10 Tips to Speed Up Windows 10

How to Speed up Windows 10

As PC hardware continues to get faster, so does software, and Windows 10 is no exception. This is especially true of startup time: If you upgrade from Windows 7 or earlier, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how fast your machine is ready for action. But there are other performance factors to consider after you’re up and running. We’ve compiled ten tips, many of which are perennial old standbys in the Windows performance game.

The problem with many Windows speedup stories is that they tell you to turn off some of the operating system’s more charming features such as visual animations. Most of the tips here show you ways you can speed up your Windows 10 system without compromising its appearance and functionality. Most are free, but some involve spending a little cash on software or hardware. For those with older, lower-power machines who want a speed boost but don’t care about extra goodies, a couple of the tips towards the end can boost system performance at the expense of some bells and whistles.

If you have your own tips for speeding up Windows 10, please don’t hesitate to post your suggestions in the comment section below.


1. Uninstall Crapware

1. Uninstall Crapware
That extra preinstalled software installed by PC makers continues to be an issue with new computers. I recently was working with a low-cost Lenovo PC that had nearly 20 so-called helper programs installed, and these would occasionally and unwantedly pop up and interrupt what I was doing on the computer.

Here’s how: Tap on the Start button (by default all the way in the lower-left corner of the display), then on All apps at the bottom, and then simply right-click on the offender and choose Uninstall. This will immediately uninstall. You can also right-click on the Windows logo Start button, and choose the top choice Programs and Features. You can also simply type Programs in the Cortana Ask me anything box next to the Start button.

You can usually find the culprits by sorting the list of installed apps on the name of your PC Maker. When you’ve found junk apps you don’t want, simply select them and click Uninstall. Unfortunately, you can only remove one at a time, so set aside a half hour or so for this project. Don’t forget to take the hatchet to apps you installed yourself but no longer want, and for software you don’t want that was installed alongside software you did want.

Keep in mind, with Windows 10 there are two kinds of applications, traditional desktop ones and modern Windows Store apps. To remove the latter, go to the Settings app’s Apps & Features page. There, you’ll see both kinds of apps, while the good ole Control Panel only includes good ole desktop programs. In either you can sort by size, date installed, or name, or search for a particular app.

The reason this helps performance is that many programs load processes at boot time and take up valuable RAM and CPU cycles. While you’re in the Programs and Features section of Control, you can also click Turn Windows Features On or Off and scan the list to see if there’s anything you don’t use. You might also try software like PCDecrapifier and Revo Uninstaller utilities. For more help on what to remove, read How to Clean Crapware From a New PC.


2. Limit Startup Processes

2. Limit Startup Processes
A lot of programs install side processes that run every time you start your PC, and some of them are not things you need running on your system all the time. Compared with Windows 7, in which you had to run the MSCONFIG utility, Windows 10 (and Windows 8.x before it) gives you a new, easier way to limit what runs at startup—from the updated Task Manager.

The easiest way to invoke the Task Manager is by pressing Ctrl-Shift-Esc. Switch to the Startup tab, and you’ll see all the programs that load at Windows startup. The dialog box even has a column that shows you the Startup impact for each. The Status column shows whether the program is enabled to run at startup or not. You can right-click on any entry to change this status. It’s usually fairly easy to see things you don’t want to run. For example, if you never use iTunes, you probably don’t need iTunesHelper to be running all the time.


3. Clean Up Your Disk

3. Clean Up Your Disk
From the Start menu, type Disk Cleanup. This opens the trusty Disk Cleanup utility that’s been part of Windows for several generations of the OS. Disk Cleanup finds unwanted junk and files such as temporary files, offline Web pages, and installer files on your PC and offers to delete them all at once. You may even find that your Recycle Bin is bulging at the seams: Mine had 1.47GB I didn’t know was there! This will generally only have a noticeable effect on speed if your drive is getting close to full, however. If you don’t have disk defragmentation scheduled regularly, set that up in the Optimize Drives tool, which you can find by typing its name in the Cortana search box next to the Start button. Another great tool for PC cleanup is Iolo System Mechanic 14, our Editors’ Choice for PC tune-up utilities.


4. Add More RAM

4. Add More RAM
Windows 10 isn’t as much of a hog as earlier versions of the OS, but more memory is always a way to speed up PC operations. For a lot of today’s Windows devices, such as the Surface convertible tablets, however, adding RAM isn’t an option. Gaming and business laptops often still allow RAM upgrades, but that’s becoming rarer by the year. The new, slimmer ultrabooks and convertibles are usually fixed. If you still use a desktop tower, this article can show you how to add RAM. The bigger RAM makers’ (Crucial, Kingston, Corsair) websites all offer product finders that show you which type of RAM your PC takes, and prices are pretty reasonable. I found 8GB high-performance DDR3 RAM for under $40 on Newegg.com.


5. Install an SSD Startup Drive

5. Install an SSD Startup Drive
This past year, I installed a solid-state (SSD) startup drive on my home desktop PC, and the result was a remarkable speedup. And not just for Windows startup, but for loading and using demanding applications such as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. If you use a laptop, this may also be an option. For system speedup, it makes sense to replace your internal startup hard drive, but an external SSD with a USB 3.0 connection can also give you a speed boost in applications that use a lot of storage. For more info, you can check out PCMag’s article, The Best SSDs and How to Buy an SSD, or look through our recent storage reviews.


6. Check for Viruses and Spyware

6. Check for Viruses and Spyware
You can run the built-in Windows Defender or a third-party app to do this, but you’re best served by PCMag security guru Neil Rubenking’s top pick among malware-cleanup programs, Malwarebytes Anti-Malware—it’s free! But don’t forget to use ongoing anti-malware protection, too. Some of the AV products have a lighter footprint on system performance than others, and the lightest of all, according to Rubenking, is Webroot SecureAnywhere AntiVirus$18.99 at Webroot.


7. Change Power Settings to Maximum Performance

7. Change Power Settings to Maximum Performance
Of course, this isn’t a good choice if you want to save electricity, but it could boost your computing. Head to Control Panel / System and Security / Power Options. From here, click on the dropdown arrow on the right side and choose High Performance.


8. Use the Performance Troubleshooter

8. Use the Performance Troubleshooter
In Cortana’s search box next to the Start button, type troubleshooting and under System and Security, you’ll see the choice Check for performance issues. Run the troubleshooter and it may find the root cause of your slowdown. For good measure, run through the other troubleshooters, including System Maintenance, Search and Indexing, Hardware and Sounds, and Programs.


9. Change Appearance in Performance Options Dialog

9. Change Appearance in Performance Options Dialog
You can easily get to this by typing adjust appearance in Cortana. In the dialog, you can use the radio button at the top labeled Adjust for best performance or select which eye-candy features you can live without from the long list of check boxes below these choices. If you do choose the overall best-performance button, you’ll lose all of the visual effects. For example, you won’t see the contents of a window you’re dragging move, but rather just a rectangle representing the window’s edges. Keeping the effects that you enjoy checked in the dialog is probably a better way to go.


10. Turn off Search Indexing

10. Turn Off Search Indexing
Especially for lower-powered PCs, search indexing can eat up system resources, if only temporarily. If you do a lot of searching, this won’t appeal to you, as some searches will be slower. To turn off indexing, open the Indexing Options Control Panel window (you can also just type index in the Start button search box, and you should see Indexing Options at the top of the result list), click Modify and remove locations being indexed and file types, too.

If you want to leave search indexing on, but find that it occasionally slows you down, you can stop its process when you need extra speed. Right-click on Computer either in the Start menu or on the desktop, choose Manage. Then double-click Services and Applications, then Services. Find Windows Search, and double click on that. From this Properties dialog, you can choose a Startup type of Manual or Disabled to have the process silent by default. The new Automatic (Delayed Start) startup type according to Microsoft help, “is preferred over the Automatic startup type because it helps reduce the effect on the system’s overall boot performance.” That was the default on my upgraded Windows 10 PC.

Thank You PC Magazine!
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VETERANS DAY WEEKEND

To Them We Owe

 Happened today, and in the past;
Sacrifice made, for ours to last.

Wives to widows, families torn;
Gave their lives, for them we mourn.

Gone forever, souls are lost;
Freedom comes, with this cost.

Enjoy the life, they did preserve;
Fate they suffered, did not deserve.

On this day, lest we forget;
To them we owe, our life in debt.

by Don Nielsen

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A massive ransomware attack

A massive ransomware attack spread across the globe today, locking up thousands of hospital, telecommunications, and utilities systems in nearly 100 countries. The attack used data stolen from the NSA to exploit vulnerabilities in Microsoft Windows and deliver the WanaCrypt0r ransomware. The demand was for $300 per PC.

While the ransomware was first detected wreaking havoc in emergency rooms and doctors’ offices in the UK, the infection quickly spread worldwide, including to the US.

We’re alerting you to reassure you that if you’re currently using the premium version (or the premium trial) of Malwarebytes with real-time protection turned on, you are protected from this threat. Our premium technology blocks the WanaCrypt0r ransomware before it can encrypt your files. (The free version of Malwarebytes, however, does not protect you against WanaCrypt0r. To see which version you have, open up your Malwarebytes software and look for the version name at the top of the window.) Learn more about Malwarebytes

If you’re not currently using the premium version of Malwarebytes, we recommend that you update your Microsoft Windows software immediately. Microsoft released a patch for this vulnerability in March, but many users haven’t updated, leaving their computers open to this attack.

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Cisco 2017 Annual Cybersecurity Report

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10 ways to protect against hackers

Hackers are a scary bunch—whether working as part of a criminal syndicate or an idealist with a political agenda, they’ve got the knowledge and the power to access your most precious data. If hackers want to target a particular company, for example, they can find vast amounts of information on that company just by searching the web. They can then use that info to exploit weaknesses in the company’s security, which in turn puts the data you’ve entrusted to that company in jeopardy.

Think of your home computer as a company. What can you do to protect it against hackers? Instead of sitting back and waiting to get infected, why not arm yourself and fight back?

Bad guys, beware. We’ve got 10 ways to beat you.

  1. Update your OS and other software frequently, if not automatically. This keeps hackers from accessing your computer through vulnerabilities in outdated programs. For extra protection, enable Microsoft product updates so that the Office Suite will be updated at the same time. Consider retiring particularly susceptible software such as Java or Flash.
  2. Download up-to-date security programs, including antivirus and anti-malware software, anti-spyware, and a firewall (if your OS didn’t come pre-packaged with it). To trick even the most villainous hackers, consider investing in anti-exploit technology, such as Malwarebytes Anti-Exploit, so you can stop attacks before they happen.
  3. Destroy all traces of your personal info on hardware you plan on selling. Consider using d-ban to erase your hard drive. For those looking to pillage your recycled devices, this makes information much more difficult to recover. If the information you’d like to protect is critical enough, the best tool for the job is a chainsaw.
  4. Do not use open wifi; it makes it too easy for hackers to steal your connection and download illegal files. Protect your wifi with an encrypted password, and consider refreshing your equipment every few years. Some routers have vulnerabilities that are never patched. Newer routers allow you to provide guests with segregated wireless access. Plus, they make frequent password changes easier.
  5. Speaking of passwords: password protect all of your devices, including your desktop, laptop, phone, smartwatch, tablet, camera, lawnmower…you get the idea. The ubiquity of mobile devices makes them especially vulnerable. Lock your phone and make the timeout fairly short. Use fingerprint lock for the iPhone and passkey or swipe for Android. “It’s easy to forget that mobile devices are essentially small computers that just happen to fit in your pocket and can be used as a phone,” says Jean-Philippe Taggart, Senior Security Researcher at Malwarebytes. “Your mobile device contains a veritable treasure trove of personal information and, once unlocked, can lead to devastating consequences.”
  6. Sensing a pattern here? Create difficult passwords and change them frequently. In addition, never use the same passwords across multiple services. If that’s as painful as a stake to a vampire’s heart, use a password manager like LastPass. For extra hacker protectant, ask about two-step authentication. Several services have only recently started to offer two-factor authentication, and they require the user to initiate the process. Trust us, the extra friction is worth it. Two-factor authentication makes taking over an account that much more difficult, and on the flip side, much easier to reclaim should the worst happen.
  7. Come up with creative answers for your security questions. People can now figure out your mother’s maiden name or where you graduated from high school with a simple Google search. Consider answering like a crazy person. If Bank of America asks, “What was the name of your first boyfriend/girlfriend?” reply “your mom.” Just don’t forget that’s how you answered when they ask you again.
  8. Practice smart surfing and emailing. Phishing campaigns still exist, but hackers have become much cleverer than that Nigerian prince who needs your money. Hover over links to see the actual email address from which the email was sent. Is it really from the person or company claiming to send them? If you’re not sure, pay attention to awkward sentence construction and formatting. If something still seems fishy, do a quick search on the Internet for the subject line. Others may have been scammed and posted about it online.
  9. Don’t link accounts. If you want to comment on an article and you’re prompted to sign in with Twitter or Facebook, do not go behind the door. “Convenience always lessens your security posture,” says Taggart. “Linking accounts allows services to acquire a staggering amount of personal information.”
  10. Keep sensitive data off the cloud. “No matter which way you cut it, data stored on the cloud doesn’t belong to you,” says Taggart. “There are very few cloud storage solutions that offer encryption for ‘data at rest.’ Use the cloud accordingly. If it’s important, don’t.”
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What is Hacking?

During the 1990s, the term “hacker” originally denoted a skilled programmer proficient in machine code and computer operating systems. In particular, these individuals could always hack on an unsatisfactory system to solve problems and engage in a little software company espionage by interpreting a competitor’s code.

Unfortunately, some of these hackers also became experts at accessing password-protected computers, files, and networks and came to known as “crackers.” Of course, an effective and dangerous “cracker” must be a good hacker and the terms became intertwined. Hacker won out in popular use and in the media and today refers to anyone who performs some form of computer sabotage.

Hacker Tools

There now are more than 100,000 known viruses with more appearing virtually daily. The myriad of hackers and their nefarious deeds can affect any computer owner whether an occasional home user, e-mailer, student, blogger, or a network administrator on site or on the internet. No matter your level of computer use, you must protect your computer, business, or even your identity. The best way to know how to protect your computer is to understand the hacker’s tools and recognize their damage.

Viruses, Exploits, Worms, and More

The term computer “virus” originated to describe machine code command inserted into a computer’s memory that, on execution, copies itself into other programs and files on the computer. Depending on the hacker’s intent, the design of a virus can merely be an inconvenience or have very serious consequences up to a potential catastrophe.

Generally, a virus is a piece of software, a series of data, or a command sequence that exploits a bug, glitch, or vulnerability. Each example is appropriately termed an “exploit.” An exploit causes unintended or unanticipated behavior to occur in a computer’s operating system or applications while propagating itself within the computer.

An exploit and operates through a network security vulnerability or “hole” without previous access to the vulnerable system is a “remote” exploit. An exploit that needs prior access to a system is termed a “local” exploit. These are usually intended to increase the hacker’s access privileges beyond those granted by a system administrator.

Worms are simply viruses that send copies over network connections. A bomb resides silently in a computer’s memory until set off by a date or action. A Trojan horse is a malicious program that cannot reproduce itself, but is distributed by CD or e-mail.

Protect Your Computer: Avoid Computer Holes/Vulnerabilities

Install only trusted software and delete unknown emails. If you have any doubt about a piece of software’s function, do not install it. If you receive e-mails from random people’s names, resist your curiosity and do not open it, just delete it.

Under no conditions download or open attachments from anyone that you do not know and even then be cautious. Banks and most companies that create online personal accounts will not send you attachments. If they do, it is probably best to go to the company site and request the download or at least see if it is legitimate. Avoid adult web sites, a hacker’s paradise.

Whether in your e-mail or online, do not click on ads. If the ad is of interest, find the site. Be careful with what you physically put into your computer. This is especially true for shared R/W CDs, USB hard disks, or flash drives. This is an easy path for a virus to follow from computer to computer.

Protection: Install Anti-Virus Software

Anti-virus software searches for evidence of the presence of viral programs, worm, bombs, and Trojan horses by checking for the characteristic appearances or behaviors that is typical of these programs. When found the program logs its discovery, its type, often its name or an identifier, and it potential for damage. The anti-virus software then eliminates or isolates/quarantines the infected files. For the individual, commercial software is relatively inexpensive; however, there are free anti-virus programs available.

Since new viruses appear almost daily with new code it is imperative that you update you antivirus program often to keep up with these threats; therefore, make sure to set your program to update automatically. To avoid the annoyance of computer slowdown schedule full scale scans late at night.

The same is true for your Windows Operating System. Very often, your OS is where hackers discover the holes to exploit. Of course, in an ever-continuing battle, this software is continuously updated with security patches.

Finally, secure your wireless network with a router that has a built in firewall. Almost all wireless routers are set to no security when first installed. Log into the router and at least set it to basic security with a strong password to replace the factory setting that any hacker knows. A firewall or router that is not configured properly or non-existent allows hackers to scan passwords, e-mails, or files that cross your network connection.

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How to Fix: Cannot Create Partition: No Free MBR Slots

I have an HP computer, which has 4 hard drive partitions: the System partition, the C drive, the factory image partition (which includes a backup of Windows), and the ‘HP Tools’ partition, which contains BIOS information in case a BIOS flash fails and I need to restore my BIOS. My question is this: I used MiniTool Partition Wizard to shrink my C drive, which then created unallocated space. Normally I can right click the unallocated space and create a new volume, however, I receive an error message that says: ‘Partition Wizard cannot create a partition here because there are no free MBR slots’. I don’t know what that means or what to do next. Can you help? ”

My response:

I use MiniTool Partition Wizard from time to time – it’s good, and it’s free – but, I have to say that I have never heard of this issue before. I asked Sam if he would like me to connect to his system and look at the issue in depth, and he agreed. Here’s what I found:

First, I launched Disk Management within Windows and right clicked over top of the unallocated space Sam had created earlier, but received an error stating that: “You cannot create a new volume in this unallocated space because the disk already contains the maximum number of partitions.” I then tried to do the same using MiniTool Partition Wizard and was also greeted with the same error Sam received earlier – there were no free MBR slots.

I did a bit of research, and what it boils down to is this: Sam had 4 partitions, and all of them were set as primary – which happens to be the maximum number of primary partitions you are allowed per disk. This information is then stored in the MBR (master boot record) of the hard drive. With that said, most people won’t run into this issue because most standard Windows installations will only contain 1 primary partition, which is located on the C drive. However, Sam’s computer was from HP and they do things a little differently.

How to Fix: Cannot Create Partition: No Free MBR Slots

After a bit more research I discovered that it is technically possible to convert one of the primary partitions into a logical partition, thus abiding by the laws of the master boot record (MBR). However, I advise not going this route, because it will likely break the functionality of the computer down the road. In Sam’s case, the Recovery and HP Tools were both primary; changing either one to logical may break either the factory image restoration or the BIOS recovery – and you would not want to find out that either one of these recoveries doesn’t work when you need it the most.

A better way to go about this problem is to work with what is already there. In Sam’s case, the hard drive layout looked like this:

System (Primary) | C Drive (Primary) | Unallocated Space | Factory Image (Primary, Backup) | HP Tools (Primary)

What I did was use MiniTool Paritition Wizard to merge the Unallocated space (which was originally taken from the C drive) with the Factory Image immediately next to it, and then marked all the files on the Factory Image drive as hidden. That way, Sam could use the newly repurposed partition for whatever he wanted, and technically this did not break his pre-existing partition schema. Sam’s hard drive layout then looked like this:

System (Primary) | C Drive (Primary) | Sam’s new partition (Primary, Still contains Factory Image, but now larger than previous) | HP Tools (Primary)

I hope that helps anyone should they encounter a similar issue, especially with HP computers.

A word of warning: always make a disk image backup of your entire hard drive before you go changing around your partitions. I have used MiniTool Partition Wizard previously and adjusted the C drive geometry, only to have it crash and corrupt Windows, thus making the entire system unbootable. As always; if you don’t know what you’re doing, you are welcome to contact me for help

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How to Screenshot A Mac – 4 Simple Tricks

Thank You David Cox:

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Will Windows 10 Install Automatically?

I have successfully reserved my copy of Windows 10 using the ‘get windows 10’ app on my desktop. I am having second thoughts about whether or not Windows 10 will install properly, so I’m not sure if I should cancel it. I might just wait for the Windows 10 ISO, so I can do a clean install. Question: if I go ahead and let Windows 10 install through Windows Update (which is due July 29), how will it be installed? Will Windows 10 be installed automatically? If the install fails will I be able to get my files back? ”

My response:

Based on previous Windows upgrades (from within the desktop of a pre-existing Windows environment), Windows 10 will not install automatically without prior notice and interaction on your behalf. For example, a PC running Windows 7 via the desktop that is upgrading to Windows 8 goes through a series of stages (questions), which eventually leads up to an End User License Agreement (EULA) before giving Windows 8 the “go ahead” to perform the actual install. I suspect the Windows 10 upgrade will be much the same.

Should You Worry about Windows 10?

As for having second thoughts about installing Windows 10 (whether it’s through Windows Update or a clean install) – you won’t need to worry about any of that providing you make a disk image backup of your system and all your files before the July 29 deadline. As long as you have disk image backups and you test the backup procedure, then you should be good to go and there should be no need to worry. There’s really nothing else to say and do beyond that.

For disk image backups, I recommend Acronis True Image. I’ve been using it on all my PCs for 10 years now and it’s saved my bacon many, many times, which is also why I keep mentioning it repeatedly in the newsletter. It’s really that good, and I’m sure many users reading this will attest to its effectiveness. You can purchase it through our website (1 PC license, or a 3 PC license, which is the best deal). If you don’t know how to set up the backup, I would be more than happy to help you with it – just send me an email.

What if Windows 10 Install Fails and You Don’t Have a Backup?

If you don’t have a backup and Windows 10 fails to install, then getting your files back will likely be a painful experience. You can hire someone to do it for you (like myself), or you can attempt to do it yourself. I don’t recommend the latter, but the steps (roughly) would be as follows:

  1. Take the hard drive out of your PC and attach it to another system.
  2. Boot the secondary PC and attempt to locate all the user files from the failed Windows install.
  3. Note the many locations of all user files on the hard drive, and copy those files onto another hard drive.
  4. Next, launch an Administrative command prompt. Take ownership of the files you copied onto the secondary hard drive using the “takeown” command, followed by resetting the access control list permissions using the “icacls” command. You will most likely need to do this recursively as there will be folders inside of other folders and you don’t want to do this on a folder by folder basis or it will take weeks to complete. Needless to say, this is all very surgical, and special care must be taken to not take ownership of the wrong files or you could do some serious, irreversible damage. If you don’t reset the permissions, you won’t be able to to modify any of the files you copied over.
  5. After the files have been copied and permissions reset, you will most likely want to format the drive so you can reinstall Windows.
  6. Shut down the secondary system and take the formatted drive out, then put it back into your system.
  7. Reinstall Windows and all your programs.
  8. Replace all your user files from steps 1-4 back onto the system.
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How to Fix: ‘Failure configuring Windows Updates; Reverting changes’ Error

I had to reinstall Windows 8 on my machine, and I wanted to download the Windows 8.1 update afterward. But when I try, that I’m told I must have all the current Windows 8 updates installed. So, I looked at the updates for Windows 8 and there are over 150 of them. I requested that they all be downloaded and installed, and they did. However, when the installation and configuration starts, I get the message that there was a ‘Failure Configuring Windows Updates; Reverting changes‘, and then Windows Update fails. Now I’m right back where I started from. Can you tell me how to work around this as I am not able to update to Windows 8.1? ”

My response:

Unfortunately this a very problematic issue, and it requires some troubleshooting. Microsoft outlines steps to resolve a corrupt Windows Update; however, based on my experience there is a lot of information missing on this page, plus there are too many external pages that link to other pages which only serve to confuse the reader. As such, I’ve compiled a straightforward list (below) using tried and tested methods to help you to resolve the ‘Failure Configuring Windows Updates; Reverting changes’ error.

Note: please try these steps in order, as they are meant to be exhausted from start to finish:

  1. Scan the Hard Drive for Errors
  2. Unplug any removable media and reboot; try Windows Update again
  3. Run the System File Checker tool (SFC.exe)
  4. Attempt Windows Update from a Clean Boot
  5. Download and Run the Windows Update Troubleshooter
  6. Clear the Windows Update Cache
  7. Use the Deployment Imaging and Servicing Management (DISM) tool
  8. Perform a System Restore then Reapply Updates
  9. Perform a Windows Refresh or Restore

1. Scan the Hard Drive for Errors

If your file system is corrupt, this will cause Windows Updates to fail. That said, if you have surface errors on the hard drive this will cause files to become corrupt, Windows Update to fail, and may not be recoverable. To scan the file system for errors:

a. Click Start, then type in “this pc” (no quotes) and click on This PC when it shows up in the start menu.

b. Navigate to C drive and right click it, then select Properties.

c. Go to the Tools menu (tab) and under Error Checking, click Check Now.

d. Ensure Automatically Fix File System Errors in check marked, and click OK.

You will be prompted to reboot your computer. But before you do that, unplug any removable media and reboot as noted in suggestion #2.

2. Unplug any removable media and reboot; try Windows Update again

As noted on Microsoft’s website, having removable media such as an external hard drive or USB flash drive plugged in can cause Windows Updates to fail. Unplug any of these devices on your computer, reboot, and try the Windows Updates again.

3. Try the System File Checker (SFC)

Sometimes Windows components can become corrupt which then causes the Windows Services to become corrupt, including the Windows Update Service. You can attempt to fix that by running the Windows System File Checker. Here are the steps:

a. Click Start, and then type in “cmd” (no quotes) but DO NOT press Enter on the keyboard; when CMD (the command prompt) shows up in the Start Menu, right click it and select “Run as Administrator” from the context menu.

b. A black window (the command prompt) will appear. Type in “sfc /scannow” (no quotes) and press Enter on the keyboard. This will begin the scan and will take about 5 to 10 minutes to complete.

c. After the scan try running the Windows Update again

4. Attempt Windows Update from a Clean Boot

Sometimes installed programs can interfere with the Windows Update process. To ensure that no programs are interfering with the Windows Update process, you can initiate a “Clean Boot” by following these steps:

a. Click Start and type in “msconfig” (no quotes) and press Enter.

b. Go to the Service Tab and checkmark “Hide all Microsoft Services”.

c. Next, click on Disable All, then click Apply.

d. Click the Startup Tab and then “Open Task Manager” link (if present)

e. Select all items in the Startup tab list, then click Disable.

f. Click OK and have Windows reboot your computer

Note: once you have Windows Update working properly you can reverse these changes (if desired) by following the instructions in reverse.

5. Download and Run the Windows Update Troubleshooter

Oftentimes the Windows Update service can become corrupt. Download and run the Windows Update Troubleshooter to try and have this Microsoft “Fixit” fix the Windows Update Service. It’s worth noting that the previous steps I’ve outlined above should be tried first before running the Windows Update Troubleshooter because ignoring those steps may cause the Troubleshooter to fail. Additional information on troubleshooting Windows Updates for Windows 8 is here.

6. Clear the Windows Update Cache

Clearing the Windows Update Cache usually does the trick for a wide range of Windows Update related problems. To clear the cache, navigate to the C:\Windows\WinSxS\ folder, then look for the file called “pending.xml”. Left click it, then right click over top of the filename and rename it to “pending_old.xml” or similar; renaming the file will effectively ‘reset’ the Windows Update process. Once the file has been renamed, re-run the Windows Update again.

7. Use the Deployment Imaging and Servicing Management (DISM) tool

As mentioned in Step #3, sometimes Windows components can become corrupt. The DISM tool can find corrupted Windows files and then download corrected ones from Microsoft’s servers online. To run the tool, follow these steps:

a. Click Start, and then type in “cmd” (no quotes) but DO NOT press Enter on the keyboard; when CMD (the command prompt) shows up in the Start Menu, right click it and select “Run as Administrator” from the context menu.

b. A black window (the command prompt) will appear. Type in “DISM.exe /Online /Cleanup-image /Scanhealth” (no quotes) and press Enter on the keyboard. This will begin the scan and will take about 5 to 10 minutes to complete.

c. After the scan try running the Windows Update again

8. Perform a System Restore then Reapply Updates

Performing a System Restore will revert your computer to a last known good configuration. You won’t lose any personal files or data but you will lose any customizable changes to Windows since the last restore point. To access the System Restore feature, do the following:

a. Click Start, and then type in “restore point” (no quotes) and DO NOT press enter. Look for the Settings icon to appear and click that.

b. Click on the option labeled Create a restore point; you will then be taken to the System Protection tab of the System Properties control panel.

c. Click on the System Restore button; then click on the Next button. You will then be shown a list of available restore points that you can restore.

d. After the system is restored the computer will reboot, then try the Windows Update again.

9. Perform a Windows Refresh or Restore

Refreshing Windows will reinstall Windows, but your personal files and settings will not be affected. If your computer is super messed up, this is one of the last resorts to resolve the issue. To perform a refresh, proceed with the following steps:

a. Click the Start Menu and type in “PC Settings” (no quotes); when the PC Settings Icon appears, click it.

b. Click the Update and Recovery link, then click Recovery.

c. Under the option ‘Refresh your PC without affecting your files’, click Get started.

d. Attempt to download and install all the Windows Update again.

Optionally, you can reset Windows. Resetting Windows will effectively nuke the hard drive and reinstall Windows factory fresh, but you will lose all data on the drive in the process. You can achieve this using the same steps as Refresh (described above), but choose “Remove everything and reinstall Windows” (Reset) instead.

Good luck!

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