Readers find more problems with Windows Update

The June 5 issue of Brian’s Buzz reported that Microsoft’s popular Windows Update feature has a problem with its SSL certificate. If a PC’s system date is outside the date range in which the certificate is valid – as commonly occurs when a new PC is being put together for the first time – Windows Update blithely states that no upgrades apply to the machine (“Windows Update finds no updates, but it’s only a matter of time“).

Aside from the time problem, readers have found a wide variety of other causes of this strange behavior. Here are some of their diagnoses and a few simple corrections (Microsoft, take note):

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  • “I had the exact same problem with Windows Update not showing any updates for one of my three computers at home. But I sync them all to the same NTP server. I checked the times and dates, and they were correct on all three computers – but only one had this issue.

    “The solution was that I had to clear out the Cache SSL Certifications in IE, then close the browser and re-open it. Once I did that, Windows Update started to work again. There is no mention that it could be a SSL cache issue anywhere I could find on the Microsoft support Web sites.

    “To clear the cache, go to the Tools menu. Then click on Internet Options, go to the Content tab, and click the button called Clear SSL State. Then close the browser and re-open it.

    “By the way, Windows Update keep a detailed text log file about everything, and when this problem occurs it does show an error message that you can search on.” –Jeffrey Litterick

  • “The problem with ‘no updates found’ and the ‘800A138F’ error also manifests itself if port 443 (https) is blocked by a firewall. Reading your article got me to dig around and find the answer to the problem in the Windows Update log file.” –D. Dugan

  • “I’ve been dealing with the ‘Windows Update finds no updates’ problem for months. My system clock has been correctly set the whole time. I used to delete the Windows Update version 4 software that was loaded onto my computer, but that wasn’t a consistent solution. I finally found out that when Windows Update tells me that there are no updates, all I have to do is hit Internet Explorer 6.0 SP1’s ‘refresh’ button [F5]. Then Windows Update reloads and behaves correctly.” –Scott Beatty

  • “In some situations, with certain firewalls (not home firewalls, mainly corporate systems), you’ll try Windows Update and get ‘nothing.’ However, if you change the http:// to https:// [in the Web address line] and ‘scan’ again, out pour the updates you need and all is well. The rest of the update process is fine. This workaround has to be done for every update.

    “Also, there is a switch in the Registry to disallow Windows Update. If set, you also get the ‘nothing’ message.” –Joe Gill

And, just to show that the system clock is still making people tear their hair out, here’s another example of the “new PC” scenario:

  • “On June 12, I got the ‘Windows finds no updates’ message for a Windows 98SE PC. This was a PC that I had just built. I knew it needed many updates. I found the answer in your newsletter. My system date was set to 6/12/2011. Reset the date and all is OK. This fix has paid for my subscription.” –Jay Pugh

I’m sending a certificate for a free book, CD, or DVD of the reader’s choice to everyone who sent me a comment I printed. Thanks for your support.