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Why do Windows updates take so long to install?

Windows Update screenThe dreaded Windows updates.  You know you need them, but do you really want them?  After all, there are hundreds of them.  Microsoft says they are there to patch up vulnerabilities.  Do we even know what that means!?

First of all, why do we really need Windows updates?  Really, you can think of Windows updates as a Microsoft support mulligan.  They did not foresee its operating system being open to a hacker, a virus, some threat, and now it’s taking back some of its code to improve it and add some other slow-moving software update to patch it.  On a more positive note, Microsoft also puts out Windows updates so your newer software can be compatible and play nicely together.

So, why do Windows updates take so long to install?

When you click, the Windows icon on the bottom-right of your computer, these are the steps Microsoft takes:

  1. Microsoft first runs a detailed system inventory to find what needs to be updated or what can be updated (critical and optional updates).
  2. Then, the Microsoft server downloads, extracts, and verifies via checksums the updates.
  3. Next, the updates actually start installing.  This means your computer has to stop services, copy files, check files again for checksums, look at the versions for consistency, and the services are started again.
  4. Also, a double-check phase occurs where Microsoft re-checks that all settings were applied correctly after the installs and all is working consistently.
  5. When you thought all was good and done, after a restart, Windows installs subsequent updates that were unable to be run concurrently with the previous Windows updates install.  This is the most annoying and time consuming part.  For Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 10, this reboot and update process has been known to take days to complete!

The point with Windows updates is that you shouldn’t expect for them to complete all in one full swoop.  Just expect every restart you perform to be accompanied with more Windows updates.  Don’t like it?  Move to a Mac!  Otherwise, grin and bear the protective nature of Windows updates.  If you have a Windows update issue, this is not uncommon due to the amount of Windows updates installed and how if one goes wrong, the whole subsequent stack of updates may not run.  You can try installing one update at a time if you run into this issue to flesh out the culprit or seek out a Windows update computer expert for help.



64 thoughts on “Why do Windows updates take so long to install?”

  1. Why doesn’t Windows update show a complete end to end progress view so that users don’t need to know whether the system is hung or not and how long to wait? It will reduce the pain greatly.

    1. Agreed, Hock. The answer is that Microsoft doesn’t know the actual time itself since it has a program that systematically goes through all its checks, installs, and verifications and cannot foresee how long it will take against each different computer’s speed, programs, and drivers.

    1. What, the 2 of 120 Windows updates progress bar isn’t good enough?? Hahaha, yes, I agree Benjamin. I don’t think the Windows updates knows what its own progress is most of the time.

  2. Why are they not seamless its the 21st century Apple runs theirs in background Microsoft are decades behind, I have had enough of lost productivity waiting and waiting for inane updates to programmes that should be better programmed in the first instance. Slow cumbersome and really outdated product suite from MS Windows and honestly Office specifically Word which I use endlessly has so many things it could improve they have lost my business I am leaving neevr to return I did so 5 years ago and have regretted it ever since.

    1. I hear ya, Basa. The problem is that the Windows updates are not programmed to be smart enough to play nicely with other programs. In turn, the Updates may install over already working drivers and software, causing issues and delays. There are more issues, but that’s the common one that stunts PC performance. Glad to hear you have made the move 5 years ago!

  3. I had to send some documents to a client at breakneck speed today, so I turned on my Lonovo and the computer was immediately hijacked for an update. I’m now 37 minutes into an update with 88% to go, and unable to do anything. No question about it, this will be my last Microsoft product. This happens way too often, and at a time I expect to have a functioning piece of hardware. Grateful I have some Apple equipment so I can do my job. This is intolerable.

    1. Hey Fritz, yeah, that is frustrating and you really can’t do anything but wait or else you could corrupt your Windows operating system if you try to shut it down or restart it. Glad to hear you were able to still take care of your client!

  4. Mine had taken a day so far. I’m so frustrated!! How long more does it take for this stupid update to finish?!!

    1. Well, Rahima, it could take 20-30 minutes to sometimes half a day depending if the computer is stuck on an update or if your computer is slower than normal.

  5. Mine has been installing update 2 of 14 for the pastc45 minutes. Is that normal? There is no progression bar.

    1. Hi Shari, I’d still give it time. Obviously, if it still happening many days later, then there’s a serious issue.

  6. Ed & Barbara Eberle

    Honestly Joe, your take it or leave it snarkiness is tiresome. I’ve had those daylong updates and its screwed me plenty. Luckily or not I can jump to another PC – but come on two hours? three? Five? OVERNIGHT????

    1. Believe it or not, we have seen updates finally download and install after several hours. I’m not sure what snarkiness has to do about it. My comments are from experience and patience. When we have had customers in remote locations that weren’t able to bring it to our computer repair shop, they simply left it alone and sure enough, in some cases, Windows would start up fine after 7-10 hours. Many things could be happening within that time, such as drivers that were corrupted got self-fixed by multiple Windows updates. In many cases, yes, we have had to perform a Windows repair due to the Windows update issue, but yes, it’s possible for it to still take a long time before the updates work.

    1. Give it about 3-5 hours and if you’re patient up to 5-8 hours. If it’s still no better no worse, then you’re looking at a Windows update issue.

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  8. Hi Joe, I have used many versions of Windows for years. Seems like any newer version for updates takes so damn long anymore. I have decided to multi-boot into other OSes on my notebook. I still have my Windows, but now I am always on LINUX MINT. LINUX updates are very VERY quick. I think the longest I’ve ever had to wait for an update on LINUX was less than 5 mins. BIG DIFFERENCE from any Windows updates!

  9. Why it takes very long, just to irritate. Let the process start when the consumer want to use the computer. Microsoft is always like this. My SM computer is by certainly not my main computer. What is showed over and over again, microsoft like to bully.

  10. Well, that’s suck if that happen

    My teacher gave me an animation task, when I’m about to transfer it to flash drive, a nice annoyingly update status welcomed me. Huh.

    Luckily, I have Kali Linux live on flash drive with me.

    Remember to save a flash drive for a Live Linux whenever windows is asking for update 🙂
    It will save a great amount of time if you just copying files from your hard disk.

    I recommend trying Linux mint for your Live USB because it’s more user friendly to windows user.

  11. My laptop has been updating for a day now have school work pass due already. What could be the issues Joe.

  12. Joe- the windows 10 update today is giving me a black screen with the little dot clock going round and round for about 2 hours. Let it go or stop? Thanks for the help!

  13. This is why linux mint is my main operating system. It’s fast and smooth and updates occur without an issue incrementally. Even if I have to update to an entirely new version, I can usually do it in a few minutes.

    For me microsoft is nothing but a gaming platform. Still I regret having to log in to it because I know I will have to wait forever if they have another bug fix update.

  14. I have tried to switch to Chromebook 3 separate times. I don’t understand quite what it is that keeps me from sticking with it. I’m ready to give it one more try. Which might not even fix the 45-minute long office suite updates. I wish I could feel more comfortable about switching to Google Docs

  15. My Mac’s HD crashed so I bought a Dell Inspiron for $350.00. While Windows 10 is far sturdier than Mac’s Princess McSensitive operating systems, the updates shite gets up my nose. I actually switched off updates for a few months. Now I’m getting blitzkrieged by updates every two days! My problem with this is WHAT IS THE UPDATE? Mac updated once and removed iphoto and replaced it with photos. I never again updated anything on my Mac. The other issue I have with Windows updates is 2 hours each. Give me a bloody break! TWO hours is unacceptable.
    I know we’re in the Model T phase of computers. And it’s a pain in the arse.

  16. The latest updates have been going for almost 24 hours. This is unacceptable, can you tell me why things are taking so long?

  17. My laptop is used for business it started an update while I was away. Then I had to leave so my laptop came home with me plugged it back in and it’s still at the same spot I left it 84%. Went back to work plugged it in and still at 84%. How long will this take??!

  18. Hi, I’m at 28+ hours. I am afraid to turn it off and on because I’m concerned it’ll wipe my har drive. Can anyone tell me if that will happen?

  19. I’m an independent contractor who gets paid for the hours I WORK, NOT for hours that my laptop is hijacked on inefficient updates. But, who cares? Certainly not Microsoft.

  20. I started my W10 update overnight. Woke up this morning and restarted. I am 11% along on next portiin after 30 minutet on HP 8460P laptop with 4gb memory.
    Will let you know actual time to complete.
    Yeah 13% while I finish this comment.

  21. Second Update completed. 2 hours total. Now computers says HI WE’VE GOT SOME UPDATES. THIS MIGHT TAKE SEVERAL MINUTES. Let’s see how long.

  22. Last update took no more than 3 minutes to boot.
    Video game booted and will play since I find that is always best test. Assume all good unless I comment again.

  23. Yeah mine has been going for more than an hour and a half now and is at 23% – the annoying part is I have work I need to get done ASAP, hence why I got up early to do it. Frustrating.

  24. Maria Cappuccino

    I agree. This is the worse. Takes way too long. I powered down just like Microsoft said and powered back up only to get a message that said “We couldn’t complete the updates. Undoing changes. Don’t turn off you computer”. So 30 minutes before I powered down and now so far another 20 minutes. I need to work!!!!! How do you stop the update !!!!! Someone please help. Maria

  25. Just curious. I purchased a new laptop and during the “getting your update ready” screen my cat closed the laptop. Update took almost 8 hrs. Should this be fine and is there any way to check to make sure updates went through properly

  26. I tried to set the tone for updates but it seems to come on during the day. It is not acceptable. How do you correctly set the tone for it to update?

    1. The first thing you must do is open the Settings app. A quick way to do that is to click or tap on the Settings icon from the Start Menu.
      In the Settings app, click or tap on the Update & security category.
      If it’s not already selected, click or tap Windows Update in the column on the left.
      On the right side of the window, you’ll find all the settings that govern the way Windows 10 updates itself. Amongst them, you’ll also find an option called “Change active hours.” Click or tap on it.
      The Settings app will display a dialog in which you’re told that you can “set active hours to let us [Microsoft] know when you typically use this device. We [Microsoft] won’t automatically restart it during active hours, and we won’t restart without checking if you’re using it”.

      The meaning of this is obvious: you can set a time frame in which you usually work on your Windows 10 computer or device, and the operating system will make sure that it won’t interrupt you during that time by doing an unexpected system reboot.

  27. Ron did your Windows 10 update finally complete? Mine’s been going for 18 hours now and still has the little circle spinning on a black screen – this is bloody ridiculous – how are we supposed to do our work? Should i turn it off at the wall or just leave it???

    1. I hope your Windows updates finished and you’re back up and running. It’s best to leave it, but you can power down by holding the power button if it’s been days and hope it will start where it left off. Typically, it’s getting hold up on one or a few updates so the hope is it will work itself out or you can take a risk and power down and restart.

  28. I was having this problem with Windows 10. So I decided to ditch the paid operating systems and go with Linux Mint. Updates run in the background (after you authorize them of course) and I hardly EVER have to restart my computer after an update. Buuut then I figured out that in order to program C# with the .NET framework I need Windows… Oh, well. Over the hill and through the woods, to virtual box I go! 😀 Cheers y’all!

  29. Ugh. I’ve had it with waiting forever for these updates and then having the computer act quirky for half a day even after updates. Time to switch to Mac after this PC dies. Microsoft sucks.

  30. I know this is a Windows 10 thread. I’m still using Vista because my hardware can’t handle anything beyond 7.

    I’ve turned off Auto Updating because I only have DIAL-UP (I live in the sticks). I DL updates as StandAlones, they take about 3-4 Minutes per Meg. Once I have one, I start it – “Searching for updates…” displays. I move the window off to the side and let it work. Once its done Searching, it takes up to 25 minutes to install (a restart is usually required after.)

    What is Really frustrating it the Time it takes to FINISH Searching – the last 3 updates (~4 M each) took 3 WEEKS (no S. 450 to 472 HOURS) It took 8 MONTHS to install 27 updates (Just to Vista, I didn’t dl any Other updates) from Feb ’16! The S.A.’s don’t reflect in the “Update List” but DO appear in the “Installed” list. Ignoring what I already have installed, there are an add’l 22 updates (compiled as of 11.18.17) waiting to be DL’d then installed. At this point, I don’t know if I can even GET the files.

    This Slow Install problem has shown up in 7, 8, 8.1, and now 10. Really dreading buying a new mach (hardware preventing 8.1 or 10 OS, newer OS Required for Newer browsers, Newer browsers Required to access Bank acd CC accounts. … :[ )

    btw: My Win 95 machine Still works just fine, there ARE a few websites that don’t care What browser you’re using!

  31. I used to be a pc (microsoft) user until about 3 years ago when I discovered that the chromebook was so much better. You can use most every program that a pc does, and it never breaks down. Updates take a fraction of what a microslow takes, and I am never strongarmed to do anything I don’t want to, unlike microshit! They have total control and the consumer never will. If 20% of the population switched to something other than a pc(microsoft) then microsoft would start listening and rethink the process of providing technology to the public!!

    1. Joe Silverman

      I hear ya, TP. The challenge with Windows updates is that the updates always seem to be integrated with the Microsoft operating system, causing it to be sluggish throughout the install process. No excuses, I can’t stand updates as well and try to schedule them when I’m sleeping.

    1. 2 hours is short compared to some of our customers where it would resolve itself after 12-24 hours. But, if you’re still having issues, you should seek out a Microsoft repair specialist.

  32. Christopher Hartley

    The basic problem seems to be the whole design of windows, or rather lack of design.
    How the heck did we let this bunch of amateurs get such a stranglehold on our businesses?

    Half the time things just stop working until you complete the updates, but without any advance warning, and then it can take hours to implement which for a busy server is unacceptable.

    Comparable time to install ALL updates on a Linux system installed from scrathc which is just inside the LTS deadline (4 years) – about 20 minutes.

    1. Joe Silverman

      I hear ya, Christopher. One of the biggest issues is that Microsoft tends to roll out a ton of bloated updates all at once which clogs up the works, especially when there are open, conflicting applications.

  33. Im about to punch the fuck out of my laptop….only because i dont have access to a a Microsoft Geek to punch the fuck out of!

  34. Wish Trump would tell Microcrap to fix itself and stop robbing PC customers who got hijacked by these billionaire cockroaches who do nothing to help repair this junk. These non stop update hangups need to be refundable or taxed.

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