How to fix a stuck Windows 10 update

Has your PC frozen during an update? Here's how to get it running again

PC monitor on a desk stuck on the Windows 10 update screen

Updates are one of modern life's inevitabilities. They keep your device working as it should and prevent software bugs, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating when you need to install one. It can be even more stressful when your operating system's update freezes midway through.

This isn't much of an issue for Windows 10 users as Microsoft is a big proponent of pain-free updates that mostly install themselves without much fanfare. With Windows, you get boosted performance and bug fixes fairly frequently and all without much effort on the customer's end. You just have to not use the device for a few minutes as it runs through update commands.

The timing of the update may be annoying, but you need to keep that bigger picture in mind. A few minutes off the laptop can lead to a lot of protection for it. You don't want to be the guy that suffered a DDoS attack because they couldn't wait 5 minutes - you definitely don't want to be the reason your company gets hacked.

However, if it's taking longer, or there's nothing happening with your device's screen, it could mean the update has stalled. The first thing to do here is not panic. Don't switch off the machine - this is real life, not the IT Crowd - a take a few minutes to make sure the update has actually stopped.

When you're sure it's stuck, take a look at our hand guide for all you need to know about fixing a faulty Windows 10 update.

How to fix a stuck Windows 10 update

Step 1. The tried-and-tested Ctrl-Alt-Del may be a quick fix for an update that's stuck on a particular point. This function will allow you to access the login screen, and sign in as normal, but if not, further action may be required.

Step 2. Restart your PC. Resetting your PC mid-installation is a cardinal sin and expressly warned against by manufacturers, but if your update is genuinely stuck then you haven't got a lot of options. Use your computer's physical power or reset button, and remember that you may have to hold it down.

Step 3. Boot into Safe Mode. Accessible from the Startup Settings menu, this mode disables everything but the absolute essentials Windows needs to run, ensuring that any software conflicts that could be interfering with the update are removed. After the update installs, you can restart Windows to exit Safe Mode.

The Windows 10 safe mode user interface

Step 4. Perform a System Restore. In order to safeguard against this type of thing, Windows will usually create a restore point just before applying an update, so you can roll it back if there are any problems. You can access the System Restore function from Safe Mode, or from the Advanced Startup Options if that doesn't work.

Step 5. Try a Startup Repair. A more in-depth fix than just doing a System Restore, the Startup Repair tool (also accessible from the Advanced Startup Options screen) can sometimes fix underlying issues that may be hampering the update process.

Step 6. Perform a clean Windows installation. This is pretty much the 'nuclear option', but if all else fails, you may be forced to simply erase your previous copy of Windows and simply start from scratch. Be warned, though, that this will erase your entire hard drive, so make sure that any vital data is as thoroughly backed up as possible beforehand.

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