Automatic Updates Client

The Automatic Updates client is not always trouble free, and therefore can require some maintenance. This page outlines the most common problems with the automatic updates client.


Included on this page

Automatic Updates not Downloading
Greyed Out Settings on a standalone machine
Prompting to Install the Same Updates Every Day

Automatic Updates not Downloading

If you have just built your machine, or it is a new machine, then there will be a lot of updates for you to download and install. By default, Windows should look for updates every 17 - 22 hours. If the updates don't start downloading (an icon will appear beside your clock) then you can force the update system to check and there are three ways you can do this, depending on your machine configuration.

Method 1

  1. Access Automatic Updates as per the list on the setup page.
  2. Unselect "Keep My Computer up to date." Press Apply and OK to close the window.
  3. Enter it again and re-enable "Keep My Computer up to date". Press Apply and OK to close the window.

Method 2

If the entire "Automatic Updates" window is greyed out, and the machine is on on a domain, then your settings are configured centrally. You will need to do a small registry hack to force the update process to start. (Usual registry warnings - if you don't know what you are doing, then don't attempt this)

  1. Go into Computer Management in Control Panel, choose Services and stop the "Automatic Updates" Service
  2. In the registry go to "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\WindowsUpdate\Auto Update\"and verify that the key "AUState" is set "2"
  3. Below that AUState key there is a further key called "LastWaitTimeout". Delete that key.
  4. Close the registry editor.
  5. Restart the "Automatic Updates" Service.

Method 3

The third way works only on Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows XP SP2 and higher or Windows 2000 after it has used the latest version of the Windows update client.

Drop in to a command prompt and enter the following command:

Note the space between the exe and the / but no space after the / or in between the words detect and now
The machine will start its detection cycle within minutes of the command being issued.

For Windows 10 use the command

Method 4

The forth method works in Windows Vista and Windows7 only.
Open Windows Update from Control Panel. Click on "Check for Updates" on the left.

If none of the above work, then you may want to try resetting the automatic updates system.

Greyed Out Settings on a standalone machine

If your machine is a member of a domain, in an office for example, then the automatic update settings are probably controlled by your network administrator. However if your automatic updates settings are greyed out and the machine does NOT belong to a domain, then there could be other causes.

To fix the policy related issues, try the following:
(Usual registry warnings - if you don't know what you are doing, then don't attempt this)

  1. In the registry navigate to the following location:
    "HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\WindowsUpdate\Auto Update\"
  2. In the right-pane, delete the two values AUOptions and NoAutoUpdate
  3. Navigate to the following location: "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\WindowsUpdate"
  4. Delete the value DisableWindowsUpdateAccess

Group Policy Editor

If you are using Windows XP Professional on a standalone machine then you should also check the Group Policy editor for configuration issues.

  1. Click Start, Run and type MMC.
  2. Choose File, Add/Remove Snap in.
  3. Select Group Policy from the list.
  4. Open the following location: Computer Configuration, Administrative Templates, Windows Components, Windows Update.
  5. Change/verify that all the settings are set to "Not configured" (if you wish to to disable the GP control altogether) or verify the settings are as required.
  6. Still in GP, open the following location User Configuration, Administrative Templates, Windows Components, Windows Update.
  7. Change/verify that "Remove access to all Windows Update features" is set to "Not Configured".

Prompting to Install the Same Updates Every Day

Does not Apply to Windows 10.

If you are being asked to install the same updates every day, then the catalogue that manages what updates you have installed is probably corrupt. There are a number of resolutions that you can try, in order to resolve this problem.

Resolution 1

  1. Open "Computer Management" from within Administrative Tools in Control Panel.
  2. Expand the Services and Applications branch.
  3. In the list of services, find "Automatic Updates" (Windows XP) or "Windows Update" (Windows 7 and Vista)
  4. Right click on it and choose "restart". If this option isn't available, choose "Stop" and then once the service has been stopped, right click again and choose "Start".

Resolution 2

  1. Stop the "Automatic Updates" service from within "Services" in "Computer Management".
  2. Browse to Program Files, Windows Update.
    Note: If you don't see the "Windows Update" folder, then you need to turn on "Show Hidden Files and Folders". To do this click on Tools, Folder options. Then choose the "View" tab. Scroll down until you find the section "Hidden Files and Folders" and change the radio button to "Show hidden files and folders".
  3. Delete everything in that folder except for the folder called "V4".
  4. Double click on the "V4 folder".
  5. Delete everything in that folder except for "iuhist.xml" (you may not see the xml extension if you don't view extensions normally).
  6. Close the Explorer windows. If you had to enable "Show Hidden Files and Folders" then change the option back if you don't want to see them normally.
  7. Restart the "Automatic Updates" service.

Resolution 3 (Windows XP only)

  1. Stop the "Automatic Updates" service from within "Services" in "Computer Management".
  2. Browse to the windows directory, then the system32 then "catroot2" - NOT CATROOT without a number!
  3. Delete the contents of that directory, including the subdirectories.
  4. Reboot the machine.

Resolution 3a (Windows XP)

In some cases we have had to rename the "catroot2" directory (such as putting .old after it) then rebooting for the problem to go away. You cannot delete the folder as it will probably be in use. After rebooting, Windows will create a new copy of the "catroot2" folder and this should resolve the problem.

Resolution 4 (Windows Vista and Windows 7 Only)

Run the Windows Update Troubleshooter.

Resolution 5

Run the "Reset the Automatic Updates System" script on this page.

Additional Assistance

The Windows Update process has a log file, stored by default in C:\Windows\WindowsUpdate.log which can be viewed with notepad. To understand the log file and what it is telling you, refer to .

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Last Page Update: 10/06/2021

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