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 those things, like visiting a dentist or ripping off a plaster, are invertible yet unpleasant. This unfavourable situation is made all the worse when the update to your device's operating system doesn't do what it's supposed to and freezes midway through. 

This is less of an issue for Windows 10 users, where infrequent, pain-free updates mostly pass by automatically. Lots of bugs are fixed, services boosted, with the user barely having to do anything. All that is required is that you don't use the machine for a bit of time while it runs through the update commands - some may say that in itself is an annoyance, but it's far better than say a DDoS attack due to poor device management. 

That bigger picture is worth keeping in mind when the update doesn't go through. When it stops midway and freezes your computer you need to stay calm and avoid panicking. It isn't the time to switch it off - this is real life, not the IT Crowd, you could seriously damage the device. 

This is because updates change the core architecture of the operating system, make tweaks to various files, so cutting power in the middle of one could delete essential files. That would leave you with a faulty operating system and, essentially, a useless device. 

So take a moment to compose yourself, keep your finger away from from the on/off switch, and follow the steps listed below to get it 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.

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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