Windows Update stuck? Here is what you may do to fix it

Martin Brinkmann
Jun 7, 2020
Windows, Windows Updates

Over the years, I ran into several issues regarding updates on Windows devices. A common issue that I experienced regularly was that updates appeared stuck after the initial reboot. Windows would display a percentage, e.g. 0%, 100% or any figure in between, and would seemingly not move that number or complete the process.

Common messages that you may receive:

  • Configuring update for Windows 10. 0% complete. Do not turn off your computer.
  • Failure configuring Windows updates. Reverting changes. Do not turn off your computer.

While I never experienced hour-long wait times like others have, I asked myself more than once whether the update was still ongoing.

Since I ran into the issue recently again when I updated one Windows 10 device to the new Windows 10 version 2004, I thought it would be a good idea to provide some guidance on how to deal with the situation.


paragon backup recovery free

Unless you are experiencing the situation right now, you may want to prepare for the issue and others that you may experience.

The most important step is to create a backup before you install updates. Windows comes with its own recovery options but these may fail, and if they do, you may be in for a lengthy repair session or a re-installation of Windows if you have install media at hand.

A backup solves this right away as you can restore the original state of the system prior to the update installation attempt. Make sure that you have bootable media at hand that boots the backup software if Windows does not boot anymore.

You can use free tools like Paragon Backup & Recovery, Macrium Reflect, or others.

Date and time when the update is installed is of importance as well. It is usually not a good idea to run updates at the beginning of a work day or when you need to use the computer for important tasks.

It is best to install updates at times when access to the device is not needed, e.g. in the evening or on the weekend. That way, if the installation takes longer, you may be less anxious and more relaxed.

Last but not least, it is advised to check the list of known issues before you install updates. Not all potential issues are listed by Microsoft, but you may find issues listed that apply to your device, e.g. its hardware or software.

Analyzing stuck Windows Updates

If the installation of the update takes a long time, you may wonder whether it is stuck or not; you may have the impression of the percentage value does not move, e.g. seems stuck at a specific value, or if the update takes a very long time to complete.

Watch and Listen!

You may want to check for hard disk activity first. Not all PCs or laptops show hard disk activity but if yours does, e.g. a blinking light, you may determine whether the hard disk is used. If it is used, chance is good that the update is still underway.

Sometimes, you may be able to hear if the hard drive is being used; this won't work with SSD storage devices but it may work with platter-based drives. Similarly, you may see or hear if the CPU is being used.

Wait or reboot?

You need to figure out whether it is best to wait or to reboot the system. If you conclude that the update is stuck, you may want to reboot to -- hopefully -- kick of the recovery process. Otherwise, you may want to wait and see if the update installation continues.

If you reboot, you may see a message stating that Windows is reverted back to the previous state. Note that this may also take some time to complete and that you may run into stuck issues here as well.

Usually though, you will end up with a restored system. If you are unlucky, Windows may enter into a loop that you cannot get out anymore. A backup, system restore, or other means of restoring a previous Windows state need to be used in that case. A reboot may also result in the continuation of the update installation, but there is no guarantee that it will not appear to be stuck again if that happens.

General advice

  1. Make sure you create backups before you install updates on Windows.
  2. Waiting is usually better than rebooting or powering the computer down if the update appears stuck; unless, you waited a long time already, say one or two hours, and nothing seems to have happened (no apparent computer activity).
  3. If you manage to boot a previous state, e.g. after the restoration of a backup, you may want to check the system before you re-run the update. Options that you may want to consider include:
    1. Checking free disk storage. If there is little, updates may take a lot longer.
    2. Checking known issues or Internet sites for potential reports of the issue that you encountered.
    3. Uninstalling software that you don't require and that may interfere with updates, e.g. antivirus software.

Now You: how do you deal with seemingly stuck Windows updates?

Windows Update stuck? Here is what you may do to fix it
Article Name
Windows Update stuck? Here is what you may do to fix it
Here is what you may do when the update installation process on your Windows device appears to be stuck.
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  1. Declan said on June 9, 2020 at 4:10 pm

    I’ve been stuck in bad updates several time. There is a feeling of fear that hits when those screens pop up. Fortunately I’ve been able to trip my way through them. I agree – set a Restore Point, then do a full image on an external disk, I actually make a cloned disk. The reason is simple, many images and backups do great making the back up, but often they don’t restore. So I have a clone ready to go in case that happens.
    And I have settled on AOMEI. I’ve’ tried Macrium, Acronis and Easus, but only AOMEI has never failed me.

    1. vanp said on June 10, 2020 at 4:20 am

      I’ve restored from Macrium many times–never had a problem. For that matter, never had a problem with MS restores when I was using their imaging process.

  2. Stuart Halliday said on June 9, 2020 at 12:44 pm

    Why do these articles never start with basic maintenance first?

    Do a CHKDSK on the hard drive.

    Do a SFC check that tests the importance system files for errors.

    Lastly do a DISM check that checks your update files for corruption.

    Once you know your computer files are good, do your major update.

    Very last, if you have problems, bring up the troubleshoot guide via Cortana and select the Windows Update troubleshooting option and let it figure out what mess you’ve let your computer get into.
    It really is your fault….

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on June 9, 2020 at 12:53 pm

      These are good tips, but they won’t help you initially when you run into a stuck update situation. If you can get Windows to boot again, you could and maybe should run these.

  3. Henshaw said on June 9, 2020 at 8:02 am

    When did operating system updates become the greatest risk to the computer. What happened to ‘just enough operating system’ to stay out of the way of the user’s business.

    1. Stuart Halliday said on June 9, 2020 at 12:48 pm

      When Microsoft sacked their Update team and transfered their obsolete Windows Phone team from India to the update department?

      They had no experience and made a big cockup of doing them.

  4. Paul(us) said on June 8, 2020 at 1:46 pm

    Thanks, Martin, for this article. Like always it reads fluently understanding wise speaking.
    Hopefully, when you come to a progressive understanding, you’ll be again kind enough to dedicate a new artifact to this matter.
    But let’s keep our fingers crossed that the windows 2004 and all the others updates after that don’t make it necessary for us to spend hours tinkering, to get our system working again.

  5. kvorshk said on June 8, 2020 at 7:49 am

    The best way to fix Windows update is to install a different OS.

    1. John G. said on June 8, 2020 at 2:59 pm

      Better solution is just to have two computes, one for working purposes only with no update at all and then install new ISO from zero erasing whole hard disk when you really want to do it, and then have another computer to enjoy twice monthly the W10 horror WUS show. Just like a TV series, with anxiety and fear and adrenalin when it says “cumulative update available”. :D

    2. Matti said on June 8, 2020 at 8:09 am

      Sure, if your livelihood doesn’t require you to be perpetually choked by a corporation, take the open source route with Linux or BSD. Unfortunately, many people still need their bloated proprietary apps or dudebro shooter games.

  6. VioletMoon said on June 8, 2020 at 1:43 am

    I haven’t updated Windows 10 at all; I wait a few weeks or more and complete the in place upgrade/install process–keeps all the files, settings, etc. and updates.

    Usually, it’s more like a few months until MS comes out with a new version of the .iso.

    This isn’t a “boot from a USB” install; one starts with Windows running. Comes from Windows 7. Highly efficient.

    But, I still make a full system image . . . always. Verify it. Make a second one if in doubt.

    The process rarely takes longer than 30 minutes.

  7. Herman Cost said on June 7, 2020 at 8:45 pm

    I have pretty much solved the major update problem by making sure I am on the business branch update path which automatically defers feature updates, and, in addition, by then deferring updates as long as I can on top of that. Since I am still on 1809, in theory at least, I can defer feature updates for up to 365 days. Its true that I don’t have any of those great new features (when I read about one that I actually need, I’ll reconsider my approach but that has not happened yet), Microsoft keeps rolling out, but it also true that I don’t act as a beta tester for them, and, as a direct result, I don’t have any of their bugs.

    The good thing about this approach is that when I do have to update, the updates usually work just fine as all the problems have been ironed out.

  8. Bart Mannmink said on June 7, 2020 at 7:09 pm

    In preparation, it is a good idea to switch OFF fast reboot and create restore point.
    Once done, switch it back on if fast reboot really is fast.

  9. alan pizzuto said on June 7, 2020 at 5:45 pm

    After two disastrous updates that bricked both computers I have blocked Windows from updating and am continuing to use the “old” version that worked. Amazingly I can still do all the computer activities that I need without the need for new “features” every six months. It’s an operating system for goodness sake and that’s all it needs to do. I have two other laptops each with a Linux operating system and they operate and update flawlessly. Microsoft has really screwed up big time with this business model.

    1. John G. said on June 8, 2020 at 2:54 pm

      I should have blocked W10 1515 at its moment, it was the last version for me that worked fine with my HDMI TV. Later versions were crap, and finally it has partially fixed at version 1909, where I am stucked myself for this computer’s life. W10 is so bad that people should have two computers, one stucked for working purposes, and other one opened to WUS to recieve nonsense new features.

  10. JohnIL said on June 7, 2020 at 5:05 pm

    I remember a IT person saying don’t do upgrades on a wireless connection. Use a wired one if at all possible. Considering many router makers also recommend a wired connection for firmware updates. I think its not a bad ideal to use the best connection available.

    1. Matti said on June 8, 2020 at 8:04 am

      Except many laptops (particular the “thin and light” kind) don’t even come with ethernet ports anymore :(

    2. MikeO said on June 8, 2020 at 4:25 am

      I always upgrade my laptops over a wifi connections. I also have my systems imaged and can restore if necessary. It’s saved me much aggravation and stress over the years.

  11. b.fischer said on June 7, 2020 at 4:45 pm

    Paragon is not the best tool. Which software is the best FOR RECOVERING damaged Windows?

    1. Paul(us) said on June 8, 2020 at 1:39 pm

      Personally I personally think that Acronis is still offering the best backup and recovery software. Their home version is enough for more than 98% of all the situations you can come in to.
      I have to wright that personally I think It’s a real shame that they not offering it for free, but you were asking for the best.
      There are some really neat other backup and restore brands like Martin is mentioning above but Acronis is still on the top of the hill for me.

    2. vanp said on June 8, 2020 at 2:47 am

      I’m no expert on anything computers, but as far as I can tell, a system image is absolutely the best and easiest way to fix a major problem; it has saved me many times.

    3. VioletMoon said on June 8, 2020 at 1:35 am

      If there isn’t an undamaged, verified image already made, I’m not sure what to say. Lots of ways to recover data, but the whole system? Don’t know.

      For making disk images, I prefer Macrium, but Paragon and Aomei and EaseUS have all worked when I was trying programs out years ago.

    4. Anonymous said on June 7, 2020 at 7:54 pm

      AOMEI Backupper is the best.

      1. Tom Hawack said on June 8, 2020 at 5:59 pm

        I don’t know if AOMEI Backupper is the best but I know it did a perfect job in recovering my Windows System partition which had been totally wrecked (boot) after having installed a scanner drive. It did so well that I don’t even update it because you only know if it works once you’ve tried it.

        Regarding stuck Windows Update : “how do you deal with seemingly stuck Windows updates?”.
        Answer : I avoid updating. OK, I’m referring to Win7 which I had always updated until problems arose (those mentioned in the article), was it two or three years after the launch of Win10.

        I thought it’d be over with Win10 (I mean the very updates, not what these updates carry) and now I read that even updating Win10 is possible problematic. Microsoft is problematic, getting worse day by day. GAFAM, the Web, naughty web cops and naughty web sites, the users in between. Being fed up is putting it mildly.

      2. Barton said on June 8, 2020 at 11:18 am

        @Anonymous Aomei is not the best tool. Which software is the best FOR RECOVERING damaged Windows?

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