How to fix a stuck Windows 10 update

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

Updates are one of modern life's inevitabilities in the same way that software bugs and security breaches are if you don't upgrade your operating system as and you need to. To some, updates are like pulling off a plaster – you know is going to hurt, but it has to be done because more painful things can find their way into your device if it's not properly patched up.

Windows 10 users enjoy frequent, pain-free updates that mostly happen automatically. All manner of bugs and fixes are prevented almost without having to do anything, keeping the user's experience at a high standard. There is that little disruption where you can't use the darn thing because the operating system is running through the update commands, but it's nowhere near the problem of, let's say, a DDoS attack enabled through poor device management.

These are the things to keep in mind when you come across an update that stops midway through and paralyses your computer. This is not the time to panic and definitely not the time to try switching it off and on again. This is real-life, not The IT Crowd, and that action could potentially damage your device. For an update to be applied, they need to change the core architecture of the operating system, so cutting power midway through could delete essential files, leaving you with a device that has a faulty operating system - which is essentially a useless computer.

So before taking any drastic measures, check out our guide below and get that update moving again.

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.

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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.

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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