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The joy of fixing Windows Update

Most of the time, Windows Update does its thing quietly and without problems. Updates are downloaded, installed and maintained without much fuss. The entire Microsoft/Windows Update channel is one of the most bandwidth intensive features on the internet, especially on “Patch Tuesday.” Again, most of the time things just works, but occasionally things do end up breaking.

Last week I was finally able to clean up a PC in the school that has been having WU issues for months now. Unable to work on the machine due to heavy use by the librarian, I was finally able to do so due to her absence last week, to finally tackle the issue head on without being pressured for time or interruptions. The librarian’s PC didn’t have issues before, when suddenly one day I started noticing that it was being flagged with a red cross in the WSUS Management Console. Manually installing the offending updates didn’t solve the problem, so I was left with a mystery to try and fix the PC without just nuking it and starting from scratch. What was more interesting is that it was only a small handful of updates failing, other updates were being installed successfully.

First thing I did was use the built in System File Checker scan, which found problems and fixed those, but didn’t resolve the WU errors. After that, I ran Microsoft’s System Update Readiness checker, which scans your Windows install in order to fix things. It too picked up some errors with missing files, which I replaced. It took a few run-throughs, but eventually the tool no longer indicated that there were any errors. Unfortunately, the WU errors didn’t go away. Next I tried the Windows Update trouble shooting tool from Microsoft’s support pages. The tool took a while to scan the system and found the error code that WU was reporting and also claimed to fix said error. However, trying to install the offending 2 updates still failed.

Turning now to the net, most advice for the 0x8007000D error code indicates that the actual update installation files have become corrupted or damaged on the hard drive. I thought I might have a sick hard drive on hand, so I ran Seagate’s Seatools to check that idea out. Turns out the hard drive is perfectly healthy according to Seatools. Finally, I followed the other piece of advice, which was to stop the Windows Update service, rename the C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution folder to something else and reboot. After the reboot, Windows builds a new folder. I deleted the old folder, which recovered almost 5GB worth of space. I went back to Windows Update to check, and the same 2 updates were offered as before. I tried them and lo and behold, they downloaded and installed without a hitch. All of a sudden, the PC was back up to date after a good few months of being out of compliance.

It’s always a good feeling to have a computer back in full working order. While nuking it would have probably saved me many hours, the hassle of rebuilding the librarian’s profile and reinstalling the library management software made the time spent curing the machine worth it. Hopefully from now on out, the machine behaves itself and doesn’t develop issues again down the line.

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