How to Fix Vista SP2 "Checking for Updates..." Hangs and Slow Windows Updates

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Vista Pro
What Are the Symptoms?

There is currently a known issue on Vista SP2 computers where Windows Update can hang on "Checking for updates..." for several hours (or even days) without throwing an error message. This problem was first reported in August 2015 and these slow Windows Updates have become progressively worse over time. Extended support for Vista SP2 and IE9 ended on 11-Apr-2017 but many users have recently discovered that they still have a large backlog of available updates waiting to be installed because Windows Update has not run to completion for several months. Users who perform a clean re-install of their Vista OS will encounter these "Checking for updates..." hangs as soon as Service Pack 2 (SP2) is applied.

When one of these "Checking for updates..." hangs occurs the Windows Update Agent (wuaueng.dll) v7.6.7600.256, running under the Windows Service Host Process svchost.exe, will saturate an entire CPU core (e.g., 100% CPU activity on a single core CPU, 50% CPU activity on a dual core CPU). Affected users might notice a significant decrease in system performance or hear their cooling fan run constantly when their CPU begins to overheat but there is no network bandwidth consumption or rapid disk reads/writes associated with this problem.

How Do I Fix These "Checking for updates..." Hangs?

In June 2016, IT expert Dalai began posting a list of "speed up" patches (a small number of security updates for the Win32K.sys kernel mode driver, graphics components, and IE9) that can be manually installed to fix this problem. See his background information <here> that explains why these "Checking for updates..." hangs occur.

Step-by-step instructions for Dalai's solution are posted on page 1 of m#l's thread Updates not working, it has been searching for updates for hours in the MS Answers forum.

These instructions explain how to download and install the recommended Windows Update "speed-up" patches (.msu standalone installers) for Vista SP2 and IE9 [KB3205638 (rel. 13-Dec-2016); KB4012583 (rel. 14-Mar-2017); KB4015380 (rel. 11-Apr-2017); KB4019204 (rel. 09-May-2017) plus KB4018271 (rel. 09-May-2017) if IE9 is installed]. See Note 5 of those instructions if you have MS Office 2010, MS Office 2007 and/or the MS Office Compatibility Pack SP3 (an add-on that allows older MS Office products like MS Office 2000/2003/2007 to work with files with newer Open XML formats like .docx, .xlsx, etc.) and still experience Checking for updates..." hangs after these four or five recommended "speed up" patches are installed.

The first footnote to those instructions describes five emergency out-of-band security updates released for Vista SP2 in May and June of 2017 that patch vulnerabilities for the NSA-leaked exploits EnglishmanDentist, EsteemAudit and ExplodingCan. These critical updates will not be delivered to Vista SP2 machines via Windows Update and must be installed manually as instructed in the thread More Shadow Brokers Exploits Patched June 2017 for Win XP and Vista. Note that two of these emergency updates, KB4019204 and KB4018271, are also Windows Update "speed up" patches and will be installed when you follow the step-by-step instructions in m#l's thread.

The second footnote includes a fix for an issue where Windows Update can throw an error 800B0109 ("A certificate chain processed, but terminated in a root certificate which is not trusted by the trust provider") when it tries to install KB4014984 (Security and Quality Rollup for NET. Framework 2.0, 3.0, 4.5.2, 4.6 on Windows Vista SP2 and Server 2008 SP2: April 11, 2017).

Where Can I Get More Help?

Post any questions or feedback in ScousaJAY's thread windows update just seems to hang while checking here in Vista Forums, or start a new topic <here> in the Windows Update board of Vista Forums.


All credit goes to Dalai for posting the original solution at Search for Windows Updates takes forever? - A possible solution, and thanks to MS MVP Woody Leonhard who alerted his readers to Dalai's solution in his Woody On Windows blog on ComputerWorld. Kudos as well to all the Vista SP2 users who ran monthly tests of Dalai's suggested "speed up" patches each Patch Tuesday and continue to provide their invaluable feedback in ScousaJAY's thread windows update just seems to hang while checking.
32-bit Vista Home Premium SP2 * Firefox ESR v52.9.0 * MS Office Professional 2003 * Norton Security Deluxe v22.15.3.20 * Malwarebytes Free v3.5.1
HP Pavilion dv6835ca, Intel Core2Duo T5550 @ 1.83 GHz, 3 GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS
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My Computer

System One

  • Operating System
    32-bit Vista SP2 Home Premium
    HP Pavilion dv6835ca
    Intel Core2Duo T5550 @ 1.83 GHz
    Quanta 30D2 (U2E1)
    3 GB RAM
    Graphics Card(s)
    NVIDIA GeForce 8400M GS
    Sound Card
    Realtek High Definition Audio
    Hard Drives
    250 GB SATA Western Digital Scorpio WD2500BEVS 5400 rpm
    Internet Speed
    5 MBps
    Other Info
    Malwarebytes Premium v3.5.1-1.0.365
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