Tuesday, August 2, 2016

How to Speed Up Windows Update's 'Check for Updates' Feature on Windows 7

If you are the type of Windows 7 user who prefers checking for new Windows Update patches manually instead of letting them all quietly install in the background you may have noticed that for around the past year, the "Check for Updates" scan has taken increasingly longer- often to the point that many people think there's something wrong with their computers and they abort the operation or reboot before letting the scan complete. I get a lot of questions about this since many people who use my GWX Control Panel program are also the kind of user who run update checks manually, and they sometimes think my program is the result of the slowdown when in fact this issue has affected millions of Windows 7 users around the world.

We may never know the true reason for this slowdown (it does not happen on Windows 8.1 or Windows 10), but over the past few months, Microsoft has released several patches that, combined, restore the faster scanning speeds Windows 7 used to enjoy in years past.

I credit Woody Leonhard for collecting this info in two articles: This one and this one. Below are some quick steps for downloading and installing these patches so you can restore your Windows Update performance. For more information (and a number of other handy Windows Update troubleshooting steps), check out topic #17 at my GWX Control Panel Troubleshooting Guide.

Thanks also to commenter Chuck for suggesting an additional patch for addressing the issue.
  1. Before you start, restart your computer- this puts Windows Update into a fresh state where it isn't busy working on background tasks. (You won't be able to install the following patches if Windows Update is busy in the background.)
  2. For each of the following links, download the correct version of the listed patch for your specific version of Windows 7 (32-bit/x86 vs. 64-bit/x64, etc), then install the patch, and finally restart Windows if you are prompted to do so. This bypasses having to get the updates via super-slow Windows Update, which is the problem we're trying to fix!

    Over time, specific Windows Update patches can be superceded by others. Just download the updates Microsoft recommends instead if this happens. (And let me know so I can update my links!)
  3. KB3020369
  4. KB3138612
  5. KB3148522/MS16-039
  6. KB3168965/MS16-090
  7. KB3172605
  8. The next time you run Windows Update you should experience improved performance. If you still encounter issues, please check out topic #17 of the GWX Control Panel Troubleshooting Guide for more steps.


Adam Piggott said...

The reasons why Windows Vista and 7 are suffering from increasingly-long scan and post-update servicing updates are, I believe two-fold:

The process to check for applicable updates has more and more work to do each time a new update is added, as it has to check through the datastore and existing files to see if an update is applicable.

Secondly, the Component-Based Servicing system checks for superseded updates and removes them from the datastore.

Both of these suffer from increasing processing time the more updates are applied - which is why Vista is in an even worse state that 7 is, and is similar to the timeouts that Windows XP was getting via the Windows Update site. (XP doesn't use CBS, but the problem has a similar premise - overhead).

You suggest that users first restart their computer to resolve the problem. I beg to differ - if the system is already busy on WU/CBS-related tasks, let it finish to save it having to waste time picking up where it left off. You can check to see if TrustedInstaller.exe or mscorsvw.exe are busy with CPU or I/O via Task Manager (or better - Sysinternals' Process Explorer).

Thanks for the info!

Ultimate Outsider said...

@Adam - The reason I suggest doing the restart up front is based on experiences I've had attempting to install these patches over the past few weeks/months. Three or four times I've done it, on my first attempt to install one of the downloaded patches, the installer says "Checking your system for updates..." and just stays there without ever seeming to proceed. I've let it go as long as 45 minutes with no success- but every time this happened, if I restarted Windows and tried again, I was able to run the patch installer with no problems; the "Checking for updates" portion ran for less than a minute before proceeding.

Anyway, I do appreciate your background info.

By the way, have you tried running Windows Update on a brand new straight-off-the-disc Windows 7 install? I did it a few months ago, and the very first "check for updates" took twenty eight hours to complete. Just for the scan! I just let it run over night and when I came back from work the next day it was ready to install updates.

Adam Piggott said...

Yup, it is truly getting ridiculous. Especially because the RAM usage of the associated processes goes through the roof. I've taken to adding a day to reinstalls when giving customers quotes now, it's silly.

wreckshere said...

Hello Friends! I have been trying to UPGRADE from win-7 32bit to win-7 x64bit so MANY TIME...wasting HOURS, etc...I finally gave up and reverted to trusty 32bit (several times) currently, I am using win-7 32bit which seems to work better for everything!
I will print your instructions about win update, and see if my x64BIT will again work? I have invested in CPU,RAM, harddrives...not to mention my TIME and frustration! wish me luck, rex thompson

Ultimate Outsider said...

@wreckshere - I don't know anything about your hardware/setup, but if 32-bit Windows is working out for you, there's not much reason to upgrade to 64-bit. If I were you I'd stick with 32-bit unless you have more than 3GB of RAM installed (which you would need 64-bit Windows in order to fully utilize), or if you have some specific application or device driver that's 64-bit only (which is pretty rare).

If you do end up performing a fresh 64-bit Windows 7 install, remember that the very first time you check for updates, it can take an extremely long time (as I mentioned a few comments up, the last time I did it, it took more than an entire day to perform the first update scan, but it worked fine after that). I don't know if the updates mentioned in my post will help you with that first-time scan (because they might have prerequisites that wouldn't already be installed on a fresh-from-disc Windows installation), but I would like to hear how it goes for you.

Chuck said...

The current Windows Update speed-up patch for Win7 (issued on July 12) is KB3168965. That may be superseded with Microsoft August 9 patch releases (as has happened many times in the past), but right now (August 2) it is enormously beneficial. There's an excellent website that keeps track of this issue; see http://wu.krelay.de/en/2016-07.htm for the current selection.

Ultimate Outsider said...

@Chuck - Thanks for the patch and link suggestion! I have updated my list.