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Un-Hosing Windows Update

Well...after 3 hours of Googling / troubleshooting, I am at my wit's end and am resorting to posting this lame topic here...sorry guys.

At some point within the last few weeks, the Windows Update site stopped working on my Win XP Pro box.  I can scan for updates and view the pending catalog, but when I try to actually install anything, the process hangs right after I accept the EULA and I am left staring at a "Preparing to download..." dialog indefintely.

Has anyone else run into this problem and actually managed to fix it?  Seems like every thread I've found on Google basically goes:

"Try [X]."

"...doesn't work."

"Try [Y]."


"How about [Z]?"

"...still nothing."

"Reinstall Windows..."


Tim Lara
Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Sorry Tim,
                  But if you really want anyone to try and help you you must state what are the X, Y and Z that you have tried that doesn't work.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, December 31, 2003

I had to "re-install" my windows xp pro a month ago, because it had started freezing randomly.

Disconnect your internet connection.

Pop in the install CD, and from windows, select "upgrade over existing installation". It will keep all your settings and apps, but replace all system files.

After installation, turn on the firewall and reconnect to internet.

Go to windowsupdate and patch everything.


Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Disable all unnecessary network adapters, and all unnecessary services.  Does it work then?

Log in as another user and try it.  If none exists, create one, make them an admin and then login.  Can you update then?

Open up Task Manager.  Google for process names that you don't recognize to see what they are.  End them and try again.

Run a scan with the following: Ad-aware, Registry Medic, Norton Anti-virus.

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

As funny as it may sound, check your current date and time on the box.

I had an issue last month where WinUpdate quit working.

After about 2 hours of dorking around I noticed that my system date was off by 10 years (how this happened is another story, but it was my fault) -- anyway, it appears that the Windows Update functionality does not work when your that far out of whack with reality.

I reset the system date and it started working again. I never did research why it quits when the date's out of whack, but that solved my problem.

Sgt. Sausage
Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Thanks for the suggestions so far, but still no luck!

Stephen, good point.

X, Y, Z, and the rest of the alphabet:

I went through these entire lists to no avail.  I haven't found anything else on Google yet that wasn't mentioned in one of them.

Seems like a lot of people did claim that the incorrect time problem was the culprit.  (maybe due to security certificates with a close expiration date?)

I haven't tried doing the "reinstall / upgrade" thing yet, but I'll re-post here if it works.

Coincidentally, I also found this manual update utility that I'd never heard of:

Tim Lara
Wednesday, December 31, 2003


Before you reinstall anything, you might want to try to do a System Restore.  Restore it to the time before you had your problems (backing up data first of course) and then get your updates one at a time.  A co-worker had the same problem here and that seemed to fix it.

Good luck.

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

"As funny as it may sound, check your current date and time on the box. "
YES!  I had the same issue.  Windows Update wasn't working and it turned out that the date was wrong.

An incorrect date will screw up Windows update because some sort of SSL connection is involved in the update- and if your computer date is wrong by a wide margin, there's a good chance Windows will think that the SSL Certificate's expiration date is expired or invalid.

Of course, Windows Update doesn't TELL you that, it just gives a generic error... or rather, no error at all...

John Rose
Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Tim, Can you install other programs? Are you logged on as administrator? Have you disabled both anti-virus programs and all firewalls.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, December 31, 2003


Yes to all three, unfortunately.

I even completely uninstalled Norton AntiVirus.

One of my coworkers did have a problem where the windows installer couldn't run (which turned out to be some odd conflict with IIS) but that doesn't seem to be my problem.

I can install anything that I download manually.  It's the Windows Update web interface that just won't cooperate...

Tim Lara
Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Then it probably would be quicker just to reinstall on top of your present configuration if system restore doesn't help.

Alternatively just give up on the updates. If you really need something you can always download it manually.

Oh, and one last point: you do have a legal copy of XP, I presume? MS has threatened to refuse updates to copies it considers pirated.  At least it's an improvement over what they did with SR1 for Office 2000, where the Service Pack completely disabled Office (and wrote to the registry so even uninstalling and reinstalling didn't work), but they didn't bother to tell you they'd done it.

Stephen Jones
Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Yep.  I'm legal, and have been "activated" for months now.

I tried to do a system restore to the last date when Windows Update worked (last successful install in the windows update log) which was about a month ago, but of course, halfway through that, I got a message saying that my machine "can't be restored to that point".  Great.

So it looks like it's going to be "reinstall / upgrade" from the CD.  I sure hope THAT works!

Thanks again for all the ideas.

Tim Lara
Wednesday, December 31, 2003

yeah, just 'install' right on top of the existing install.
you may get some weird dialog in the middle about some missing file, just press OK about 100 times. (really. sometimes you can do it with 'enter', you'll have to reset focus only a few times.)
then re-update, etc.
works remarkably well.

Wednesday, December 31, 2003


I believe there where some instances where AdAware hoses WindowsUpdate. Are you running that program?

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, January 2, 2004

Presumable ad-aware would delete the registry key. The best thing to do would be to open the quarantine list, and see if it is there.

Stephen Jones
Friday, January 2, 2004

Looks like Ad-Aware was innocent in my case.  I didn't see anything that wasn't spyware in the quarantine, but I restored everything in the list just to be sure.  Still no luck.

I finally gave up and just did the "upgrade" install off my Win XP CD.  Seems to have done the trick -- Windows Update is working again.

Now I guess I'll just have to start testing all my apps and seeing if anything else got stomped on in the process, but so far so good...

Thanks again for all the helpful replies!

Tim Lara
Friday, January 2, 2004

I have had this problem with "Spybot Search and Destroy".  I'm sure that other spyware detectors, such as AdAware also will disable it.  If you have loaded any spyware detectors, check the website of the developer to see if you can override the change.  I'm sure you can, you just need to find out where in the software the setting is that needs to be changed.

I hope this helps!

Freddie Baby
Thursday, July 15, 2004

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