Windows 8 Update Failure: Recovery and Prevention

windows 8 update failureIt happens to the best of us: you are enjoying your new Windows 8 computer, things are going great, and then it hits. The dreaded blue screen. “Failure configuring Windows Updates. Reverting changes. Do not turn off your computer.” It’s a Windows 8 update failure. You are stuck until this gets fixed. We will suggest some ideas that may help. If you haven’t dug too deep into Windows 8 yet, first get a beginning introduction to Windows 8 to get you better acquainted with the system.

First, let’s start with some prevention. You can gain some control over updates by not allowing them to install automatically. Go to the Control Panel, click System and Security, and then Windows Update. Select one of the following settings:

Download updates but let me choose whether to install them
Check for updates but let me choose whether to download and install them

Now you will know that an update is coming and you can do it at a time of your choosing to minimize disruption. Please note that we are NOT suggesting to turn off updates, just how you are getting them. Updates are essential to the continued smooth operation of your computer.

Check the list of updates and deselect any driver updates. Drivers run important components of your system such as the sound or video. You don’t want these to get trashed. Windows Update drivers tend to be generic and may not work on your hardware. Note which driver is being offered and then go to the website of the company making that hardware, or to the website of the company that made your computer, and get your driver from there. There are also programs that you can install that do a good job of letting you know when a driver needs updating and where to get the update. If this talk is making you dizzy, you can get a crash course in computer essentials.

The next step doesn’t exactly prevent update failures, but it does help with recovery. Make a backup of all of your personal files. With a regular backup, you will never be in a position of losing important work because you have to do a system reformat. It gives you more options. Sometimes, it is just faster to do this than to troubleshoot the problem. The File History in Windows 8 can make that backup for you. Information about File History can be found in this comprehensive course.

Even better, if your system is working fine now, make a complete system image. An image is a complete copy of the exact state of your computer as it exists at the moment you do the image. Your computer can be restored to this state in a matter of minutes. Please note that you must also have been doing regular backups of your personal data, because you will certainly have made changes and added new files since the image was made. The image puts back your data to the same date you made the image. Again, a regular backup gives you options.

Let’s go on to some recovery options. First, be sure to that the update is stuck in the same spot for 30 minutes before you give up. Sometimes it just takes longer than you want but it gets done. If you see error messages but can get back in to Windows, do a scan for malware to see if anything has gotten itself onto your computer and is causing trouble. If that is good, go ahead and try the update again. Sometimes errors are one-time glitches and the second try will work. If it fails again, don’t try a third time. Go on to other ideas.

Go into Windows Update (Control Panel/System and Security/Windows Update) and on the left panel select “view update history”. Updates are listed by a Knowledge Base (KB) number. Get the KB number of the troublesome update and search the web for specific solutions. The problem may be limited to your particular brand or model of computer, so check their site as well. They may not show up on the first page of a general search for the error.

Have you installed new software since the last update? Sometimes new software services, especially those associated with digital rights management (DRM) can cause trouble. Try a system restore to the point just before you installed the software and see if that helps. Also check the website of the software company to see if they have any notices and perhaps a patch.

The update might run if you do a clean reboot of Windows. This will disable many services and drivers, leaving the minimum needed to run the system. The appearance of your desktop may not look as good in this mode. Details on doing a clean boot can be found in this Microsoft KB article.

You can also try to install the updates individually. In Windows Update, first select Check for Updates to get a listing of the pending updates. Then select each update on its own and let Windows Update run. Sometimes the updates can conflict when run as a batch. Concentrate first on the updates that Windows has selected automatically. Then do any remaining ones.

Finally, details on a fix for specific error codes is given in Microsoft KB 947821. If you don’t have those particular errors, try the Windows update diagnostic for Win 8 (this link will download the file).

If none of this works, you may have to resort to the ultimate recovery, a reformat. Before going there, try a refresh of the computer. This will reinstall Windows while keeping all of your files and the current settings. There will now be a lot of updates to do. If you upgraded this device from Windows 8 to 8.1, you may have to do that again. Microsoft has an article giving more details on a refresh and how it differs from a restore. The restore, or reformat, will erase everything. Back up all of your personal files to an external drive, so you can get them back later. Some basics on reformats are in this article at Udemy.

Once you go through these steps you should be back up and running on your computer. Check out this course to get 50 tips on smooth sailing in Windows 8.