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Windows Update stuck? Here is a possible fix

Windows Update stuck? Here is a possible fix

Over the years, I ran into several issues regarding updates on Windows devices. A common issue that I experienced regularly was that updates appeared stuck after the initial reboot.

Windows would display a percentage, e.g. 0%, 100% or any figure in between, and would seemingly not move that number or complete the process.

Common messages that you may receive:

  • Configuring update for Windows 10. 0% complete. Do not turn off your computer.
  • Failure configuring Windows updates. Reverting changes. Do not turn off your computer.

While I never experienced hour-long wait times like others have, I asked myself more than once whether the update was still ongoing.

Since I ran into the issue recently again when I updated one Windows 10 device to the new Windows 10 version 2004, I thought it would be a good idea to provide some guidance on how to deal with the situation.

Preparations

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Unless you are experiencing the situation right now, you may want to prepare for the issue and others that you may experience.

The most important step is to create a backup before you install updates. Windows comes with its own recovery options but these may fail, and if they do, you may be in for a lengthy repair session or a re-installation of Windows if you have install media at hand.

A backup solves this right away as you can restore the original state of the system prior to the update installation attempt. Make sure that you have bootable media at hand that boots the backup software if Windows does not boot anymore.

You can use free tools like Paragon Backup & Recovery, Macrium Reflect, or others.

Date and time when the update is installed is of importance as well. It is usually not a good idea to run updates at the beginning of a work day or when you need to use the computer for important tasks.

It is best to install updates at times when access to the device is not needed, e.g. in the evening or on the weekend. That way, if the installation takes longer, you may be less anxious and more relaxed.

Last but not least, it is advised to check the list of known issues before you install updates. Not all potential issues are listed by Microsoft, but you may find issues listed that apply to your device, e.g. its hardware or software.

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Analyzing stuck Windows Updates

If the installation of the update takes a long time, you may wonder whether it is stuck or not; you may have the impression of the percentage value does not move, e.g. seems stuck at a specific value, or if the update takes a very long time to complete.

Watch and Listen!

You may want to check for hard disk activity first. Not all PCs or laptops show hard disk activity but if yours does, e.g. a blinking light, you may determine whether the hard disk is used. If it is used, chance is good that the update is still underway.

Sometimes, you may be able to hear if the hard drive is being used; this won't work with SSD storage devices but it may work with platter-based drives. Similarly, you may see or hear if the CPU is being used.

Wait or reboot?

You need to figure out whether it is best to wait or to reboot the system. If you conclude that the update is stuck, you may want to reboot to -- hopefully -- kick of the recovery process. Otherwise, you may want to wait and see if the update installation continues.

If you reboot, you may see a message stating that Windows is reverted back to the previous state. Note that this may also take some time to complete and that you may run into stuck issues here as well.

Usually though, you will end up with a restored system. If you are unlucky, Windows may enter into a loop that you cannot get out anymore. A backup, system restore, or other means of restoring a previous Windows state need to be used in that case. A reboot may also result in the continuation of the update installation, but there is no guarantee that it will not appear to be stuck again if that happens.

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General advice

  1. Make sure you create backups before you install updates on Windows.
  2. Waiting is usually better than rebooting or powering the computer down if the update appears stuck; unless, you waited a long time already, say one or two hours, and nothing seems to have happened (no apparent computer activity).
  3. If you manage to boot a previous state, e.g. after the restoration of a backup, you may want to check the system before you re-run the update. Options that you may want to consider include:
    1. Checking free disk storage. If there is little, updates may take a lot longer.
    2. Checking known issues or Internet sites for potential reports of the issue that you encountered.
    3. Uninstalling software that you don't require and that may interfere with updates, e.g. antivirus software.

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