Windows Updates Troubleshooting Tips

8:42:00 PM |

Running Windows Updates is one of the most important things you can do to keep your computer safe. They are patches that Microsoft releases periodically to fix "holes" or security breaches in the Windows Operating system. If you don't install the new updates when they are announced, you run the risk of leaving your computer vulnerable to a hacker who could use the security holes to access your computer.
Unless there is an emergency patch situation, Microsoft releases updates once a month on the second Tuesday of the month.
If your computer is set up to notify you when they are available, you'll see a yellow shield like the one shown at right. It will show up in the system time tray.

Where to Get Them..

There are several ways to update your copy of Windows:
The easiest is to turn on Automatic Updates from your computer's control panel. To do this:
  1. In Windows XP, go to Start, Control Panel.
  2. Find the icon for Security Center and click on it.
  3. Automatic Updates will be the second choice on the Security Center dialog box. Most likely they will already be turn on. If they are not, there will be a red stoplight and button that says "Turn on Automatic Updates." Click that button to turn Automatic Updates on.
  4. When Windows has an update that it needs to install, you will see a yellow Shield icon in the time tray (bottom right hand corner of the Windows desktop.)
  5. To install the updates, double click on the yellow shield, and follow the prompts.
  6. If you don't have time to wait, Windows will prompt you to install the updates when you shut down your machine. This is an easy way to install Windows Updates, since you can walk away and when the updates are finished, Windows will shut down your computer for you.

Alternatively, you can download updates manually from Microsoft's website.
  • Be aware that you should be using Internet Explorer to browse this site, otherwise Microsoft gives you a little lecture about using IE to update your PC.
  • Also if you are going to use the manual installer, choose the Custom button so you get a list of what updates are installed. If you don't, Microsoft will download everything to you, including updates you may not want. For example, if you choose Express and you are still running Internet Explorer V6, you'll get the newest version of Internet Explorer, Version 7. V7 is nice, but it looks a lot different than IE V6, so it would be nice to know you are getting that update before you get it.

Windows Updates Will Not Install

Here are some notes and possible fixes to try if updates fail to install on your computer.

  • Make sure you have internet connectivity. If you have a firewall set up, check to see if it is blocking the updates.

  • If you can't connect to Windows Updates, click here for a Microsoft page on troubleshooting connectivity issues.

  • Check your computer rights. If you are not an administrator on the computer, you won't be able to run updates. You'll have to either login with the administrator account or have the person who has administrative rights log in and run the updates.

  • Check for viruses. Run a full scan of your computer, and verify you don't have a virus or trojan that is causing Windows Updates to fail.

  • Verify that your copy of Windows XP is genuine. Go to this Microsoft page and click Validate Windows. If your copy of Windows is not genuine, read the information on that same page to learn what to do next.

  • Re-register the Update program files If you do have a genuine Windows license, try re-registering the Windows Update and Installer files. There's a handy tool called Dial-a-Fix that will easily do this for you.However, BEFORE you run Dial-a-Fix, follow the steps the author discusses on his Wiki to verify your system integrity first.
    1. To use the Dial-a-fix program, do this: download the Dial-a Fix program.
    2. Double click on it and extract all files. Then double click on Dial-a-fix.exe. It will start the program.
    3. Check off all the boxes then click Go.

  • If you get a specific error when you run Windows Updates, go to Microsoft's Update Support website and click on Errors on the left. Find the technical document that gives the resolution for that error. You'll also find a few more troubleshooting steps on that webpage.

  • If your Windows update problem is on a Microsoft Windows 2003 server, you can try the steps on this Microsoft tech doc.

    Where can I see which Windows patches I already have?

    If you want to know whether a specific update has been installed, you can view the list using these steps:
    1. Go to Start, Control Panel, Add Remove Programs.
    2. At the top of Add Remove dialog box, check the box that says Show Updates. Wait for the list to load.
    3. Scroll to the bottom of the Add Remove dialog box. All of the Windows Updates will be listed.