Helping people with computers... one answer at a time.

A computer that won't update is a serious problem. We'll start by investigating potential malware.

Windows 7 on one of my computers will not allow the installation of service updates or patches. I followed the Microsoft troubleshooting instructions without success. Previously, I was able to access on Microsoft's site, which would scan my system and allow me to download and install patches manually. I can no longer get to that site. I'm worried about having an unpatched system. What are my options?

In this excerpt from Answercast #43, I look at a system that stalls on updates, which is a potential sign if malware.

Updates won't install

To be honest, I'm worried about something worse. I'm worried that you already have malware on your machine.

It is very common for some forms of malware to prevent exactly what it is you're trying to do:

  • They will often set things up so that you cannot get to the Windows Update site.

  • They will set things up so that you cannot get to your anti-virus site;

  • Or you cannot get your anti-malware tool updates.

  • All because the malware is in fact already there and doing everything it can to prevent you from fixing it or from removing it.

I have an article on "How do I remove malware if it prevents me from downloading anything?" and I'll certainly have you start with that.

Repair install

The other solutions that come to mind (if this isn't malware related) are actually almost as bad.

  • One is: I would suggest you do what's called a Repair install.

  • I've got an article on the site about that as well for Windows 7.

What you end up doing is:

  • You end up so-called "updating" Windows in place; even though it's the same version of Windows that you already have installed.

That will often reset things within Windows that could potentially interfere with its ability to update itself.

Full reinstall

And finally (it has to be said for completion), I have seen these situations be bad enough where really the only scenario that fixes the problem is:

  • A complete backup, reformat, and reinstall of Windows.

But before you go down any of those paths, I strongly suggest that you start looking at malware as the potential cause. Investigate malware removal solutions starting with that article that I pointed you at.

End of Answercast #43 Back to – Audio Segment

Article C5692 - August 13, 2012 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

Not what you needed?

Rich hill
August 13, 2012 12:55 PM

My computer won't update automatically and I looked for months to find a solution. then I found a work around online. Open your start and in the search type windows update. Then click on "Check online for updates from Microsoft Update. It is the only way I can connect to the Microsoft site. Good Luck.

August 13, 2012 10:58 PM

It may be something as simple as resetting the Windows Update components.

August 14, 2012 4:12 AM

Thanks Mary, the MS link solved my WinXp update problem. Can now update thru the tool/safety/update UI

Hans-D Selig
August 14, 2012 3:33 PM

There is a solution for this!
Go Start > Search and type adapter > go to view network connections
Right click Local Area 2 then right click Properties. Highlight Internet Protocol Version 4. Now right click Properties. Put a tick in “use the following DNS Server” type in what was given to you by your ISP or use Open DNS: Preferred DNS Alternate DNS
You will now be able to download “Updates” for windows 7

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