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Windows 7 - Unable to Download or Install Updates from Windows Update

A quick guide to restore Windows Update in Windows 7 to full functionality.

The most recent major update to Windows 7, Service Pack 1, was released over five years ago in February of 2011. Since that time, and even continuing now after it has ended mainstream support, it has amassed a huge number of updates available through the Windows Update service.

Any new installation of Windows 7 from the original Microsoft media, such as the DVDs supplied with new licenses, will now need to install all of these updates. A number of users have reported that Windows Update will appear to get stuck attempting to find a list of updates to install, most likely due to the number of results that it’s trying to find and basically just staying searching indefinitely.

Microsoft have released a number of updates to alleviate this problem, but the catch of course being that it’s difficult to update an installation of Windows that’s having trouble with finding and downloading updates.

Luckily, it’s possible to bypass Windows Update and install the relevant updates manually which will then allow Windows to find and download updates from the Windows Update Service normally.

To fix this problem, you simply need to download and install the following updates from Microsoft’s Download Center.

First, you’ll want to check what version of Windows you’re running. The vast majority of users now will be running the 64-bit (x64) version, but some older computers will likely use 32-bit (x86) and you’ll need to select the correct file for your operating system.

Open the Start Menu and select Control Panel. Then click System and Security, and finally System. This will show the system information screen, including which version of Windows you have, and download the files that match your operating system.

I’d recommend installing them in the following order:

System Update Readiness Tool KB947821 (64-bit) / System Update Readiness Tool KB947821 (32-bit)

Servicing Stack Update KB3020369 (64-bit) / Servicing Stack Update KB3020369 (32-bit)

Update Rollup KB3172605 (64-bit) / Update Rollup KB3172605 (32-bit)

If at any point an update recommends that you restart, do so straight away then continue installing any remaining updates once the computer has restarted.

When installing these files, you may see the installation programs get stuck at searching for existing updates.

This can happen if the installer is conflicting with an active instance of Windows Update. To resolve this you need to stop the Windows Update Service. Open the Start Menu and type ‘services.msc’ in the search box and press enter. This will open the Services console. Scroll down to near the bottom to find ‘Windows Update’ and right click on it and select stop. Keep the Services window open, and then try to install the update that was getting stuck. I’d recommend then stopping the Windows Update service again before installing the next update.

With these all installed, restart Windows and you should then be able to successfully use Windows Update but this still leaves you with a few hundred updates to process.

You can speed this up quite significantly however, by using the Windows Convenience Rollup cumulative update which bundles together a huge number of updates. This is available for both 64-bit and 32-bit versions of Windows.

Windows 7 64-bit Convenience Rollup

Windows 7 32-bit Convenience Rollup

Running Windows Update after installing this should drastically reduce the number of updates left to download to get your system running the latest software.

You may occasionally have an update or two fail if installing large batches of them. Usually this is simply because that update relies on another one and has tried to install in the wrong order, just try it again after your next restart of the system and it will likely work fine.

Please note that these instructions assume that you are running the Service Pack 1 version of Windows 7. If your installation media is for the original release of Windows 7 you will also need to download the Service Pack 1 update, which is also available as a separate download.