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Windows Update Hell

Once again I'm in Windows Update hell. It's not the first time I've arrived here, but this time around it's a special kind of hell because of Microsoft's misguided policy on update management that makes it damn near impossible to opt out of updates.

The problem

Some time ago - prior to release of the Windows 10 Aniversary update - I was signed up to the Insiders Program because I wanted to play with some of the new features that came in AU. Specifically the integrated Bash shell and some of the IIS improvements. All went well at the time and when the final of AU rolled around I turned off receiving of Insiders builds to get back onto a stable machine that doesn't update every couple of weeks. Life was back to normal.

About a month ago however things started going sideways. Updates started to fail starting with KB3194798 and then later with a newer update KB3197954. In both cases the updates start installing, get to 96% and then:

All in all this takes 3 restarts to get through.

@#!!@ Daily Update Retries

This is bad enough, but it gets worse: The updates continue coming daily wanting to update EVERY day installing the same failed update again and again.

Due to Windows 10's new policy of an update schedule that checks daily for updates these failed updates - and their 3 restarts - fire every day, without prompting or asking. They just shut down Windows (or wake it up from sleep) in the middle of whatever is happening even if the computer is off. The result is when I return from dinner each night the machine is rebooted. This is made worse for me as I dual boot into the Mac so the updates don't automatically go through their reboot dance.

Check out this fucked up update log:

You'd think the updater might be smart enough to figure out after a couple of failed update attempts that this update isn't going to work. But no that would be too simple...

I also continually see this dialog:

It says there's an update pending even though I've previously - unsuccessfully - installed this update just minutes before. So Windows failed to install an update and immediately decides it wants to immediately install the update AGAIN.

The real kicker however is that I can't turn the updates off.

There's a Microsoft Utility that you can download to explicitly keep certain updates from installing. I did this with an earlier install and it worked with KB3194798, but doesn't with KB3197954 which never shows up on the list of updates to install. So that's out.

What I tried

A lot of people had problems with KB3194798 and there were a lot of workarounds floating around for this one. I tried all of them and had no luck.

I'm on

Windows 10 (1607 14393.187)

Use the Windows Update TroubleShooter

This thing says it found things to fix every time it runs:

but in the end this has no effect and the updates continue to fail.

Remove XBox Scheduled Tasks

Apparently with the original failing update many people reported that the issue was related to a XBox related scheduled task that wasn't shutting down properly and couldn't update. I first disabled, then removed those tasks (I don't use XBox - WTH is this even here, much less screwing with a Windows update?). Microsoft had originally released Windows 10 1607 Script fix to unblock update for Windows Insiders to address this. I ran this but again - no luck.

Offline Install

Finally I downloaded and installed the initial update completely offline. I:

  • Disconnected all devices from the machine
  • Shutdown network connections
  • Ran the update install locally

Didn't work either.

Hide Updates

When I originally started having problems with KB3197954 I was able to use the Windows Show Hide Update Utility from Microsoft.

But with KB3197954 that update doesn't even show up in there so I can't hide it.

  • ??? I'm fresh of ideas at this point, short of paving the machine.

Who you're gonna call?

What's really frustrating about this is that there seems to be no good online resources you can turn to for these type of issues. The answers I did find tended to be scattered all over the place from ServerFault to Microsoft forums (with some really lame Microsoft employee responses - anything useful came from other users) to obscure forums. There was lots of interesting information that was overall helpful but unfortunately not what it took to resolve my issue.

At this point I'm at a loss. I'm not totally adverse to reinstalling - this Windows install pre-dates the initial Windows 10 release, but it's otherwise stable and still quite fast (ie. not Window bit rot that I notice) so I would rather avoid it.

Anybody out there have any other suggestions on what else to look at?

Sad, Sad, Sad

All I can say is that this sad - really sad. Updates have always been a pain, and failed updates are a reality of life in general. Before those Mac heads go on and say - get a Mac (this IS on a Mac) I've had a similar FAIL on the OS X with the Yosemite update a year or so back that would not want to install and required a repave as well.

Failed Updates are OK - but retrying failures over and over again without a way to turn off the pain is definitely not.

Doing the same failed thing over again, is... Insanity

But continuing to fail repeatedly, doing the same failed update over and over is just plain dumb. With all of this machine logic Microsoft talks about day in and day out, maybe they should spend of that common sense to the Windows Update engine and have some rudimentary logic that can figure out a basic failure pattern and stop making life miserable.

Tell us what the problem is!

Worst of all is that there are no good troubleshooting tools. Why isn't there a link somewhere that points at a log when an update fails. Or hey, how about an error message that actually says something useful like - hey your video driver is locked or we can't connect to the registration server - anything - instead of "We couldn't complete the updates - now buzz off". I get that you don't want to scare non-technical folks, but a link a small link that allows getting at that info would be freaking glorious compared to this insane opacity.

Windows update logs aren't the right answer here either because those can be near impossible to parse for a non-Microsoft person, but heck the installer has to know what the last thing it was working on that failed. This isn't rocket science.

Ok I'm done ranting :-)

Post created with Markdown Monster
Posted in Windows  

The Voices of Reason


Will Gant
November 03, 2016

# re: Windows Update Hell

Hey man,
Long time reader, first time commenter and I just wanted to chime in and tell you that you aren't alone. These new forced updates have me feverishly trying to get my workflow working on linux, just so that I can get away from having some rando at Microsoft deciding to brick my machine when I need it. In the last month alone, our podcast had John Sonmez on, and we started recording late due to an unsolicited update, and we missed an interview with another guest entirely because windows bricked our recording box for four and a half hours. It's twice killed my webcam just before an important conference call, and regularly uninstalls VPN software at work that we need to connect to clients. You aren't alone. I don't know why they've started doing things they way they are, but man is it annoying.

November 04, 2016

# re: Windows Update Hell

"insane opacity."

Hear hear! I've had the same problem with a SQL update on Windows Server - it just tries and tries and provides NOTHING of any help.
All this is fed by the hideous new "app"-like UI's that hides anything useful that power users might benefit from.

Rick Strahl
November 04, 2016

# re: Windows Update Hell

@Dave - yeah. I think it's such a shame. Overall I **really** like Windows 10 - it's fast and stable and the UI overall is great. But the new APP UI for all the control panel stuff is almost universally **unusable**. Case in point - try setting your file associations on the dialog that tries to load 1000 extensions in a scrolling list :-) Or manage network connections.

There are so many low hanging fruit that would make Windows better and go a long way towards alleviating all the bad vibes towards Windows - there's a lot of ill will and a lot of it comes from these relatively inconsequential little nits that never seem to get addressed. Little details make a big difference and listening to users (and not just a bunch of fanboy Insiders) would go a long way towards that end I think. The mere fact Microsoft doesn't have a decent online support infrastructure in place is a terrible message to send to your users which basically says - we don't give a shit what you think.

November 04, 2016

# re: Windows Update Hell

Same problem here. I used to be on the insider program too. While waiting for November updates I've delayed restart for a particular date (in restart options) a week in the future. Probably will have to keep pushing this until a solution emerge on MS forums.

I downloaded Aniversary Edition .iso's (these are separate for Pro+Std vs Ent edition) and short of went through "Keep my files only" reinstall option but then considered how painful reinstalling devenv would be and cancelled it.


David Scheppers
November 04, 2016

# re: Windows Update Hell

I sympathise with your situation, I'm experiencing similar frustrations with the Outlook online update currently, without any warning an unsolicited 'upgrade' has broken the way I have been reading my online email for years (again).

This seems to be a symptom of a new kind of arrogance from Microsoft that new 'fixes' are forced on the users without any warning or opt-in/out functions. I find this hubris rude and incredibly frustrating.

Yet another reason I'm not currently using Windows 10.

Best of luck with your updates, sorry I can't help.

November 04, 2016

# re: Windows Update Hell

ask a question on superuser.com and include the folder C:\Windows\logs\CBS (Onedrive share link) in the question. With this logs I can analyze what is wrong

November 04, 2016

# re: Windows Update Hell

Hi, I had KB3194798 always failing to install on two machines. This resolved it for me:

Manually download KB3193494 from Microsoft Update Catalog: http://www.catalog.update.microsoft.com/Search.aspx?q=KB3193494

Install it by running this in an Administrator command window:

wusa windows10.0-kb3193494-x64_171738fb9de59d92ccc90c3c0788afa2a3625f61.msu

After a reboot, the pending updates installed as per normal. It seems the update also fixed a problem where I got “The stub received bad data” several times a day when starting programs.

I stumbled upon the solution in a comment from GrandmasterPhil here: http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/forum/windows_10-start/the-stub-received-bad-data/f4829753-484e-4cf8-b123-6caf2422d17b?page=8


Jason Freeman
November 06, 2016

# re: Windows Update Hell

I've followed your blog for a while now and have enjoyed your insightful and usually very helpful tips. My turn to reciprocate. Seriously consider running your Windows work machine as a VM inside your Mac environment. Snapshot after a successful update. If updates fail, rollback and try again. Best of luck fixing this. I have two Win 7 vm's that I use this way and started doing it primarily to avoid the GWX updates.

Best of luck.

Rick Strahl
November 07, 2016

# re: Windows Update Hell

@Jason - Well, I'm not a fan of running a dev machine in a VM. Performance in Parallels is not anywhere near what it is running on the metal with Bootcamp. Additionally there are display quality issues on big monitors (I run a 4k monitor). All of that makes it a non-starter to *only* run in a VM. I run bootcamp with being able to access the same instance from Parellels which is a decent compromise as I use the Mac only for iOS development/integration.

Also - I'm not sure if what you describe really helps in the long run - eventually you'll want to upgrade. For now turning off the specific updates works in the short term and maybe one of the next ones may get past this.

November 11, 2016

# re: Windows Update Hell

Same problem. I also read your excellent posts on FiddlerCore in the past and then came across this site again when Googling the update issues, makes me wonder if this issue affects users with Visual Studio installed, or perhaps it's just a coincidence?

January 11, 2017

# re: Windows Update Hell

It's amazing to me that people accept the idea that their Windows machine is theirs to control anymore. It's not. W10 is just more of big brother imposing their will.

Anyone who adopts W10 should realize their machine is simply an extension of Microsoft's global outreach program and that, in the end, have no real say about their lives.

February 04, 2017

# re: Windows Update Hell

My Win 7 Professional desktop has become impossible to update since the November 2016 update.

I have run a Linux OS machine for fun on old hardware since 2004 initially Red Hat finally settling for Linux Mint - currently 18LTS. Despite running Linux, my Win 7 Professional machine has been my main computer running SQL Server 2008 RT and the Visual Studio Stack. I have extensive VBA programming skills built up over 15 years and have developed many complex programs in VBA some professionally at work some for home projects.

Now I find myself forced to abandon the OS and software of choice and which should be usable for at lease another three years and will migrate my last Windows computer to Linux Mint 18 LTS. Currently I am learning Python to replace my VBA skill set (should have done it years ago) and will import my databases into Postgresql.

Microsoft have lost the plot and are badly treated licensees enforcing these broken updates on them and will loose many more faithful users over the coming months. Note, I have been advocating Linux Mint for several years for casual home users who mainly use their computers for web browsing plus typing the odd letter.

Disgusted with MS



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