Most of the time, Windows Update does its job with little or no attention from us.
Although we may check for and install updates manually from time to time, most Windows 10 PCs are set to apply important updates automatically, while older versions like Windows 7 and Windows 8 typically apply these fixes overnight. of Patch Tuesday.
However, sometimes when the patch, or even the service pack, is installed during shutdown or startup, the update installation gets stuck: freezes, hangs, stops, hangs, hangs, clocks …. whatever you want to call it. Windows Update takes forever and clearly something needs to be done.
The installation of one or more Windows updates is probably stuck or frozen if you see one of the following messages persist for a long time:
- Getting ready to set up Windows. / Do not turn off your computer.
- Windows update settings / x% complete / Do not turn off the computer.
- Please do not turn off or unplug your machine. / Installing update x of x…
- Working on updates / x% complete / Do not turn off your computer
- Keep your PC on until this is done / Installing update x of x…
- Windows preparation / Do not turn off the computer
You may also see Stage 1 of 1 or Stage 1 of 3 , or a similar message before the second example. Sometimes Restart is all you’ll see on the screen. There may also be some wording differences depending on the version of Windows you are using.
If you don’t see anything on the screen, especially if you think the updates have been fully installed but could be causing what you’re experiencing, check out our How to fix problems caused by Windows updates tutorial.
Cause of a frozen or stuck Windows update
There are several reasons why the installation or completion of one or more Windows Updates may hang.
Most of the time, these types of problems are due to a software conflict or a pre-existing problem that just didn’t come to light until Windows Updates started installing. Much more rarely they are caused by a mistake on Microsoft’s part regarding the update itself, but they do happen.
Any of Microsoft’s operating systems could experience freezing issues during Windows updates, including Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP, and others.
There is a real problem with Windows that can cause Windows Update installations to freeze in this way, but it only applies to Windows Vista and only if you haven’t installed SP1 yet. If your computer fits that description, install Windows Vista SP1 or later to fix the problem.
Make sure updates are really blocked
Some Windows Updates can take several minutes or more to configure or install, so you need to make sure the updates are actually locked down before proceeding. Trying to fix a problem that doesn’t really exist may simply create a problem.
You can tell if Windows updates are stuck if nothing happens on the screen for 3 hours or more . If there’s any wonder after all this time, take a look at your hard drive’s activity light. You will see either no activity at all (stuck) or very regular but very short flashes of light (not stuck).
Updates will most likely hang before 3 hours, but this is a reasonable amount of time to wait and longer than I’ve ever seen a Windows update install successfully.
How to fix a stuck Windows Update installation
- Press Ctrl-Alt-Del.
In some situations, Windows updates may be stuck at a very particular part of the installation process, and you may be presented with the Windows login screen after executing the Ctrl-Alt-Del keyboard command.
If so, sign in as you normally would and let the updates continue to install successfully.
If your computer restarts after Ctrl-Alt-Del, please read the second Note in Step 2 below. If nothing happens (most likely), continue with Step 2.
- Restart the computer, either using the reset button or by turning the computer off and on again using the power button. Hopefully, Windows will start normally and finish installing updates.
I realize that the on-screen message probably explicitly tells you not to do this, but if the Windows Update installation is indeed frozen, you have no choice but to reboot.
Depending on how Windows and BIOS/UEFI are configured, you may have to press and hold the power button for several seconds before the computer turns off. On a tablet or laptop, it may be necessary to remove the battery.
If you’re using Windows 10 or Windows 8 and are taken to the login screen after restart, try tapping or clicking the power icon in the bottom right and select Update and restart if available.
If you are automatically taken to the Advanced Boot Options or Startup Settings menu after rebooting, select Safe Mode and see comments in Step 3 below.
- Start Windows in Safe Mode.
This special diagnostic mode of Windows only loads the minimum drivers and services that Windows absolutely needs, so if another program or service conflicts with one of the Windows updates, the installation may finish successfully.
If Windows Updates install successfully and you are still in Safe Mode, simply reboot from there to get into Windows normally.
- Complete a System Restore to undo the changes made so far by the incomplete installation of Windows updates.
Since you can’t access Windows normally, try doing it from Safe Mode. See the link in Step 3 if you’re not sure how to start in Safe Mode.
During System Restore, make sure to choose the restore point created by Windows just before the update installation.
Assuming a restore point has been made and System Restore is successful, your computer should return to the state it was in before the updates started. If this issue occurred after the automatic update, such as on Patch Tuesday, be sure to change your Windows Update settings so that this issue doesn’t recur on its own.
- Try System Restore from Advanced Boot Options (Windows 10 and 8) or System Recovery Options (Windows 7 and Vista) if you can’t get into Safe Mode or if the restore from Safe Mode failed.
Since these tool menus are available from “outside” Windows, you can try this even if Windows isn’t available at all.
System Restore is only available from outside of Windows if you’re using Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, or Windows Vista. This option is not available in Windows XP.
- Start the “automatic” repair process of your computer.
Although System Restore is a more direct way to undo changes, in this case of a Windows update, sometimes a more thorough repair process is necessary.
Windows 10 and Windows 8 : Try a Startup Repair. If that doesn’t work, try the Reset this PC process (the non-destructive option , of course).
Windows 7 and Windows Vista – Try the Startup Repair process.
Windows XP : Try the repair installation process.
- Test your computer’s memory.
It is possible that the RAM failure is causing patch installations to freeze. Fortunately, memory is really easy to test.