How to force Windows Update to re-download files


WindowsupdateYesterday I had a similar Windows Update issue with two computers: my dad’s notebook that we loaned him and the MSI Wind. While the issues were the same on both notebooks, the timing was purely coincidental. My dad’s computer was stuck on the Windows XP SP3 update for some time; I only got a chance to check it last night. As for the Wind: I was running Windows Update because I had reinstalled XP earlier in the day… again simply coincidence.

On both machines, the updates were downloaded but failed to install. In the case of my dad’s computer, it really gunked up the works because SP3 isn’t just a small file that needs tweaking. His machine would attempt to run the update each time he shut down and it would simply sit for hours and never install. I figured there was some corruption in the service pack file from when it was downloaded, so the trick was to remove the file and try again. Since you can’t easily tell Windows Update to re-download the file, you have to force it with this sequence:

  1. From the Start, Run command: type services.msc and click OK. This will bring up the list of services Windows is running. Find the Automatic Updates service in the list and click Stop.
  2. Again from the Start, Run command, type %windir%softwaredistribution and click OK. This will navigate you to the files where Windows Update are downloaded to.
  3. You should now see a folder labeled "Download". Open it and delete the files. Note that this deletes the installation files for all installed Windows Updates. Some folks may feel more comfortable by leaving the files there but renaming the Downloads folder to something else.
  4. In the list of services, restart the Automatic Updates service.

By doing this, I was able to get Windows Update to think that it had essentially never downloaded Service Pack 3 for XP since the file was no longer there. I ran Windows Update, got the service pack downloaded again and it installed without a hitch. I’m sure there are many possible solutions for this type of scenario, but if you face this problem, this is worth a try.

Bear in mind that this was done on Windows XP; the update mechanism might be different in Vista. I also recommend either using the troubleshooter in Windows Update or searching the web for any specific error numbers should you run into problems with updates.



Kevin, thanks, great timing, just needed to trick Vista into re-installing SP1 after some files became corrupted by VistaGlazz.

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