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Fixing Failed Windows Updates

The Problem

The Problem actually first raised it's head when I tried to install .NET 3.5 SP1. I tried multiple times, each with the same error... no info, just a failure. I had an error log of info that didn't mean a LOT to me. I enlisted a MS friend, and we played with some things, but never got anywhere.

Meanwhile, I had gotten a new(er) laptop and figured time spent on it would be more useful than dorking around with the desktop.

The laptop is Vista Home Premium, and it took the Service Pack just fine. VS2008 SP1, and then all the new Silverlight toys. But now I'm home and have some time I'd like to actually work on my desktop machine even though it's not as fast... it is a bit more comfortable to work at for long periods of time.

Sitting here thinking about it a bit, I'm wondering if the continual issues with Live Mesh is related to this. Live Mesh keeps telling me there's an update and I take it, but I still get a triangle with an exclamation mark on the desktop machine. I can use mesh folders, but can't connect to the desktop.

Another failed attempt

So today, I uninstalled everything Silverlight, Blend 2.5, and while I was at it, I took out all the VS2005 bits. I hadn't uninstalled that when I put VS2008 on there almost a year ago, and as it turns out, I don't use it anyway.

Once all that was gone, I went to Silverlight.net and pulled down the SilverlightTools package.

It complained because I didn't have VS2008 SP1 installed, so I gave that a shot, and it complained because .NET 3.5 SP1 wasn't installed, which brings me back full-circle.

I know that trying the same thing over expecting different results is a definition of insanity, but I gave it a shot, and yep... it failed identically.


But then the synapses started to connect, and I remembered when I installed Silverlight 2 on the laptop... it complained about *something*, and I ended up shutting stuff off one at a time, until the only thing left was AVG Anti-Virus, and when I turned it off, as they say, bada-bing...

So a little ratting around and I found a couple things:
  1. The update error log
  2. Microsoft Update Catalog
The update error log shows you everything that has been installed during installs from the update service I guess, since it didn't have the failed SL2 install from earlier. I scrolled back in time and found that XP Service Pack 3 had failed.... seems like that was the beginning of the failures and then it just seemed to ripple out through everything else that tried to install since... some things installed, some didn't.

You get to this from the Control Panel, the System icon. Then under the "Automatic Updates" tab, way at the bottom is a link for "Windows Update Web Site".

From the update website, on the left, you'll find a link to "Review your update history". Green checkmarks are good, red X's are not... I scrolled through the history and found the first red X and began there with Windows XP Service Pack 3. If you double-click the entry in the "Update" column, it opens a small window that has a KB number that you can then use to search.

I went to Microsoft Update Catalog. I had to install an ActiveX control to run it, but I typed in the KB number for the Service Pack that didn't install, and marked it for inclusion in my 'basket', then when I viewed my basket, I could download it. I did so, and started the install.

The update crapped out on me, but this time I had enough synapses firing that I was smarter... I started shutting things off. I went past AVG and it was still a problem. It said something was using services.exe ... hmmm... my backup program was gone, Live Mesh was off. So I opened the Task Manager and took a look. I saw SpyBot Search and Destory's Tea Timer, and thought what the heck... so I nuked it and whoa... the install started working.

One Down

It's a huge temptation to just go straight to SL2, and let it point me at the other stuff that's missing, but I'm going to walk that chain of failed installs forward toward me. They can't all take as long as that Service Pack did!

I've now installed 4 updates that had shown up as failed previously and one XML Core Services one that just failed today, and all after that first one are with Live Mesh, AVG, and the Tea Timer running. That's all the failures, so now I go to VS2008 SP1...

I'm watching it install, and it's burning past the .NET 3.5 SP1 portion... so that's a huge relief and hopefully that part will resolve the rest of the problems I've noticed. I was beginnging to think that box was severly honked up, but now I just know I have to watch the update log a little closer.

And IT failed :(

Yep... the .NET 3.5 SP1 tanked... so now I've shut down everything obvious... including the Tea Timer, and restarted it, and let's see if it gets past that point... it certainly is picky and not overly obvious about what it's not liking, but I'm on a mission... and thank goodness that did it. The install has gone past .NET 3.5 SP1 and is on to other more VS2008 SP1-type things now!


Watch your update log, and fix what's a problem. Keep turning off unessential things until the installs go through. Frustrating, but true.

Hopefully this information will be useful to someone because now I'm (happily) back to doing Silverlight!
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