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Windows Update (part 4) - Troubleshooting Updates

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3/13/2011 10:13:50 PM

Troubleshooting Updates

Automatic updates can fail for many reasons. We’re going to look at a few of the more common failures here and address how to recover from them to get the automatic update process running again.

Time Synchronization

To authenticate the client computer to the server computer, client requests typically use either Kerberos tickets or digital certificates.

If the clock on the client computer is too far out of sync from the intranet-based update server, the Kerberos ticket mechanism that provides authentication services between the client and resource server (in this case, the intranet-based Windows Server Update Services server) fails. These Kerberos tickets typically have only a five-minute lifetime. If the clocks on the client and the resource server are out of sync, the just-issued ticket could be expired already! The client would not be authorized to perform the download of the updates from the intranet WSUS server because he presented an expired Kerberos ticket to authenticate himself.

In the more extreme case of the clocks being out of sync, the digital certificates used between the client and the Internet-based Windows Update server at windowsupdate.com cause the certificate validation check to fail, which also causes the client download of the updates to fail.

In both of these cases, the solution is simple. Be sure your computer’s date and time are synchronized to an Internet-based time server so that the client computer’s clock agrees with the update server’s clock.

You can adjust the clock manually or have it synchronize with its time master in the Clock, Language, and Region applet in the Control Panel.

Corrupted Update Files in the Updates Store

The Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS)—currently version 3.0 in Windows Vista—must be installed and be running on the WSUS server as well as the WSUS client computers. Even though Windows Update uses BITS to help with the downloading of updates to the client, periodically a downloaded file may get corrupted in this process. This corrupted file can cause the Windows Update download processes to stop working.

To get the Windows Update download processes running again on the client computer, you may have to remove from the client computer the update files that have been downloaded.

If the Windows Update system stalls, the first thing to try is to simply delete all temporary files located in the two folders holding the update files that have been downloaded. These may be the corrupted files causing the download process to fail.

The two folders that hold the update files are \Windows\SoftwareDistribution\DataStore (that holds the logs of updates) and \Windows\SoftwareDistribution\Download (that holds the actual *.cab update files), as shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6. To get Windows Update running again, remove any files in the DataStore and Download folders.

With the corrupted files gone, the next time the update process initializes, the update process will regenerate local files as required and then can restart downloading the required updates.

If this first approach doesn’t solve the problem, and the Windows Update system remains stalled, the area of corruption may be in different folders than the Download and DataStore folders. To perform a more complete “refresh” of the update files, you need to perform the following steps:

1.
Using the Services applet in the Computer Management console, stop the Windows Update service by right-clicking it and selecting Stop, as shown in Figure 7.

Figure 7. Stop the Windows Update service, rename the \SoftwareDistribution folder to something like \XXXSoftwareDistribution, and then start the Windows Update service again.

2.
Rename the \Windows\SoftwareDistribution folder to \Windows\XXXSoftwareDistribution.

3.
Start the Windows Update service in the Services applet.

This should cause the \SoftwareDistribution folder to be regenerated, and then the Windows Update service will get a fresh start on the update process.

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