The likelihood that something will go wrong during a Windows 10 update installation is high. One of the most common problems is a stuck update.

What do we mean by updates getting stuck?

If Windows Update doesn't work, it either won't install or it takes an unusually long time to install. If Windows Update gets stuck, you must first turn off your computer and try again. But Windows expressly warns against this Turn off your PC when an update is installed.

So should you shut down your PC when Windows Update isn't working? Let's find out.

An overview of the Windows update process

Prior to Windows Vista, Microsoft released operating system updates as separate service packs that you would have to manually install from bootable media. The reason for this was related to the underlying architecture of Windows at the time.

With Vista, Microsoft decided to shift its focus to over-the-air (OTA) updates through a process called Component-Bases Servicing (CBS). This change in update strategy was in line with the change in the underlying architecture of Windows Vista.

Vista was developed as a collection of self-sufficient components. Each part of the Windows experience that we are familiar with was a separate entity. And that architectural change was retained in Windows 10. For example, Windows Explorer, like the Control Panel, is a separate component.

CBS should stabilize the update process by maintaining each component separately. If something goes wrong during an update, CBS can restart the operating system and reduce the errors and conflicts.

If you choose to install an update, CBS will check all files to ensure that all component-specific files and all core files are present. When all files are present, CBS starts the installation process.

Next, CBS installs all of the files and tools necessary for Windows to work. This includes things like Windows Explorer, hardware drivers, and core operating system files. When all of the required files are installed, CBS will mark the operation as complete. Windows will then start. This is where a component-based maintenance program makes the difference.

The next time you start your PC after a successful or unsuccessful update, CBS will check to see if the process has completed. When the process has been marked as complete, Windows can start normally. Otherwise, CBS will begin cleaning up the effects of the failed update.

What if you turn off your PC during an update?

Let's say your PC gets updated and freezes. Contrary to the warning, you decide to turn off your computer in order to update it at a later time.

The next time you start your computer, one of two things can happen:

  1. CBS does its job and Windows starts up regularly.

  2. Windows crashes and won't start, or you may face a blue screen of death (BSOD).

In the first case, CBS will roll back the update, reverse the update and make your PC as it was before the update. Windows starts normally.

In the second case, CBS cannot roll back the update for several reasons and Windows cannot start.

In theory, CBS should save your operating system during an unexpected power outage, but it doesn't always work. Windows requires core operating system files to function properly. If these files are missing or damaged during an update installation, CBS cannot help. Because CBS also needs the same core Windows files to function.

Because of this, Windows warns you not to turn off your computer while installing an update, as you never know when the core files will be updated.

So the most important thing is that you should never turn off your computer while Windows is installing updates. This can result in the loss of core files, resulting in Windows failing to start.

That said, if you pull the plug or have an unexpected power outage during the update, the chances are very high that CBS will save the day. And even if CBS can't save the day, you can still repair Windows manually by uninstalling updates.

If you have a blank screen on which Windows does nothing after a failed update, you can also restore your personal data. However, the process is a bit time consuming.

What to do if you get a blank screen and nothing happens?

As mentioned above, you can get a BSOD or blank screen if updates are not installed properly. While the former is relatively easy to fix through troubleshooting, the latter requires removing your hard drive to restore your data.

So if you see a blank screen with nothing showing, take out your storage drive, connect it to another PC as an external drive, and copy your data to that PC.

Related Topics: How to Erase Your Hard Drive While Leaving the Operating System Intact

Next, format the external drive, reinsert it into your failed PC, and install a fresh copy of Windows on it.

What to do if Windows Update doesn't work

First of all, don't panic. Just restart your computer. After CBS has undone all changes and starts Windows, you will need to delete the old Windows update files.

Clearing the old update cache ensures that there are no longer any faulty update files on your PC and you can safely try to perform the update again.

You can, but shouldn't, turn off your computer during an update

Windows displays a "Do not turn off my computer" warning for a reason. From damaging critical operating system files to sabotaging the update process, unplugging is not a good idea.

That said, if Windows Update doesn't work or the installation takes too long, restarting the computer is fine. Often times, the CBS system will roll back the update and revert to the previous version of Windows. In this case, you can always try to perform the update again.

How to Update Windows, Apps, and Drivers: The Complete Guide

Updating your computer's software is important. However, how can you check for all of these updates? We are going to show you how to update everything in Windows.

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About the author

Fawad Murtaza
(16 articles published)

Fawad is a full-time freelance writer. He loves technology and food. When he's not eating or writing about Windows, he's either playing video games or writing for his quirky blog, Techsava.

By Fawad Murtaza

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