Windows Updates Stuck on Shut Down or Reboot

When you run Windows Update on your computer you assume that everything will be fine. However, sometimes can get a corrupt update and your computer when rebooted or shut down will get stuck on this dreaded screen:

Windows Update

This will not go away and most people outside of the IT world usually take full notice of the “Please do not power off or unplug your machine…” message and we have known clients leave machines on this screen for days in the hope that it will eventually start working – it won’t!

Windows Update Fix Video Demo

Before going into the full written guide, you can check out the video demo below which shows the fix being carried out. You should carry on to read and take notice of the full guide below though as this has the advanced details on how to carry out this fix correctly.

So, what do you do?

Well, the first thing you will need to do identify that you actually have a problem and that your machine is not actually doing as it says. Sometimes, updates can be very large (especially service pack updates) so you need to be sure that you machine is actually stuck. What we usually advise is that if your computer has been stuck on a message similar to the one above and has not changed for around 30 minutes then it certainly has a problem that will need to be acted on.

Once you are convinced you have a problem, you should power off your machine. This means holding down the power button (on your computer not a monitor which we have seen people do!…) for around 10 seconds. You should notice that you computer will completely shut off. Now – turn it back on again.

This should now take you straight back into Windows – if you are very unlucky then the update may have screwed up your computer and it may be time for a rebuild. But lets assume everything is ok and you are now back into Windows.

I am back in Windows but what now?

Do not turn off your machine or reboot it as you will just get stuck on the “Installing Updates…” message again. The reason this is happening is because of a corrupt update or a corrupt update database. Either way, the fix is pretty simple if you have a basic understanding of computers.

There is a folder under the Windows directory called “SoftwareDistribution”. This folder is where all Windows Updates are downloaded to and run from as well as the Windows Update database being in here. So, if it is corrupt, we need to get rid of it and recreate it from scratch – this will fix your problems.

How do I recreate my Windows Update SoftwareDistribution Folder and Database?

First of all, you cannot just go in and delete or rename the folder, there is a Windows Update service running that will stop you from doing this. So, the plan is to stop the service, rename the current folder, start the service again which will then in turn recreate your SoftwareDistribution folder and Windows Update database.

Stop the Windows Update Service

You first need to start an elevated command prompt, to do this in Windows 7, click Start then browse to All Programs then Accessories and then right click on Command Prompt and click “Run as Administrator“:

Windows Update Stuck on Installing Update...[2023 Updated] 1

To do this in Windows 8 or Windows 10, just right click the bottom left corner Start button and click “Command Prompt (Admin)“:

Windows Update Stuck on Installing Update...[2023 Updated] 2

You should then be presented with a back box that looks like this:

Windows Update Stuck on Installing Update...[2023 Updated] 3

You then need to stop the Windows Update service, so you should type in the following command:

net stop wuauserv

Renaming the SoftwareDistribution Folder

Then rename the current SoftwareDistribtion Folder in the Windows directory. Assuming your Windows is installed on the C: drive, you should then type in this command and press enter:

ren c:\windows\softwaredistribution sd.old

This will rename the folder to sd.old in your C:\Windows folder – you can later delete this folder once you are happy everything is working to save you some disk space but it is not critical that you delete this folder if you do not want to.

Restart the Windows Update Service

The final part of the fix is to restart the Windows Update service. To do this, you should type in the following command and press enter:

net start wuauserv

After this has restarted, you should now notice that the SoftwareDistribution Folder has been recreated – you should now restart your computer and you should notice that it reboots without any problems.

But wait – there is one last thing that you need to be aware of. As you have now completely removed the old SoftwareDistribution database, when you next run Windows Updates, it will not know that it has been run before and may through an error. Ignore this and just click “Check for Updates“. It will then check the machine, see that it has a number of updates and catch up with itself again.

But what if I work in IT and need to fix loads of machines?

Simple, you can either use Group Policy, create a batch file or use a system like Configuration Manager. For some clients, we have pushed this fix out using a Configuration Manager Task Sequence and it works perfectly.

What if I have Windows 8 or Windows 10 and the stupid F8 key doesn’t take me to safe mode anymore?

Easy! Simply click the link below to our guide on how to boot Windows 8 into Safe Mode:

How to Boot Windows 8/10 into Safe Mode


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Andrew Armstrong

Founder of TechyGeeksHome and Head Editor for over 15 years! IT expert in multiple areas for over 26 years. Sharing experience and knowledge whenever possible! Making IT Happen.

11 thoughts on “Windows Update Stuck on Installing Update…[2023 Updated]

  1. Excellent article that I’m sure to remember for bad Windows Updates.

    Another potential solution is to repair Windows WMI if the issue persists.

    See this Softpedia link to freeware tool that resets it, and specifically it address Black Screen during log on, “Please wait…” screen that is stuck, or “Welcome” screen that is stuck. I’m sure other WMI repair solutions can also remedy the situation.



  2. ren c:windowssoftwaredistribution sd.old
    needs back slashes

    ren c:windowssoftwaredistribution sd.old

    also, to run any of these commands you need to be in the C directory, if you see any directory after C:> you need to use the command “cd..” to move backwards

  3. I have the same problem but I have Windows 8.1. So my laptop has been installing updates for 2 hours and it was stuck on 2 of 22. After I read this guide, I forced shut down my pc. And then after I stopped the windows update on command peompt, I can’t rename the folder you said. It says Access is denied. I ran it as admin but it didn’t work. Now I don’t know what to do. Shall I rename it normally? Please help me out. I’m dying out here.

  4. I have a problem same as this but I have Win 8.1. So for 8 hours my laptop has been updating windows and it was stuck on 2 of 22. After reading this guide, I decided to follow the steps. I successfully stopped the windows update. Now my problem is, when I try to rename the folder you said, it says that Acces is denied. I ran it in Command prompt Admin but still it is denied. What now should I do? Should I just rename it normally by not using command prompt? Please help me out. I’m dying in here.

  5. Error C0000121 applying the update operation 900337 of 183573. Can not reboot in any mode and have it avoid attempting the update again.

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