Windows 10 cumulative updates hopelessly botched

Recently I noticed that my Windows 10 test PC wasn’t staying logged in. Every morning, despite not having logged out the day before, I was seeing the login screen. A bit of poking around in the Windows 10 settings showed that Windows was trying to install update KB4013429, rebooting to complete the install, failing to complete the install, and rolling back the changes. Rinse and repeat daily, since March 14.

Searching online, I immediately found other people experiencing this problem. No official solution from Microsoft, but plenty from other users, including what turned out to be the only thing that worked for many: a total reinstall of Windows 10.

One user pointed to an interesting tool, available in the TechNet Script Center, called Reset Windows Update Agent. (Note: this script was created and submitted by a non-Microsoft contributor, not by Microsoft.) Since I wasn’t getting anywhere looking for an official solution, I tried the tool’s main feature, which does indeed reset all things Windows Update. After rebooting, Windows successfully installed a few updates, then started to install ‘Cumulative Update for Windows 10 Version 1607 (KB4015438)’, which Microsoft issued on March 20 to address problems with KB4013429. But that update also failed to install, and now we’re back in our daily loop.

I considered contacting Microsoft about this, but then I remembered my previous encounters with Microsoft support, shuddered, and thought better of it. After all, Microsoft already knows my PC is having trouble installing this update, because of all the telemetry in Windows 10, right? If anything, they should be contacting me with a solution. Yeah, right. Like that would ever happen.

I really don’t want Microsoft to be in a position to make my life miserable, especially now that they can do that remotely, without my explicit consent, and usually without my knowledge. At a time when Microsoft should be showing us just how much they’ve learned about managing Windows updates, they seem to be getting worse.

I sympathize with anyone who tries to do anything productive with Windows 10. I only use it for testing and media playback, but even so, this is the end of the line for my relationship with Windows 10. I’ll be installing Linux Mint MATE next.

Update 2017Apr30: I decided to call Microsoft after all. I figured it was only fair to give them one last chance. The call was relatively painless; I was only on hold for a few minutes. The tier one support person I spoke with identified himself as such and was happy to escalate my problem to the next support tier once it became clear he couldn’t help. We arranged a callback from tier two support, which happened yesterday. Both support people I spoke with started by asking if they could start a remote session to the affected computer, which I declined in both cases. I understand being able to control a computer remotely makes support much easier, but I’m just not comfortable with the idea. The tier two guy confirmed that Microsoft knows about this problem and is working on it. He also confirmed that lots of people are reporting the same problem. Unfortunately, the only fix he could provide was to hide the troublesome update, so that it stops trying to install every day. The ability to hide updates exists in the classic Windows Update, but that feature was removed from Windows 10, so a special download was required. The Microsoft support article “How to temporarily prevent a driver update from reinstalling in Windows 10” includes a link to a tool called the Show or hide updates troubleshooter package. I downloaded and ran the tool, and it listed a few pending updates, including the most recent failing cumulative update. I hid that update, and so far so good: the computer no longer tries to install the update daily. According to the tier two support guy, when Microsoft finds a fix, they’ll include it with a subsequent cumulative update, and all will be well with the world. But in the meantime, my Windows 10 PC isn’t getting security updates. So it’s not much of a solution. Linux, here we come.

About jrivett

Jeff Rivett has worked with and written about computers since the early 1980s. His first computer was an Apple II+, built by his father and heavily customized. Jeff's writing appeared in Computist Magazine in the 1980s, and he created and sold a game utility (Ultimaker 2, reviewed in the December 1983 Washington Apple Pi Journal) to international markets during the same period. Proceeds from writing, software sales, and contract programming gigs paid his way through university, earning him a Bachelor of Science (Computer Science) degree at UWO. Jeff went on to work as a programmer, sysadmin, and manager in various industries. There's more on the About page, and on the Jeff Rivett Consulting site.

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