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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