I’ve had this problem before, where Windows Update gets stuck "Checking for updates" forever, both on existing Windows 7 Home and Windows 7 Professional computers that had not been updated in a while.
Those incidents had been tedious to solve, mainly deciding that the process was stuck as opposed to still proceeding. Even turning off the power-saving Sleep mode and letting it run overnight wasn’t enough for Windows Update to find the needed updates — that’s a pretty strong hint that it was stuck in a logic loop.
This time, the problem was on a brand-new install of Windows 7 Home. I was upgrading a computer from a hard drive to an SSD (Solid-State Drive). This was my Windows Media Center client PC, that played recordings made on my Windows Media Center Home Theater PC, so it has to continue to use Windows 7.
Microsoft removed Windows Media Center from Windows 8, but made it available as an optional purchase. For Windows 10, they removed Windows Media Center completely, including removing it if you were upgrading over an existing Windows 7 installation.
Fortunately, if you’ve used Windows Media Center, the upgrade process warns you that the upgrade process will remove WMC, so you can change your mind.
I installed Windows 7 Home Premium on a new SSD, via a USB flash drive, using a Windows 7 Home Premium image that I had downloaded from Microsoft.
To go this route, indeed to do anything involving booting a flash drive, you probably will need to go into the BIOS or UEFI configuration screens for your computer.
Plug in the flash drive before going into the BIOS or UEFI configuration screens. Why? Some computers won’t give you the option to boot from a USB flash drive unless one is plugged in!
The basic trick to getting Windows Update to run properly is that you have to install Windows 7 Service Pack 1 (if it's not already installed), stop the Windows Update Service from running, manually install the necessary updates (after any reboots, repeat the Stop Service step before the next Install step), and then, at the end, reboot again but leave the Windows Update Service running.
Process for a new Windows 7 install/reinstall:
1) install windows 7 from DVD or flash drive
2) if you don’t have SP1 on your install DVD/flash drive, install it next.
Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 Service Pack 1 (KB976932)
Although the instructions say, if you’re just going to update one computer, use Windows Update to do it (instead of downloading this file), that won’t work. Windows Update is no longer supported if Service Pack 1 hasn’t been installed — and, as we see here, if several other fixes to Windows Update haven’t been installed!
3) Try windows update. If it gets hung on finding updates (say, more than 2 hours), close the windows update window and start the manual update process below.
4) Go to microsoft.com and download the first necessary Windows Updates fix, the April 2015 Servicing Stack Update for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2
Windows6.1-KB3020369-x64.msu is the 64-bit version for Windows 7.
Theoretically, you should be able to double-click to run the Windows Update file manually. However, if the Windows Update Service is still running, the installer will start searching the computer for updates — and again get in a loop trying to find them.
5) You have to shut down (stop) the Windows Update Service in order to manually install the Windows Updates.
- Open services.msc (Start > All Programs > Windows Accessories > Run, type
services.mscfollowed by the Enter key ), scroll to Windows Update Service, select it, then click on the Stop link;
- Open a command window as run-as-Administrator (Start > All Programs > Windows Accessories > Right-click on Command Prompt and pick Run as Administrator, then, in the command window, type
net stop wuauserv
followed by the Enter key.
Note that, if you have to reboot at any stage, you will need to stop the Windows Update Service, again, in order to continue the manual installation process.
File names below ending in "-x64.msu" are the Microsoft Update files for 64-bit Windows 7. There are similarly named files for the 32-bit version of Windows 7.
Notice that Microsoft continues to call Windows 7 "Windows 6.1", which goes back to an internal (as opposed to marketing) naming system.
7) Repeat steps 4, 5 and 6 above to manually install the following updates:
- Windows Update Client for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2: February 2016
May 2016 update rollup for Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1
July 2016 update rollup for Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1
September 2016 update rollup for Windows 7 SP1 and Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1
After the last reboot, start Windows Updates (Start > All Programs > Windows Update) to pick up any additional updates.
Remember this roadmap — if you reinstall Windows 7, you’ll need to go through this process to get Windows Updates working on the computer.
Better option for reinstalls — use Acronis True Image to make an image of your C: drive (and the hidden System partition, as well as any other hard drives or partitions, if you have any), save to an external hard drive, then disconnect the external hard drive.
An external hard drive that is turned on and connected to your computer is just another drive that malware could attack and encrypt. Disconnect it.
Even if it’s turned off, disconnecting the external drive also helps prevent damage to it from power surges or nearby lightning strikes.
Use the image any time you need to recover a file, folder or the computer itself from that image.
In today’s world of file-encryption malware, this may provide your best recovery option.