2 easy steps to speed up Windows 7 Update scans

Based on a technique created by a German blogger, here's how to stop wasting hours checking for Windows 7 updates

2 easy steps to speed up Windows 7 Update scans
Credit: Thinkstock

I’ve been complaining about slow Windows 7 updates since April. Running “check for updates” in Win7 shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, even on a very slow line. Instead, we’ve seen checks that take hours -- sometimes many hours. Your machine bogs down to the point where it’s unusable, and it may stay that way for the better part of a day. Fortunately, thanks to German language site wu.krelay.de, we now appear to have a simple solution.

Microsoft has released a series of speed-up patches, but all of them come with significant baggage -- if they even work. In April, AskWoody poster EP discovered that the unlikely combination of two unrelated patches, KB 3138612 and KB 3145739 -- a Windows Update patch paired with a graphics security patch -- sped up the scans significantly. As of May 10, that patch combination stopped working and Windows Update scans turned from tolerable to infuriating.

Later in May, Microsoft issued KB 3153199, another security patch that, when combined with KB 3138612, put Windows Update back in the “tolerable” category. It didn’t work for long, either.

Continuing the whack-a-mole approach, in June Microsoft released a weird optional (unchecked) amalgamated patch called KB 3161608, which worked, but in order to get the speedup part going you had to install six completely unrelated patches.

Then in July, Microsoft pulled KB 3161608 and replaced it with optional patch KB 3172605. It, too, was optional and unchecked -- if you wanted it, you had to specifically check the box in Windows Update to install it. Documentation’s sketchy, but it looks like the July patch also comes adorned with six completely unrelated patches, and it has a “known issue” in blowing away Intel Bluetooth connections.

As I kvetched last month:

I don't know about you, but I'm getting very sick of Microsoft's repeated bungling in this Windows 7 Update debacle. If the company put one-thousandth the effort into fixing Win7 Update as it has into enticing users to install Windows 10, the problem would've been fixed months ago.

One billion machines running two or four or six hours a month, doing nothing.

Now, with August Patch Tuesday upon us, it looks like the ol’ mole is back. I say enough. It’s time to cut the monthly encumbered official update out of the equation.

German blogger Dalai, posting on wu.krelay.de/en, has been pointing the way since March. I promised Dalai that I would boil his procedure down to a series of “For Dummies”-worthy steps. With the help of AskWoody poster ch100 and drawing on EP’s early efforts, here’s the result.

I have included download links for Windows 7. If you want to try this on Vista or Windows 8.1, consult wu.krelay.de/en for details.

Step 1. Make sure you have KB 3078601, 3109094, 3138612, 3145739, and 3164033 installed

You only have to do this once.

To see if you're missing any of them, you can check the Windows Updates installed updates list (Start, Control Panel, under Windows Update click View installed updates). But it’s probably easier to download all of them and try to install them. If one is already installed, the installer will tell you -- no harm done.

Step 1a. Make sure you know if you have a 32-bit (so-called “x86”) or 64-bit (“x64”) version of Windows 7. If you’re not sure, click Start, right-click Computer, choose Properties, and look under System type.

Step 1b. Use any browser to go to each patch download site:

KB 3078601  x64 x32

KB 3109094  x64  x32

KB 3138612  x64  x32

KB 3145739  x64  x32

KB 3164033  x64  x32

Step 1c. On each of those sites, Click Download. You’ll get an MSU file.

  • In Chrome and IE, by default, you see an offer to either Open or Save the file. Save it.
  • In Firefox, by default, the file downloads.

These Microsoft servers are notorious for freezing -- sometimes the download won’t start, sometimes it won’t finish. If that happens to you, try reloading the page (click the circle-arrow near the address bar). You can also switch browsers. In any case, if you experience oddities while trying to download you aren’t the only one.

Step 1d. Turn off Windows Update. The least confusing way to do that is to click Start > Control Panel > System and Security > Administrative Tools. Double-click on Services. Scroll down the list of Services and click once on Windows Update. Then, in the upper-left corner, click the link marked Stop.

Step 1e. Double-click to run each of the five downloaded files. If the installer says you already have the patch, smile and go on to the next.

Running those five updates will get you set up for the one significant update you need to run each month. Unless something weird changes (hey, this is Windows), you never need to go through Step 1 again.

Step 2. Find this month’s favored patch and install it

Unfortunately, the patch itself changes from month to month -- or at least, it has changed in every month since March. Here’s how to finish the job:

Step 2a. Go to wu.krelay.de/en and find the latest magical patch. It’s listed at the top of the first table on the wu.krelay.de/en site. In July, the magic patch was KB 3168965. No doubt there will be a new one in August and another in September -- for however long we have to struggle with slow Win7 updates.

Step 2b. Armed with the knowledge about whether your Windows 7 installation is 32- or 64-bit, use the links in that first table with any browser to download the correct patch.

Step 2c. Save the patch but don’t install it.

Step 2d. Make sure the Windows Update service is stopped. See Step 1d above.

Step 2e. Double-click to run the downloaded patch.

Step 2f. Reboot, as instructed after the patch is installed. (The Windows Update service will restart itself.) Then click on Start, Control Panel, and under Windows Update click Check for updates.

If all went well, the check should take a few short minutes.

My thanks -- and deep admiration -- to Dalai, ch100, and EP.

To comment on this article and other InfoWorld content, visit InfoWorld's LinkedIn page, Facebook page and Twitter stream.
From CIO: 8 Free Online Courses to Grow Your Tech Skills
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.