Problems with Installing Windows 10 Updates

By Woody Leonhard

Windows 10’s forced updates drive everybody nuts. If you’re having problems, you aren’t alone. Each new cumulative update is different, each situation unique, but a handful of tricks seem to work in specific situations — and a handful of tricks may jolt your system back into consciousness no matter how hard the cumulative update tries to knock it senseless.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of problems and solutions. Quite the contrary. It’s a short list of the most common problems and most common solutions. If you think Windows 10 updating is stable, you haven’t been out very much.

Before you do anything else

Make sure your antivirus software is turned off. That’s the number-one source of bad updates or no updates. If you’re using Windows Defender (as recommended), you’re fine. But if you got suckered into installing something different, turn it off.

Check for mundane hardware problems

Coincidences do happen. Just because your PC went to Hades in a multicolored hand basket right after you installed the latest cumulative update, it doesn’t mean the update caused the problem.

It’s the old post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

Consider the possibility that your problem has nothing to do with the cumulative update. At the very least, someone with a cumulative update problem should right-click the Start icon, choose Command Prompt, type the following in the box:

chkdsk /f

and press Enter. That will scan your main drive and fix any errors.

If you’re having problems with a mouse or a keyboard, or a monitor or speaker, try plugging them into another computer to see if they’re dead. Rudimentary, but it works in a surprisingly large number of cases.

Recover from a bricked PC

For most people, a bricked PC is the scariest situation. The cumulative update installs itself (possibly overnight, while you aren’t looking), you come back to your machine, and nothing happens. It’s dead, Jim.

At least half the time, you can get back to a working machine by booting into safe mode, uninstalling the cumulative update, blocking it, then rebooting normally. Unfortunately, booting into safe mode isn’t as easy in Windows 10 as it was in Windows 8.1 (or 7, Vista, XP, 95, oh nevermind).

Once you’re in safe mode, follow the instructions in the upcoming section “Make sure your problem is the patch” to uninstall the aberrant cumulative update. eboot and you’ll be back in your previous version of Windows 10.

Know when to give up

Some people, in some situations, report that going through the update process takes hours — many hours, with multiple restarts and all sorts of hangs. Let the update run for three or four hours. If you come back to those spinning dots, it’s time to pull the plug (literally turn off the electricity), reboot, and see if things worked or not.

You can always see what version you’re running. In Cortana’s search box, type

winver

and press Enter. Compare it to Microsoft’s official Win10 update history list.

Make sure your problem is the patch

First, restart your machine at least three times. Somehow rebooting numerous times sometimes shakes out the gremlins.

Second, try to uninstall the patch and see if the problem goes away. Click the Start icon, the Settings icon, Update & Security, Advanced Options, View Your Update History, Uninstall Updates. With a bit of luck, the aberrant update will appear at the top of the Microsoft Windows update list.

Double-click the update. When Windows asks “Are you sure you want to uninstall this update?” reply “No, I’m looking for my gefilte fish” or “Yes,” whichever you feel appropriate. Windows will take a while, maybe a long while, and then reboot. When it comes back, you should’ve retreated to the previous (presumably functional) version of Win10.

Immediately test to see if your problem went away. If your problem persists, chances are good the cumulative update didn’t cause the problem. In that case, get onto the latest version. Reboot, go to Windows Update (Start, Settings, Update & Security, Check for Updates) and re-install the patch. Your problem probably doesn’t lie with this particular update. Note the operative term probably.

Some patches catch software manufacturers flat-footed. If a program you normally use goes belly-up right after installing the update, get over to the manufacturer’s website as quickly as you can and complain loudly. Chances are good that they’ll go through the stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance — but then tell you to uninstall the Win10 patch or apply a new patch of their own.

The sooner you can get them started on the stages of grief, the sooner everybody will get a fix.