Windows 7 Won’t Update? Here’s What to Do

Last Update: March 17th, 2021
Article ID: 698483

Updated March 2021 (Fix for Service Pack 1 Download Link)
Updating Windows 7 is highly recommended for protecting against the threat of WannaCry, WannaCrypt, Spectre, Meltdown, and Uiwix in Windows 7.

March 2018: Microsoft has implemented an update restriction that requires users to install antivirus software that is compatible with patches for Spectre and Meltdown to receive updates in Windows 7. Users that have antivirus solutions that do not meet this compatibility requirement will likely encounter 'blue screen' errors.

Microsoft is requiring all antivirus software vendors to attest to the compatibility of their applications by setting a Windows registry key, but this also affects users with no antivirus solution . This can be alleviated for users without an antivirus solution by installing Microsoft Security Essentials, or by installing a registry key that would be created by antivirus solutions to pass the check by Windows Update.

When this article was originally written in 2016, Windows 7 still accounted for over 40% of Windows users. As of October 2020, Windows 7 only claims around 18.5% of Windows marketshare globally. Still, this represents millions of systems around the globe, and users still need to know how to update Windows to the furthest extent possible.

Background

Mainstream support for Windows 7 has ended a couple of years ago, and extended support ended in January of 2020. However, Enterprise customers are still being provided with even further security upates into 2023.

Hoping to simplify the update process on a fresh install, in May 2016 Microsoft released what has been dubbed the "Convenience Rollup " encapsulating many Windows 7 updates that came after the release of Service Pack 1. While the Convenience Rollup includes a large number of updates, there are many others that are not bundled with it and these additional updates can take quite some time to find and install through Windows Update. Microsoft notes that this was done on purpose :

We intentionally did not include any specific post-Service Pack 1 updates in convenience rollup 3125574 for which the following conditions are true:

  • They don’t have broad applicability.
  • They introduce behavior changes.
  • They require additional user actions, such as making registry settings.
Microsoft Knowledge Base

One of the biggest issues users have encountered with the Convenience Rollup is when Windows Update gets stuck on "Checking for updates" with the graphic continually looping, giving no sign of progress being made.

Checking for updates Windows 7

Paul Thurrott posted an article in 2016 titled "The Convenience Rollup Makes a Big Difference, But Windows 7 Updating is Still Broken ". He later updated the article, writing that after two hours of waiting, Windows Update eventually did offer to install additional updates.

Now, I’d like to share some solutions for what to do when Windows Update hangs, or gets stuck checking for updates, in Windows 7.

Windows 7 Update Guide

Before proceeding, be sure to determine whether your computer has 32-bit (x86) or 64-bit (x64) Windows, and whether Service Pack 1 (SP1) is installed.

  1. Open System by clicking the Start button, right-clicking Computer, and then clicking Properties
  2. Under the System section, you can view the system type. Additionally, the Windows Edition information will tell you whether Service Pack 1 is installed

It is also recommended to change your power options temporarily so that your computer will not enter sleep mode during the update process.

Windows 7 Power Options

If you are not updating Windows 7 from a new installation state, it is strongly recommended that you make a backup of your data before proceeding.

Updating a New Installation

This process is estimated to take an hour or two.

Note: These instructions were updated at one point with elements from a Reddit post by user "good1dave ". Please consider visiting the Reddit thread and giving him an upvote.

  1. Start with a fresh install of Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (SP1) with network drivers installed. During the install procedure choose "Ask me later" when prompted to choose your update settings.
    Windows Update settings
    • If you did not choose "Ask me later" as your update setting during the install process, change your update settings via "Start" > "Windows Update" > "Change settings" > and choose "Never check for updates (not recommended)." Then restart your computer.
    • If your Windows 7 install does not include Service Pack 1, be sure to install Windows 7 Service Pack 1 first .
  2. To install the "Convenience Rollup" you will need to install a prerequisite patch first. Download and install the prerequisite KB3020369 , known as the "April 2015 servicing stack update for Windows 7." (alternate link to KB3020369 files )
  3. Restart the PC, even if not prompted to do so
  4. Download and install the appropriate version of KB3125574 known as the "Convenience Rollup"
  5. Restart the PC, even if not prompted to do so
  6. Download and install the appropriate version of KB3138612 known as “Windows Update Client for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2: March 2016.” (alternate link to KB3138612 files )
  7. Restart the PC, even if not prompted to do so.
  8. Download and install the appropriate version of KB3145739 known as “Microsoft Security Bulletin MS16-039 — Security Update for Microsoft Graphics component (3148522).” (alternate link to KB3145739 files )
  9. Restart the PC, even if not prompted to do so
  10. Download and install the appropriate version of KB3172605 known as the “July 2016 update rollup for Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1.” (alternate link to KB3172605 files )
  11. Restart the PC, even if not prompted to do so
  12. Due to the March 2018 requirements imposed by Microsoft, a check for Spectre- and Meltdown-compatible antivirus is required to receive updates. Incompatible antivirus solutions are known to cause stop errors (blue screen errors). Ensure your antivirus software is up-to-date if you have any installed, or if you do not have antivirus software installed, either install Microsoft Security Essentials or follow Microsoft’s guide to install a registry key that will ignore the lack of antivirus software .
  13. Install the "March 12, 2019 servicing stack update (SSU) " KB4490628
  14. Install the "SHA-2 code signing support update for Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008: September 23, 2019 " KB4474419
  15. Install the "December 10, 2019 servicing stack update (SSU) " KB4531786
  16. Install the latest update rollup from December 10, 2019 that was released before the end of mainstream Windows 7 support. Remember to restart your computer after installing even if not prompted to do so. Download KB4530734
  17. Go to "Start" > "Windows Update" > "Change settings" > and set either "Use recommended settings" or "Install important updates only" in the Update settings window.

Important: At this point you should be able to run Windows Update normally. However, it has been observed that sometimes Windows Update will still offer Service Pack 1 (SP1) as an update even if you are already using Service Pack 1. If you see this in the list of offered updates, deselect the update, then right-click the update and choose the "hide" option.

There are newer monthly rollups and other updates available for Microsoft customers who have purchased Extended Security Update licenses . However, if you do not have these licenses, you likely will not be able to update Windows 7 any further. You should make plans to update to Windows 10, or transition to a modern Linux distribution, to ensure the security of your PC.

What to Do If There Are Problems After Trying The Method Above

While the steps above will get Windows 7 up-to-date for most users, there are still problems that can arise. For example, if you tried to run Windows Update before applying the Convenience Rollup, the older version of Windows Update Agent may have caused additional problems with the update process that would need to be resolved. In some cases, this will mean doing a thorough reset of Windows Update.

  1. Close the Windows Update window
  2. Stop the Windows Update Service
    1. Run a Command Prompt as Administrator (Start > All Programs > Accessories > Right-click Command Prompt > Select "Run as administrator")
    2. Enter the following command: net stop wuauserv
      Stop the Windows Update service
      • Note: If the command does not show success, run the command again
  3. Run the Microsoft FixIt tool for Windows Update issues
  4. Install the latest version of the Windows Update Agent
    • Be sure to choose the correct version for your operating system and system type
  5. Restart your PC
  6. Run Windows Update again
    • This may take a couple of hours to complete

This should resolve most issues with updating Windows 7. However, Microsoft has an extensive article with several methods to resolve Windows Update failures . If you are still encountering problems installing Windows 7 updates after exhausting these methods, you may want to check for your specific issue in Microsoft TechNet . Alternatively, it may be worth considering updating to Windows 10. While there are reports of Windows 10 updating frequently , there are far fewer reports of issues where Windows Update does not quickly perform successful updates.

We hope this guide helps you to keep your install of Windows 7 up-to-date so your Plugable products keep plugging along!