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Troubleshoot Issues with Windows Update

Windows Update is a handy feature, but it can create a problem or two of its own. What happens when you postpone an update? How do your reverse an update? If the update was automatic, how can you find out exactly what you let Microsoft do to your computer? Read on for answers to these questions and more.

Permit a Windows update

When you postpone an update for Windows, you’re reminded of it. A notice appears in the notification area, sometimes with a pop-up bubble that says New updates are available. You’ll see it every time you log in to Windows. There’s no way to disable it. Just run the update. It goes away.

In Windows 7 and Vista, some automatic updates require restarting Windows. If you’ve configured Windows Update to download but not install the update, you’ll notice a Shield Flag icon appear on the Shutdown or Software Power button on the Start menu. Shutting down or restarting the PC at that point installs the update.

  • Some updates can be installed only by restarting Windows.

  • Continue using the computer while an update downloads. If restarting Windows is necessary, you’re alerted. You can choose to restart immediately or have the computer remind you every so often.

Review Windows updates

In Windows 7 and Windows Vista, peruse updates by following these steps:

  1. Open the Control Panel.

  2. In Windows 7, choose System and Security; in Windows Vista, choose Security.

  3. Beneath the Windows Update heading, click View Installed Updates.

In Windows XP, obey these steps:

  1. Open the Add or Remove Programs icon in the Control Panel.

    The Add or Remove Programs window shows up.

  2. Put a check mark by Show Updates.

    The list becomes populated with updates; you may have to scroll down a bit to find them.

Undo a Windows update

If a Windows update makes things worse, you can reverse the update. In Windows 7 and Vista, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Control Panel.

  2. In Windows 7, choose System and Security; in Windows Vista, choose Security.

  3. Beneath the Windows Update heading, click the link View Installed Updates.

    You can sort the list by date when you click the Installed On column heading. The Installed On column is located on the far-right side of the list.

  4. Choose the update you want to undo.

  5. Click the Uninstall button that appears on the toolbar.

  6. Follow the directions provided on the screen.

In Windows XP, remove an update by following these steps:

  1. Open the Control Panel’s Add or Remove Programs icon.

  2. Place a check mark by the Show Updates option.

  3. Choose the update to remove.

    The update’s entry expands to offer more information, including a link titled Click Here for Support Information.

  4. Click the Remove button.

  5. Follow the directions and steps provided.

The update should be removed successfully and your system restored. If not, try again in Safe mode.

Fix update problems in Windows 7

A troubleshooter available in Windows 7 deals specifically with Windows Update issues and is a much better solution for dealing with an update problem than uninstalling a recent update.

To troubleshoot a Windows Update problem in Windows 7, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Control Panel.

  2. Beneath the System and Security heading, choose Find and Fix Problems.

    The Troubleshooting window appears.

  3. Choose the link Fix Problems with Windows Update, found beneath the System and Security heading.

  4. Work through the wizard to resolve the issue.

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