Windows 10 Update Failed? Here's How to Fix That

How to complete a Windows 10 update after failure

Windows 10 update failures can appear in many different ways and at various points in the update process. You’ll typically see a message like one of these:

  • Your Windows Update failed. But don’t worry. We can help.
  • We couldn’t complete the updates. Undoing changes. Don’t turn off your computer.
  • Failure configuring Windows updates. Reverting changes. Do not turn off your computer.

In all of the above cases and other similar cases, the message appears on a blue screen unless you have made changes to Windows 10 color settings. Additionally, the message will appear after you have attempted an update, sometimes many minutes or even hours into the update.

Cause of Windows 10 Update Failures

If your Windows 10 update failed, the most common causes include:

  • Multiple updates queued: One of the most common causes of this failure is when Windows needs more than one update. When that happens, simply rebooting and trying again will result in a successful update. You can also solve other unpredictable and minor issues with the same fix.
  • Lack of drive space: If your computer doesn’t have enough free drive space to complete a Windows 10 update, the update will stop, and Windows will report a failed update. Clearing some space will usually do the trick.
  • Corrupt update files: Deleting the bad update files will usually fix this problem. You may need to boot into Safe Mode to clear the files.
  • Hardware conflicts: You may have a device connected that’s interrupting the update process. If you unplug all of your unnecessary peripherals, the update may be able to finish.
  • Driver conflicts: This is a similar issue with an identical fix. Disconnect all of your peripherals, like printers and USB hubs, and try the update again.

Before you proceed, consider creating a Windows 10 backup. In a worst-case scenario, you can restore your backup and try again.

How to Fix Windows 10 Update Failed Errors

To fix your Windows 10 update failure and successfully update your operating system, try each of the following fixes in order. You don’t have to try all of them. If you successfully update Windows 10 after attempting a fix, then you can safely ignore the rest and go back to using your newly updated computer.

The following instructions are primarily intended for Windows 10 installed on physical hardware. If you’re trying to update a Windows 10 virtual machine, and the Windows image is on the older side, these instructions may still solve your problem. However, you may want to consider using a newer Windows image that already has the latest updates and security patches.

  1. Try rerunning Windows Update. In many cases, simply rebooting your computer and rerunning the update will fix your problem. If Windows 10 has multiple updates queued, it’s pretty standard for one to fail during the initial update process. In that case, you can usually get things working again by rebooting and starting the update process again. If your Windows 10 installation is significantly out of date, you may need to perform the update process multiple times.

  2. Unplug your peripherals and reboot. If rerunning the update doesn't do the trick, you may have a hardware or driver conflict. Try unplugging all of your peripherals, like webcams, microphones, and scanners, before you reboot. Once only the bare minimum of a keyboard and mouse remain connected, run Windows Update.

  3. Check your available drive space. One of the most common causes of failed Windows 10 updates is a lack of drive space. Windows 10 already reserves space for updates, but there’s always a chance that you could run out of room if you have very little available storage. Try clearing out everything you no longer need, or even hook up an external drive, and then attempt the update again.

  4. Use the Windows 10 troubleshooting tool. Windows 10 includes a troubleshooter app that can help fix a lot of update problems. Try running the troubleshooter, and see if the update can complete.

    To run the Windows 10 update troubleshooter:

    1. Type troubleshoot into the taskbar search field and select troubleshoot settings.
    2. Click Windows Update.
    3. Click Run the troubleshooter.
    4. Follow the on-screen prompts.
  5. Pause Windows 10 Updates. This method momentarily pauses updates, which will typically delete update files from your computer, allowing you to download new files and hopefully complete the update process.

    1. Navigate to Settings > Update & Security > Windows Update.
    2. Click Advanced Options.
    3. Locate Pause Updates, and click the toggle to On.
    4. Restart your computer.
    5. Return to Settings > Updates & Security > Windows Update.
    6. Click Advanced Options.
    7. Click the Pause Updates toggle to Off.
    8. Try rerunning Windows Update.
  6. Manually delete your Windows Update files. The previous step will typically delete your Windows Update files, including any potentially corrupt files or stuck downloads. If it doesn’t, you will need to delete your SoftwareDistribution directory manually.

    1. Restart your computer in Safe Mode.
    2. Open File Explorer, and navigate to C:\Windows\
    3. Locate and delete the SoftwareDistribution folder.
    4. Restart your computer, and run Windows Update.
  7. Download and install the latest update manually. If you’re still failing to update Windows 10, navigate to the official Download Windows 10 page, and click update now. Save the update file to your computer, and run it after it finishes downloading.

    This process will only work if you’re attempting a major feature update. If you’re trying a security update, navigate to the Microsoft Update Catalog, and search for the KB number of the security update that’s failing to install.

  8. Use the System File Checker. At this point, there may likely be a problem with your Windows 10 installation. Run the System File Checker to check for, and hopefully repair, any issues. After it has finished, you can reboot your computer and attempt to update it.

  9. Repair your Windows 10 installation. There may be a problem with your Windows 10 installation that the System File Checker can’t fix. If you wish to proceed, the next step is to perform a reset, or a reinstall, while keeping all of your files. It's one step short of a clean install of Windows, so it’s a pretty drastic move.

    Consider backing up your files and settings before you proceed, and make sure to select the keep my files option when performing the repair.

Is It Okay to Skip a Windows Update?

As a general rule of thumb, you should always install Windows updates. However, there are some exceptions. In the case of an especially problematic update, you may need to choose between skipping the update and performing a fresh installation of Windows 10. Additionally, some Windows 10 updates have been famously problematic, either being difficult for many people to install or even causing massive problems for specific hardware configurations.

While you should always make a solid effort to update Windows 10 to keep on top of the latest security patches and features, you may need to ignore an update and wait for the next one.

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