Q&A: How do I get my PC to boot up after Windows Update failed?

windows-7Question from Sierra F.:  Rick, I’m in trouble and I need your help!

My computer was installing Windows Updates when the power flickered off and back on. It happened so quickly that the computer didn’t even shut down, but it somehow aborted the update process and an error on the screen said the update wasn’t successful.

I tried to install the updates again, but it said no updates were available. I then tried to restart the PC, but it hangs up about half way through the boot process. Please, please, please tell me how to fix this without reinstalling Windows 7? Thanks in advance for any help you can provide!

Rick’s answer:  Sierra, there are few things in the world of computing that cause more grief than a computer that won’t boot into Windows. With a little luck a simple System Restore will get you back up and running in short order. Sometimes more drastic measures must be taken however, but I always like to try the easiest approach first.

Follow these steps to boot into Safe mode and perform a System Restore:

1 – With your computer powered off, press the power button.

2 – Immediately after pressing the power button, begin pressing the F8 key. Keep pressing it about once per second until a text-based menu appears on the screen.

3 – Use your keyboard’s down arrow key (the mouse won’t work at this point) to select the Safe Mode menu option, then press the Enter key.

4 – With a little luck, Windows will boot into Safe Mode. You’ll know you’re there when you see a bunch of ugly icons on the screen and the words Safe Mode displayed in all four corners of the screen.

5 – Click the Start orb, then type the word restore into the Search box. You should see a small window filled with search results pop up. Click on System Restore to launch the System Restore utility.

6 – After the System Restore window opens, click the Next button.

7 – The next screen should display a series of Restore Points listed with the most recent Restore Point at the top and the oldest one at the bottom. Choose a Restore Point dated as soon BEFORE the date/time of the Windows Update failure as possible. For example, if the failed Windows Update occurred at 9:30 pm on October 1, you should choose the most recent Restore Point prior to that date and time.

8 – Click the Next button.

9 – Click the Finish button.

10 – If all goes well your PC will automatically shut down and reboot, restoring your Windows installation back to the state it was in when the selected Restore Point was created.

11 – After the PC reboots all the way back into Windows, try running Windows Update again to install the updates that failed to install earlier.

That’s all there is to it. If anything goes wrong at any point in this process (i.e. the PC won’t boot into Safe Mode or there are no Restore Points to choose from), let me know and we’ll take more drastic measures. Cross your fingers!

Note: The problem addressed in this tip is a prime example of why every Desktop PC should always be connected to a working battery backup unit (the battery in a laptop effectively serves as a built-in battery backup unit when it’s running on AC power). Had your computer been plugged into a battery backup unit, it wouldn’t have been affected by the power fluctuation at all.

Update from Sierra:  Rick, you have my never-dying gratitude! I was able to do the System Restore and install the updates per your instructions with no problems at all! THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!! By the way, I went to Office Depot and bought a battery backup today too. Thanks for the tip!

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