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Upon installing a Windows 2003 server I could simply not download the windows update updates. Windows update worked just fine by giving me the option to download various updates but when downloading / installing them the screen just said (Update x of x)… Failed!.

Googling on this error message just resulted in stuff like “check your internet connection” or “Stop your additional installed firewall like Norton or McAfee”. But as it is an Windows 2003 server which was racked and stacked in a neat datacenter the internet connection was just fine. And no additional firewall or anti virus software was installed on this machine. Upon installing fresh machines I tend to first install all updates and then add the additional software.

Anyway after trying multiple proxies, checking http vs https settings, checking my internet connection, shutting down even the Windows Firewall I found out it was a corrupt (presumably file) in the windows update directory. So what I did was the following:

  1. Via Start -> Run, run services.msc and look for “Automatic Updates” service and stop this one.
  2. Via explorer (or total commander for that matter) go to the C:windows directory and rename (or delete..) a directory named SoftwareDistribution. It may be quite large but in my experience you can just delete the contents as it will be recreated automagicly.
  3. Run windows update manually by selecting Start -> Windows update
  4. And all should be fine again.. In my case it immeadiatly started downloading and afterwards installing the updates.
  5. Restart the automatic updates service by pressing “Start” from the services.msc program.

This may as well work on Windows XP or Vista but is untested by me. I only had this problem on a Windows 2003 server.