Microsoft Windows Update and Microsoft Security Essentials Won’t Update!

This blog post provides a handful of solutions to fix the Windows Update and Microsoft Security Essentials update issue.

Warning: You use any advice and information within this blog post at your own risk! The writer, nor Small Business Tech are to be held responsible for any problems that occur through actions based upon the advice below.


So I turned my Microsoft Windows Vista computer on and realised it hadn’t updated in a while. So I decided to go and manually run the process. To my surprise I saw the following error:

Windows Update Error

Windows Update cannot currently check for updates, because the service is not running. You may need to restart your computer.

Then via Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) I saw the following error:

Microsoft Security Esssentials Error

Virus and spyware definitions couldn’t be updated. This app couldn’t check for virus and spyware definition updates. Check your Internet or network connection and try again.

What? My Vista computer was truly &*(*! I found my computer wasn’t running the latest operating system updates and the virus database is outdated! Nightmare! It just so happened I had recently upgraded my hard drive, which might be a coincidence. To cut a long (two hours) story short, the solution for me was two-fold:

The solution that worked for me!

Firstly I backed up my important data! Then as an administrator I opened a command prompt and typed sfc /scannow .The software scanned the system and fixed some files. I then did a reboot of the computer.

sfc scannow

Secondly via a command prompt as an administrator I typed net stop wuaserv and pressed enter. Then I typed ren c:\windows\SoftwareDistribution softwaredistribution.old and pressed enter. Finally I turned net start wuauserv and pressed enter. Another reboot and I am able to update again!

A huge thank you to Vicky Maan for the second part of the solution (above), which you can read here.

Other potential solutions

Now before I reached that two-fold solution I tried out the following, which might work for you. I’ve not included the simple solution of how to turn the Windows Update service off and on. However below are a few other solutions, that you might want to try to resolve this error.

Check your firewall, run malware, trojan and virus scans!

My first thought was whether my firewall was blocking the update process. It is worth investigating whether you or someone else has accidentally blocked the process via your firewall.

Microsoft Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool

Also you should run a malware, trojan and virus scanner. I ran the Microsoft Windows malicious Software Removal Tool.

Try the Microsoft Fix It software

I downloaded and ran the free ‘Fix It’ package from Microsoft. It ran quickly and wow it found and repaired an issue with the Windows Update components! Job done, I thought. Alas no, the problem still persisted for me.

Microsoft Fix It

Perhaps try Microsoft’s other tool to fix the issue.

I didn’t get round to trying this tool, but Microsoft also have the ‘System Update Readiness Tool‘.


I’m not saying this blog post is the definitive guide to resolving the Windows Update error, but I hope it saves others time, and you are able to fix the problem within minutes, and not take two hours like it took me!