Getting Windows Updates
Anyone who has been around Microsoft Windows long enough knows that a major rule is to routinely update your computer with the latest patches. The process has become easier as Microsoft now has Windows automatic updates and sets a monthly release date to get these files. Failure to get the patches in a timely manner can expose your PC to needless risks.
Last month when I tried to update Windows, I got the normal page showing “Checking for the latest updates for your computer”, but the green progress indicator kept going. After 30 minutes, I stopped the process. I repeated the steps and would get different errors, but no Windows update files. At first, I thought this might be an issue with Microsoft’s servers being busy until I started getting different 0x8 errors.
Starting with Known Solutions
Microsoft does a good job of documenting their operating system errors and providing solutions. I did an advanced search in Google for “windows update failed” against the domain support.microsoft.com. That search showed some good starting points such as How to Troubleshoot Windows Update and Microsoft Windows Update Troubleshooter (use Internet Explorer).
After going through Microsoft's recommended steps, I still couldn’t update Windows. I figured the best use of my time was to contact Microsoft. Since this update concerned PC Safety, I called their No-charge Support number at 1-866-727-2338. After dealing with 2 departments and a number of reps, I finally got an email suggesting a freeware package called Dial-a-Fix. I was intrigued since I can only recall a few times when Microsoft has recommended someone else’s software.
The Dial-a-fix Utility
Dial-a-fix is an advanced software repair utility written by DjLizard that works for just about all Windows versions but Vista. Unlike other utilities designed to optimize or tune your system, this software repairs specific types of Windows problems. The solutions are drawn from various Microsoft knowledge base articles, Microsoft MVP forums and other reputable sources.
The utility is not for the casual user and comes with a warnings page since it can make problems worse. Although the author says the program should normally be used under the guidance of a technician, he considers it very safe. His wiki site also has a nice integrity checklist with other key points to test.
According the program’s description, Dial-a-fix can help fix these types of problems:
- Windows Update errors
- Problems with automatic updates
- Missing registry entries
- COM/ActiveX object errors
- SSL/HTTPS problems
- Reset Windows Firewall
- Repair Internet Explorer
- File system corruption
The software allows you to select one or more problem areas that need fixing. You can place your mouse over a program option and a software tooltip appears providing more information such as which DLLs will be reregistered. In some cases, the checkboxes are hierarchical based on a functional area. For example, when I checked Fix Windows Update, it also checked several other options about Services and DLLs.
In many cases, the software is trying to reset features, reregister DLLs or restart services which might get your PC back to a default state. While the Microsoft technical rep suggested I check all the options, I took a more conservative path and selected those program options that seemed relevant. I figured I could always come back and check other options.
I was pleased to see some more options when I clicked the Tools… button. While I didn’t need to use any of these repair features, I was glad to see them listed. Many of these were items I rarely use, but always have to look up the procedure such as using the System File Checker or clearing my DNS cache.
The bottom line is Dial-a-fix fixed my Windows Update problem. I was able to retrieve the missing Windows updates from last month as well as this month’s. It’s a handy utility I plan to keep in my portfolio. It places a graphical user interface on top of some pretty complicated Windows commands. The author currently has an improved version in beta which I’ll keep an eye on. But for now, I would recommend the current version of Dial-a-fix if you’re having Windows update problems.
- URL: http://DjLizard.net/software/dial-a-fix
- Cost: Free
- Version Reviewed: v0.57.7
Last Updated (Saturday, 19 June 2010 09:45)