Sunday, September 06, 2015

Windows 7 SP1 Windows Update takes forever to search for updates

One of the difficulties that I've run into while setting up the VM for Win7 on my Linux Mint laptop is that the Windows Update service will take hours/days/forever to figure out what updates are needed in a fresh Windows 7 Service Pack 1 install.

The symptoms are:

  • Windows Update is stuck on "Checking for updates..."
  • High memory usage by "svchost.exe" (2+ GB)
  • High CPU usage by "svchost.exe" (maxes out one of the CPU cores)
  • The process ID of "svcshost.exe" matches that of "wuauserv"

The key to diagnosing this is to use "Task Manager" and adjust which columns get displayed so that you  can see the process ID (PID) of the runaway "svchost.exe" process.  If that PID matches the one used by "Windows Update" on the "Services" tab, then this is probably affecting you.

The first step is to install a newer version of the Windows Update client.  The one from August 2015 is available at the following link:

Windows Update Client for Windows 7 (Aug 2015)

The second step is to reboot and let the machine sit at the "Checking for Updates" status in the "Windows Update" application for 24-72 hours  Patience is key here as it will eventually figure out that it needs to download 200+ patches.

Once that process starts, it will probably manage to download everything, but will hang on #141.  You can power off the machine and back on at this point, but you're probably just going to have to let it sit for another 12-36 hours.

And once you do finally get the system patched, you should take an image of it (Acronis True Image, Norton Ghost, etc.) so that you can reset back to this point if the machine ever gets corrupted.  That way you can skip installing all of those updates again.

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