Fixing “Windows Update cannot currently check for updates, because the service is not running”

I bumped today into the following message in a Windows 7 computer: “Windows Update cannot currently check for updates, because the service is not running”. After some web searching I found a simple way to fix this.  According to Paul Woods the culprit is a corruption in the following file …


if you rename or delete that file (as your solution ultimately does) then reboot the pc, auto updates will resume.

This file keeps track of the update history and status and if the status cannot be determined then updates won’t run. If the file does not exist (deleted or renamed) it is recreated and it is assumed that updates have never been run.

Paul was in turn inspired by Michal’s Notes and posted his findings in the comments section.

Update Sept. 25, 2012: See comments below for extra details.

41 Responses

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    1. Joseph Luis

      You can try too the more general solution in Michael’s Notes with my variation in 2) for renaming instead of deleting the folder:

      1) go to services and stop Windows update service

      2) locate C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\ folder and rename it (e.g. rename it to SoftwaredDistribution.old)

      3) start Windows update service

      4) check for updates

      If you are comfortable using commands then the equivalent to the above is:
      (taken from a Jeff Loucks’ answer in a MS forum)

      1) Start>Run
      type cmd and press enter
      type net stop wuauserv and press enter

      2) type rename c:\windows\SoftwareDistribution softwaredistribution.old and press enter
      3) type net start wuauserv and press enter
      type exit and press enter

      4) check for updates in the usual way

      Verify that the new software distribution folder created when you restart the update service is approxiamtely 1.5 MB in size (standard files). Restart the computer and del the folder if you have no issues.

      1. Danielle

        OMG Thank you so much for the simple solution that you suggested, because it actually worked. You literally saved my life. I spent too many hours plowing through Microsoft Support website and none of their posted solutions would work. The numerous tools provided by Microsoft that you have to download to fix “Windows Update” problem did absolutely nothing to fix the problem. Microsoft is a terrible company and its retarded, unreliable tech support just proves it.

  3. Gabriel Garcia

    I deleted the file,and still got the problem. I did the cmd net stop wuarsev thing and it didn’t work. Whenever I try to update it keeps saying “Windows Update cannot currently check for updates, because the service is not running”. I also tried resetting my windows update settings like another site said, and it didn’t work. Any suggestions?

    1. So you deleted the whole folder C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\ … Mmmh let’s see… just to be sure, did you type net stop wuarsev (instead of wuauserv) as written in your comment?

  4. Elizabeth

    Thank you Joseph Luis! I just went through about an hour of trying to fix this problem, and your solution fixed it in a few seconds. YAY!

  5. Daia Hester

    Thanks for the help. Renaming the folder worked like a charm. It did take me forever to download all the updates but it was forth it. Thanks again.

  6. Marine

    Hey ! I located the file and renamed it SoftwareDistribution.old but even after doing that i went to the windows update service and it still doesnt let me can you please help!!

  7. Marine

    oh and when i go to cmd and type what you said ( i made sure not to make any mistake) it says this:
    the service name is invalid
    more help is available by typing net helpmsg

        1. Ok, let’s re-trace the problem and the solution …

          A) We have Windows 7 and are running as Administrator

          B) In Start>Run Services we stopped the Windows Update service OR used net stop wuauserv on the cmd line

          C) We deleted or renamed the file c:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\Datastore\logs\edb.log (which, if corrupted, seems to be the source of the problem) OR/AND deleted or renamed the folder C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution\

          D) In Start>Run Services we started the windows Update service OR used net stop wuauserv on the cmd line

          The next step will be to check for updates as usual or even reboot the computer, but here is where we have a problem, right? If following the previous steps stops here, it seems to me that someone will have to look directly on you computer to bring a fresher perspective into the problem. Sorry I was not able to help more up to here. Perhaps one of our readers will have a suggestion…

  8. iztan

    i think i have the same problem as Marine.
    i’ve done all the steps you listed down, but the error message still appear.

    1. Marine

      I could never get it to work properly.. I tried but i couldnt find a fix so I ended up backing up my files and restored the computer to default settings

  9. Billy

    Brilliant! after much searching on Google and Windows Fixit Tool telling me I had fixed it when I hadn’t, I found this page, 2 minutes later and updates are running as we speak.
    Thank you so very much from Scotland.

  10. Thomas

    Quality! After going through all other suggestions I could find without success, this one fixed it in under a minute. Thank you. 🙂

  11. Pingback : How to fix “Windows Update cannot currently check for updates, because the service is not running” | Michal's

  12. Brooks Nelson

    I have windows 64-bit and I still have not been able to fix the problem. I don’t know when it stopped working but nothing so far. If anyone else has any ideas please let me know.

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