from Microsoft is capable of physically damaging your memory or hard drive, recent patches, like any software installation from any company, could have been a catalyst in making these hardware issues apparent.

    If any of the tests fail, replace the memory or hard drive, and then reinstall Windows from scratch.

  6. If none of the above suggestions have worked, chances are good that Windows Updates have left your PC in such a state that you’ll have to take more drastic, and at least somewhat more destructive, measures to get it running again.

    Choose a repair method based on the version of Windows you have. If there is more than one option for a given version of Windows, the first option is the least destructive, followed by the most destructive. If you try the least destructive and it doesn’t work, you are left with only the most destructive option:

    Windows 10 :

    Use Reset This PC to reinstall Windows 10, with or without keeping your personal files intact. See How to restart your computer in Windows 10 for help.

    You can also Clean Install Windows 10 if Reset This PC is not working.

    Windows 8 :

    Use Refresh Your PC to reinstall Windows 8, keeping only your personal files and Windows Store apps.

    Use Reset your PC to reinstall Windows 8, without keeping your personal files, apps, or programs. See How to upgrade or restart your PC in Windows 8 for help.

    You can also Clean Install Windows 8 if Reset your PC doesn’t work for some reason.

    windows 7 :

    Reinstall Windows 7, without keeping personal files or programs. See How to Clean Install Windows 7 for help.

    Windows Vista :

    Reinstall Windows Vista, without retaining personal files or programs. See How to clean Install Windows Vista with help.

    Windows XP :

    Repair Windows XP, preserving personal files and installed programs. See How to repair your Windows XP installation for help.

    Reinstall Windows