There is Something Terribly Wrong With Windows 7 and svchost.exe / wuauserv

I recently purchased six (6) Dell Latitude E7000 series laptops with Windows 7, which are very nice by the way, but they all came fresh from the Dellcrosoft factory with one glaring showstopper. Straight out of the box, you lose about a quarter to half of the performance, operating time and battery life that you paid for as soon as you power them on.

Why’s that you say?

It’s because a core Windows 7 process called svchost.exe eats 25% of the CPU constantly:

You might think “this is a temporary issue, it’ll pass on it’s own”. No it won’t. We’re talking all day, everyday; this thing just keeps going and going. If you check that process with a tool like Process Explorer to see what internal service is chowing down on system resources, 9.5 times out of 10 it is the wuauserv service which is Windows Update.

I let these six laptops go plugged in 24/7 overnight for 3 days straight, chugging away, gnashing and gnawing through those nasty Windows Updates with all the might and force a Core i5 has to offer. Alas, nothing can satisfy this wubeast’s hunger.

Finding A Solution

It’s strange because the problem started cropping up on older Dell Latitude models with Windows 7 as well. Telling by the rapid squawks and distress calls on tech forums across the web, it is happening to many active users of Windows 7 and there doesn’t seem to be a catch-all fix. I’ve tried the most common ones, like deleting the contents of the SoftwareDistribution folder to let it regenerate from scratch, as well as reinstalling a newer version of Windows Update Client, and a couple of hotfixes.

It’s unclear what the real issue is with Windows Update, but I know what makes this problem go away for good – turn off the Windows Update service, or upgrade to Windows 10. The first one is not a fix because you’re preventing security updates, and the second one is not a fix because it is an entirely new commitment. Before you close this page and shuffle on over to the Windows 10 upgrade portal to solve your woes for good, there’s one major problem with that as well – the Windows 10 Upgrade will get stuck forever on the “Getting updates” step, because wuauserv is now miffed she’s about to get divorced from the system. You have to toggle the Windows Update service on/off a few times to trick the Windows 10 “Getting updates” step into proceeding (see below for details).

Ohhhh my goodness. What is the meaning of this Microsoft!? Windows Update is a mess! Cleanup on aisle 7.

How to Fix Windows 10 Upgrade When Stuck on “Getting updates”

The problem starts with this screen that seems to hang forever:

It’s not the Windows 10 upgrade which is stuck, it’s the Windows Update service that it’s using to check for Windows 10 updates during the upgrade process.

What we need to do is stop the Windows Update service. Do this by opening the Services control panel. The shortcut is: WIN + R -> services.msc -> OK

In the Services control panel, scroll down to the Windows Update service, select it, then click the Stop button:

Woah! Something is happening with the Windows 10 upgrade! Are we getting a few things ready?

Wait what? I thought we already Accepted the license terms…

Oh look, now it’s Getting updates again…how fun:

You’re on the right track. What you need to do now is wait about a minute, then Stop the Windows Update service again. Once you’ve stopped the service again, wait another minute and see if the Windows 10 upgrade progresses beyond 0%. If not, start/stop the Windows Update service again and wait another minute. Do this until you see the progress go up like so:

Omg finally. Now you’re on your way to eliminating this crap of an issue:

Planned obsolescence and forced upgrades are becoming a trend in the software industry lately it seems…

UPDATE: Guess what? The same problem happens when trying to install Visual Studio Community Edition, it gets stuck because of Windows Update:

Same fix however, stop the Windows Update service and the Visual Studio Installer will error out. Then just try installing again. Repeat until it works.

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