How to fix a stuck Windows 10 update

PC monitor on a desk stuck on the Windows 10 update screen Has your PC frozen during an update?
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Windows 10 remains one of the most popular operating systems on the market, but that doesn't mean it's always a joy to use. A stuck Windows 10 update is something many users will run into at some stage, and Windows doesn't exactly make it obvious how to fix the issue.

Windows 10 usually handles the update process without a problem, but occasionally the OS will run into something that causes the Windows updater to become stuck. This tends to manifest as a frozen updating screen, where the updating animation will stop moving. However, you may also run into an update that appears to be working, but never seems to progress, leaving you with a never-ending blue update screen.

A stuck Windows 10 update will effectively lock you out of the OS, preventing you from using the device or accessing data, and attempting to brute force your way past it may cause more harm – so it's best to avoid turning the device off and on again.

That said, there are some steps you can try that might resolve the issue without having to get system support teams involved.

How to fix a stuck Windows 10 update

If you suspect your update has become stuck, the first thing you should do is attempt a few keyboard shortcuts that will force open system menus that have been hidden by the update screen.

However, these will only work if your Windows 10 update screen appears to still be loading – i.e. the update animation is still moving. If the update screen appears to be frozen, it's likely you won't be able to interact with your system at all, and so you will need to skip ahead to the next tip in this guide.

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

The first thing to try is the Ctrl-Alt-Delete shortcut, which is used to bring up the Windows Task Manager. This tool 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
  3. Once you're in the system, you can try to update the OS again

The Windows 10 safe mode user interface, showing various options for booting the system in different modes

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 updating or causing it to crash.

In order to check this, you will need to launch Windows in its Safe Mode, which will disable all other non-essential software. We won't detail these steps here, but we have a handy guide available on how to boot Windows 10 in Safe Mode.

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

Using System Restore to fix a stuck Windows 10 update

If rebooting your system into Safe Mode does not fix the issue, you can try reverting your operating system back to a previous state, one where updates were functioning properly. 

Windows typically creates snapshots of your operating system automatically when updates are downloaded and installed, so you should be able to restore your OS to a moment when updates were working correctly.

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.

Reinstall 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.

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.