How To's

7 ways to troubleshoot if your Windows update is stuck

  • Windows updates can seem stuck, but they may be running especially slow — if yours is truly stuck, there are ways to troubleshoot.
  • Beware of interfering with an update too soon; if you stop an update that’s still in progress, you can corrupt files. 
  • Some common fixes include restarting your computer, rebooting to Safe Mode, and running the Startup Repair tool.

While everyone has their favorite complaint about Windows, in all fairness it generally is a stable and trouble-free operating system — at least now. But when something goes genuinely awry, like a Windows update getting stuck and not completing installation, it can be a frustrating experience.

If you have an update that’s stuck, here are seven fixes to help you solve the issue and return to your normal productivity in Windows 11 (steps in Windows 10 may vary slightly). 

Don’t react too soon — it might not really be stuck

If you think your Windows update might be stuck, don’t leap into action. Updates can take a long time — much longer than you expect — and for various reasons, Windows isn’t very good at estimating how long an update will take. 

Be sure to wait a few hours before moving on to any troubleshooting steps. There is a risk that you can corrupt Windows files and make things worse by interrupting an update in progress, so be certain it’s stuck before moving on. 

Check your update history

Before you go any further, you should check your update history and see if an update has failed. Click Start, then Settings, and then click Windows Update in the pane on the left. On the Windows Update page, click Update history to see exactly what Windows has installed and, if anything didn’t install properly, you can click to try again. 

Windows 11 update history.
Check the Update history in Settings to see if there’s a specific update which won’t install.

Restart your computer

If you’re certain the update has failed, the first troubleshooting step is to restart your computer. Restart it the usual way if at all possible: Click Start, followed by the Power icon and then Restart. If you’ve lost access to your Start menu, then press and hold the power button until the PC restarts. 

Restarting a WIndows 11 computer.
Restart your PC the usual way, if possible, and then try the update again.

Run the troubleshooter 

Because problems with Windows updates are not entirely uncommon, Microsoft includes a troubleshooter with Windows to help resolve problems. To get to it, click Start and then click Settings. In the Settings search box, type “trouble” and then click Troubleshoot other problems in the search results. In the Most frequent section, click  Run beside Windows Update.

The Windows Update troubleshooter.
You can run the troubleshooter to automatically resolve common problems.

Try the update in Safe Mode

You might know that Windows Safe Mode is a bare-bones Windows desktop designed to allow you to troubleshoot serious problems. Safe Mode starts Windows with only the most essential software, drivers, and services, vastly reducing the potential for conflicts and bugs that might interfere with something like a Windows update. To start Safe Mode:

1. Click Start and then click Settings

2. In the navigation pane on the left, click System, then scroll down and choose Recovery.

3. In the Recovery options section, next to Advanced startup, click Restart now.

Running Windows 11 in Safe Mode.
Running Windows 11 in Safe Mode.

4. When the computer restarts, you should see the Choose an option screen. Click Troubleshoot, then Advanced options. Click Startup Settings, and finally choose Restart.

5. When the computer restarts again, press F5 to restart the computer in Safe Mode with Networking

Try the Windows Startup Repair

Lurking in the Windows advanced startup options is one more tool that might help you resolve a stuck Windows update: Startup Repair. This utility can sometimes fix problems with Windows that may be impeding an update from successfully completing. This can take some time, so be sure you allot a few hours to this option when you’re ready to try. 

1. Click Start and then click Settings

2. In the navigation pane on the left, click System, then scroll down and choose Recovery.

3. In the Recovery options section, next to Advanced startup, click Restart now.

4. When the computer restarts, you should see the Choose an option screen. Click Troubleshoot, then Advanced options. Click Startup Repair

Start fresh with a clean install of Windows

If nothing else in this list has worked, you probably have a serious underlying issue with Windows that may not be solvable without reaching out to Microsoft customer support. Even then, you might still not resolve the issue. Instead, you can try to restore a clean install of Windows, returning your computer back to essentially factory conditions. After that, in most cases Windows should have no problem installing all updates.

Before you do this, be sure you have a dependable backup of any data you’ve stored locally, and be prepared to reinstall all your apps and restore all your custom settings. To restore your computer to factory settings:

1. Click Start and then click Settings

2. On the System tab, click Recovery.

3. In the Recovery options section, to the right of Reset this PC, click Reset PC

4. Choose an option — you can opt to keep your files or remove everything. 

Resetting Windows to factory conditions.
As a last resort, you can revert your PC back to a clean installation of Windows.

After the computer is restored, try to run updates and then restore your apps and data. 

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