Recently, Windows Update started failing for me on a few different computers, a few months apart. Site after site promised result after result, but led only to failure after failure. I accumulated a list of different recommendations, and what eventually worked for me: Using a VPN to avoid what seemed to be network-induced restrictions.
Jump to Solution
Here’s what I tried (and if my solution doesn’t fix it for you, you could try these too):
- One of the computers was a fresh install, so it’s not anything I did, as far as I could tell.
- Reboot. Duh. No luck there.
- I ran the built in Windows Update Troubleshooter (Control Panel -> Troubleshooting -> Security Systems -> Fix Problems with Windows Update). It said it detected and resolved problems, but it still failed.
- Windows suggests to use their additional downloadable Windows Update Troubleshooter. While this page says it works only for Windows 7, other pages suggest it will also work with 8, 8.1, and 10. I had no luck with any of the above. It closes with a success message, but Windows still won’t update.
- Updates won’t work if the computer clock is off. I set the time zone and synchronized my computers clock with Internet Time.
- Sat around and waited. A week later, nothing worked any better.
- DNS set to automatic; DNS set to Google’s DNS (126.96.36.199)
- Checked Logs – the update log file in C:\Windows showed a failure to download a file, but the file worked fine downloading in a browser, so it’s not something obvious with the network.
- Calling Microsoft. They tried to tell me my system was corrupted and that I should pay for their professional-level help. (Yes, I did call the official number, not a scam site.)
- Changed settings in Internet Explorer, Tools, Internet Options, Connections, Local Area Network (LAN) as suggested by this post on SuperUser.
- Double- and Triple-checked that ActiveX filtering was not enabled in my DD-WRT router (but I could download the file, so it should be fine anyway)
- Tried a variety of Windows Update settings – All combinations of how to give important updates, recommended updates, and other MS products.
- Restarted all relevant services (BITS and WUpdate I think) and while they were off, removed the (empty) data folder for good measure.
One more suggestion that I wasn’t able to try was this one, but knowing the solution, I firmly believe it would have done nothing. Remove .NET framework
More things to consider:
- It’s a clean install, so I don’t have any antivirus software getting in the way.
- Other computers on the network work okay, so it’s not a straightforward network problem.
- I haven’t removed any Windows Components – IE and ActiveX stuff should all still be in place.
- Windows is legal, licensed, and validated, so no issues there.
What worked was using a proxy, per this recommendation on a Microsoft forum. The post suggests using Anchor Free Hotspot Shield, which works (I used it my first time), but if you’re averse to installing anything, signing up for a free plan at Hide.me does the same using the built-in Windows VPN service. All that needs to be done on the VPN is checking for updates, not the actual download of those updates, so the 2GB is vastly more than you’ll need.