How to fix the “We couldn’t complete the updates. Undoing changes.” error loop on Windows 10

If you are running a Windows 10 machine, you will know that updates will inevitably come – and not always at the best moment, but that’s a story for another day. The problem is that sometimes these updates wreak havoc on your system. You are trying to restart your computer after the update was installed, and it gets stuck in a loop.

What is the “We couldn’t complete the updates. Undoing changes.” error loop?

There is no real explanation as to why this keeps happening to users worldwide. Reasons might include

  • update interrupted during download
  • update files were corrupted
  • insufficient disk space

Fortunately, Microsoft is aware of the problem, and they provide several built-in tools you can try to get out of the loop.

Get into Safe Mode

It is important that you learn how to do this: if your computer is stuck on the blue screen, you can’t get it to start any other way. There are different methods.

  1. If you have a USB or DVD you can boot Windows from, insert it into the computer. Once it boots, you can choose Repair your computer. Otherwise, press and hold F8 or Shift+F8 while the computer is booting. Alternatively, turn your computer off and then on 3 times using the power button. All these methods will take you to the Advanced Startup Screen.
  2. Select Choose an option, then Troubleshoot.
choosing Troubleshoot in advanced startup menu
  1. Choose Advanced options.
choosing Advanced options
  1. Choose Start-up settings.
choosing start-up settings
  1. Press Restart. Your PC will restart.
restarting computer from start-up settings
  1. From here, press 4 to enable Safe Mode.
enabling safe mode

Now that you are in Safe Mode and logged in to your Windows, check that you have enough disk space. Also make sure you are not connected to the internet via a VPN or proxy: get a direct connection.

First we are going to try Windows’ built-in solutions.

Run Windows Update Troubleshooter

  1. Press Start>Settings, then choose Updates&Security.
opening windows settings
opening update and security settings
  1. Go to the Troubleshooter section, select Windows Update then click Run the troubleshooter.
opening Windows Update troubleshooter
running windows update troubleshooter
  1. Follow the pointers on the screen.
applying fix in windows update troubleshooter

If the troubleshooter did not find anything, fear not: we have a lot more options to try. It is, however, always smart to start with this Windows service.

Rename SoftwareDistribution folder

This folder is storing all the update files in Windows. If any update files did not download correctly, they will sit there causing trouble. You are better off renaming this folder, so Windows is forced to create a new one.

  1. In the Search bar, type “cmd” and click on Run to open Command Prompt.
opening command prompt as administrator
  1. Type “net stop wuauserv” then hit Enter.
wuauserv stopped successfully

This stops the Windows update service.

  1. Type “net stop bits” then hit Enter.
BITS stopped successfully

This stops the BITS (Background Intelligent Transfer Service) that keeps up the connection between the client and the server.

  1. Type “net stop cryptsvc” then hit Enter.
Cryptsvc stopped successfully

This will stop the Cryptography Service.

  1. Type “net stop msiserver” then hit Enter.
MSIserver stopped

This will stop the Windows Installer Service.

  1. Type “rename C:\windows\SoftwareDistribution SoftwareDistribution.bak” then hit Enter.
  1. Type “net start wuauserv” then hit Enter to restart Windows Updates.
restarting wuauserv
  1. Type “net start bits” then hit Enter to restart the BITS service.
restarting BITS

Try to run the update now and see if it runs properly. If it doesn’t, you might have to delete the SoftwareDistribution folder.

Delete SoftwareDistribution folder’s contents

  1. Navigate to C:\Windows\SoftwareDistribution. Delete the folder with all its contents.
deleting SoftwareDistribution folder
  1. Restart your computer.

Enable App Readiness Service

App Readiness is a service that prepares apps when a user logs in for the first time, or when the app is added. Some users reported that turning this service on solves the update problem.

  1. In the Search bar, type “services.msc” and click Run.
opening Services Manager
  1. Find the App Readiness service in the list, right-click it and press Start.
starting App Readiness service

Run SFC scan

SFC, or System File Checker, is a built-in Windows tool that can scan all protected files, and if it finds one that is corrupted, it replaces it with a cached version from earlier. So it might just do the trick for you, if you have problems with updates.

  1. Type “cmd” in the Search Bar, then click Run to open Command Prompt.
opening command prompt
  1. Type “sfc scannow” then hit Enter.
running SFC scan
  1. Once the process is finished, restart your computer.

Use restore points

The System Restore function can be very useful… as long as you have restore points saved. If that is the case, follow these steps:

  1. Type “recovery” in the Search bar, then click Open.
opening recovery from search bar
  1. Choose Open system restore.
opening system restore
  1. Click Next.
clicking Next on system restore
  1. Choose a restore point from the list. You can check which programs and drivers will be affected by the rollback by clicking on Scan for affected programs. If you are okay with what you see there, click Close on that window, then click Next.
choosing system restore point
affected programs in system restore
  1. Click Finish to confirm your choice.
confirming system restore

This should bring your system back to a point where it worked, without deleting your data and files. Check if this solved the problem. If it didn’t, there are still a number of methods you can try.

Run a startup repair

Startup repair is another built-in tool that is designed specifically to help with start-up related issues, such as the “We couldn’t complete the updates. Undoing changes” error.

  1. Get into the Advanced startup settings menu with one of the methods described in Step 1 of Get into Safe Mode.
  2. Click Troubleshoot.
choosing Troubleshoot
  1. Choose Advanced options.
choosing advanced options
  1. Click on Startup repair.
choosing startup repair
  1. Let the process run and see if this fixed your problem.

Run DISM

DISM, or Deployment Image Servicing and Management, is a Windows service that can repair and obtain Windows image files in different ways. It can be helpful in fixing the “We couldn’t complete the updates. Undoing changes” error.

  1. Get into the Advanced startup settings menu with one of the methods described in Step 1 of Get into Safe Mode.
  2. Click Troubleshoot.
choosing Troubleshoot
  1. Choose Advanced options.
choosing advanced options
  1. Click on Command Prompt.
choosing command prompt
  1. Type “DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth” and hit Enter.
DISM health restore command in command prompt

This runs a scan and fixes issues automatically. The process will probably take minutes and it has a tendency to get stuck for a little while at 20 or 40%. Don’t be discouraged and let it run!

Restart your computer and check if this fixed the issue. If it persists, you might need some more drastic methods.

Block automatic updates

Windows 10 updates come automatically, and there is not much you can do about it. There are 2 ways you can try:

  1. Type “services.msc” in the Search bar and click Run as administrator.
opening Services Manager
  1. Find Windows Update in the list, double-click it.
  2. Set it to Disabled, and Stop the service. Click Apply then OK.
disabling Windows Update service

This should stop the updating service. Another method you can try is setting your internet connection as a metered one. This means that the system will not allow apps to update (similarly to how your phone only does updates when it is on wifi).

  1. Right-click the internet icon on your tray, and choose Open network and sharing center.
opening network and internet settings
  1. Click on your internet connection.
selecting internet connection
  1. Set the Set as metered connection toggle to On.
turning metered connection on

That should stop those pesky updates. However, you can’t postpone this forever if you want to keep your apps running. Maybe the next Windows update will play along with your computer better. You can also try to manually install the update.

Install the update manually

It is possible that the update failed because some modules did not work together properly. Sometimes manual installation can help with this. Here is what you need to do:

  1. Go to Microsoft’s Update Catalog and put the identifier of the update that is not installing properly into the search field.
searching for an update in Windows Catalog
  1. Find the right version for your Windows and setup.
  2. Click on the Download button.
downloading Windows update from Update Catalog
  1. Extract the file into a new, empty folder.
extracting download files
making a new folder for the download
  1. Right-click on the setupprep.exe file and choose Install.
right-clicking setupprep.exe
  1. Follow the instructions on the screen, then restart your computer to see if this helped.

If nothing else works, you can always try resetting your PC.

Reset your PC

This is the most drastic method. You will lose all apps and software, but you will keep your files and data.

  1. Get into the Advanced startup settings menu with one of the methods described in Step 1 of Get into Safe Mode.
  2. Click Troubleshoot.
choosing Troubleshoot
  1. Choose Reset this PC.
resetting PC
  1. Choose between keeping your files or removing everything.
choosing to keep files or remove everything
  1. The reset will complete by itself.

Conclusion

The “We couldn’t complete the updates. Undoing changes” error is a tricky one to solve. We hope one of these methods was helpful to you.

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