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 a software that's been designed to receive frequent updates with minimal fuss, usually by making them automatic and requiring very little user input. These usually take a few minutes to run before your computer starts to reboot and just require your machine to be switched on - Windows 11 promises to make them smaller and even less obtrusive.

But, there are times where even Windows 10 updates seem to take longer to run through than usual and you may even find that the update has gotten stuck midway through the process. This is one of modern life's inevitable frustrations, one that usually comes at the most inconvenient moment. But it's important not to panic - don't do anything in anger - because there is always a fix.

So resist the urge to switch it off and on again, as that could make the problem even worse. Your first action should be to check whether it is stuck or just really slow - some updates can be massive. Once you've clarified it, you can then move on to our top tips...

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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