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How to fix a stuck Windows 10 update

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

Windows 10 is the world's most popular desktop operating system, but don't let that fact fool you into thinking it is without problems. It's designed to receive consistent fuss-free updates, all of which are usually automatic and go through with little input from the user.

However, there are times when a Windows 10 update can get stuck, particularly after rebooting. This problem usually prevents users from logging into their system, instead keeping them endlessly on the Windows Update splash screen. This may initially just appear to be your system running slow, but if it fails to progress, it could have stalled midway through its cycle.

If this does happen, it's important not to panic or become frustrated, and it's critical you try some alternative solutions before you go switching the device on and off, as there's a risk you could end up bricking your Windows laptop or desktop PC in the process.

How to fix a stuck Windows 10 update

If you suspect your system is taking far too long to update, but is still showing signs of life - i.e. the update progress wheel is still spinning - then a quick keyboard shortcut should grant you access to your system once more. If it's clear your system is crashing when trying to boot after an update, a more heavy-handed approach might be required to get your system up and running again.

Using Ctrl-Alt-Delete to fix a stuck Windows 10 update

The Ctrl-Alt-Delete shortcut is used to bring up the Windows Task Manager, which lets you shut down specific applications that may be causing an issue, as well as tools for logging in or out of a system.

  1. Press the keys 'Ctrl', 'Alt', and 'Delete' on your keyboard at the same time
  2. This should provide you access to the login screen, which will let you sign in as normal

Using Safe Mode to fix a stuck Windows 10 update

The Windows 10 safe mode user interface

If your system is not responding to your keyboard command, or has frozen completely, it's time to dig a little deeper. The first thing to do is ensure there are no software conflicts preventing your system from booting. In order to check this, you will need to boot Windows 10 in Safe Mode - which will disable all other non-essential software.

If your system has frozen:

  1. Turn off your computer - if your system has frozen, hold your PC's power button down for around seven seconds
  2. Turn your computer back on
  3. When your system hits the motherboard splash screen, you will need to keep pressing a specific key to access the BIOS - this can be either 'Delete', 'F8', or 'F12', but your splash screen should indicate what key to press
  4. Go into your BIOS menu and look for boot options - you want to find the option to restart in Safe Mode

If your system is responsive:

  1. Press Ctrl + Alt + Delete
  2. Hold Shift and click the power button, then Restart

Once you have restarted:

  1. When your system restarts, you will be shown a Recovery Menu screen
  2. From here, click Troubleshoot
  3. Click Advanced Options
  4. Click Startup Settings
  5. Click Restart
  6. Choose 'Safe Mode with Internet Connectivity (option 5)

If your system boots successfully, Windows should then install the update successfully, allowing you to restart your system as normal.

Using System Restore to fix a stuck Windows 10 update

If booting in Safe Mode doesn't solve the problem, you may find luck reverting your operating system back to a time when it was stable. Windows usually creates these restore points automatically when it initialises an update.

To access this function:

  1. Follow whichever steps above you used to access the Recovery Menu
  2. Click Troubleshoot
  3. Click Advanced Startup Options
  4. Click System Restore
  5. The next screen will guide you through selecting an appropriate restore point

You can also use this method to access Startup Repair, which is a more in-depth approach that prompts Windows to attempt to fix any issues preventing it from booting successfully.

Reinstalling Windows to fix a stuck Windows 10 update

If the above steps fail, you could attempt a reinstall of Windows, which will almost certainly solve the issue. However, this is considered the 'nuclear option'.

We recommend taking a look at our guide on how to install Windows 10 for further information, as it's a fairly involved process that could cost you your data if done incorrectly.

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