By now, most people who are using Microsoft Windows are either running Windows 8 or have taken the risk of updating to Windows 10. However, some of us have either chosen to hold off for the time being or have older computers that are not compatible with Microsoft’s latest offerings.
Recently I had to reinstall Windows 7 on a system. Since the installation media is a few years old, it didn’t have the benefit of having recent service packs and updates installed. On older versions of Windows, this wasn’t as much of a problem. You simply ran Windows Update and clicked Install Updates. Come back in a couple hours and everything was done. Well, for whatever reason, Windows 7 doesn’t play nice like this.
When I was an IT Technician at WVU-P, we would always setup a sandbox system where we would test all updates before rolling them out to the network through RIS. The main reason is some Microsoft updates simply don’t play well with all systems. That seems to be the case with many people’s computers and Windows 7.
The following outlines the steps I took to get Windows 7 to complete Windows Update without completely locking up on me.
Step 1: Backup your computer! Before you make any major changes to your computer, you should always make a backup. There are many free backup tools out there that are far superior to the native Microsoft backup utilities. As to which is best, I cannot say as I’ve used Acronis (not free) for a number of years.
Step 2: Next, you need to make sure your system is clean of any and all malicious software. Malware can prevent you from installing Windows Update! You can use free tools like this antivirus software and malware protection suite. Install these, run them, and make sure you get rid of any little nasties hiding on your system.
Step 3: Get rid of any junk software and files on your computer. The easiest way to accomplish this is with CCleaner. Inside CCleaner, you can uninstall unneeded software and perform a cleanup of your junk files. It’s super easy to use and free.
Step 4: Once you’ve done the above steps and determined that your computer is working fine, perform another backup. This will give you a known good state to return to if things go wrong in the update process.
Step 5: Start Windows Update from the Control Panel and go to the xxx important updates are available section. In there, you will likely see the following screen.
As you can see, Microsoft selects all updates (or nearly all) to be installed. What you want to do is deselect all and only attempt to install the first few updates one-at-a-time. Reason is, these first few updates tend to be the ones that like to freeze.
If the update freezes and will not install, make a note of which update it was and reboot your system. Then, go back into Windows update and try a different update package to install. Once you get an update package to install, you need to reboot, even if Windows Update does not prompt you to do so.
Step 6: Once you reboot, go back into Windows Update and repeat these steps until you get to a point where you are presented with groups of updates that all look kinda the same. the main difference will be the Microsoft Knowledge Base article number at the end of the update title. Usually, this will be in the form of (KBxxxxxxx).
As seen above, select the above updates by update type and install. Then, once they install, reboot your system, whether you’re prompted or not. You will need to repeat this process until you’ve gone through all important updates. If you plan to install any optional updates, I strongly recommend you repeat this process.
Step 7: Once all Windows Updates are installed and you’ve verified that your computer is functioning properly, do one more full backup of your system so you have a fail-safe/fall-back in case anything happens again in the future.
This process took a few hours to complete on my old Dell Vostro 1520, but it’s not an overly complex task. It just takes a little time and patience and all will be working again as it should.
I hope this helps anyone who has had problems with Windows 7 locking up on Windows Update.