Pending Update Issue with Windows Server 2012

[German]A blog reader recently informed me about an observation he made during updating Windows Server 2012 (not R2). Maybe someone has observed that behavior and know a solution. Addendum: Solutions are known.


German blog reader Alexander H. sent me the relevant information by e-mail. Alexander wrote within his e-mails:

I'm responsible for the patch management and I noticed recently something very exciting on Windows Server 2012 Standard systems today.

Like every month I installed the patches at our customers and restart the systems. Several Windows Server 2012 Standard the updates is shown with the status "Pending restart" after restarting the servers during in the update process (see following screen shot).

Update-Verlauf Windows Server 2012
(Click to zoom)

Another phenomenon is that the updates on several systems I updated yesterday showed the status "Succeeded"! The Windows updates were still available for installation.

In "WindowsUpdate.log" there are no errors, the Windows updates are successfully downloaded and installed from the WSUS server, after the restart the behavior appears identical 1:1 again.

Alexander wrote that restarting the WSUS server did not improve the situation. During the troubleshooting he noticed with other Windows Server 2012 standard systems that the systems without update installation problems had not installed the feature "Desktop Experience".

Desktop Experience involved?

For this reason, he removed the Desktop Experience feature from a system before installing the update, restarted it, and then installed Windows Updates. After the restart, the Windows Updates were installed correctly.

According to these findings, he tried to repair the machines with the pending updates' by removing the Desktop Experience feature, but had an unpleasant experience. He wrote:


Afterwards I wanted to remove this feature on the problematic systems with the status "Pending Restart" and test whether this helps – unfortunately now the error "An unexpected error has occurred" appears.

Feature 'Desktop Experience' deinstallieren
(Click to zoom)

Maybe one of the blog readers is aware of a solution to these problems. From 2017 I found this thread which deals with a similar problem.

A possible fix: Change some services

Addendum: Within my German blog post a blog reader proposed the following fix that helped on his machines:

my solution (I cused it several times):

  1. Goto Services and change "Windows Modules Installer" (TrustedInstaller) status from manual to automatic.
  2. Then start the Service (this service turns back to manual again after the reboot )
  3. Ihad not tested, if it's necessary: Start also the service "Windows Installer" (msiserver)

Afterward just restart the Windows Server instance and the pending restart status should be gone.

Hope this will help those affected. But note a warning from another German user, who wrote, that the an immediate restart is mandatory. They had a server which tried 10 minutes after changing the service status a reboot. Since that the server is in a reboot loop – and the current case is nasty, because it's a remote server. One user also wrote, that the needed several reboots (each for each pending update) to bring the machine back to life.

Addendum: Ist seems that booting Windows Server 2012 in Safe Mode will allow the update install successfully (see also this article and my blog post Windows Server 2012 goes into update loop).

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14 Responses to Pending Update Issue with Windows Server 2012

  1. Michael Bowen says:

    We were seeing the 'pending restart' issue on one of our 2012 servers. Removing the desktop experience was not an option for us.

    We tried the "Windows Modules Installer" fix above and got stuck in the reboot loop but since we have VMs we were able to revert to a previous snapshot.

    Tried it again from the snapshot and thought we were going to be stuck in a loop again but after several reboots it finally came up. So, good news for us!

    This has to be a more widespread problem than Microsoft realizes.

  2. David Daly says:

    I have the same problem on about 20 windows servers running 2012 Std. We run over 220 virtual servers and have issues with 2012 Std only.
    After exhausting all technical options that I could find, including
    sfc /scannow
    Dism would not run as the commands are not supported for Server 2012 /online /cleanup-image /restorehealth
    Checked cbs log and could not see an issue.
    Cleared the software distribution folder
    Checked registry for any wsus settings and removed them where needed.
    Updates kept coming back as not installed and after applying them via windows updates, rebooting and checking update history they said they were pending. As one of the servers was a test server, I raised a call with Microsoft.

    After several troubleshooting sessions they came to the conclusion that an in place upgrade to the same OS (Windows server 2012 std) would fix the problem. So I loaded the ISO and reapplied Server 2012 Std.
    This did fix the problem on the test server, however I tried the same on another Windows 2012 server that had the same issue (This was a citrix xenapp test server) and it completely broke the server, so I would not recommend this to anyone on a live production server.
    So I decided to test different things.
    Changed the windows update service from Manual triggered to automatic, but did not make any difference.
    Changed the windows modules installer service to automatic from manual and then reapplied the updates via windows updates. Rebooted and it then continually went into applying updates and rebooting.
    Now it looks like it is stuck in a reboot loop of applying updates, rebooting and then trying to reapply updates.
    Pressed F8 on boot and went into safe mode with networking when it rebooted.
    Then I got the message failure to apply updates reverting changes.
    It then automatically rebooted and went back in to a normal reboot.
    Checked windows update history and now rather than pending it said successfully completed.
    Ran a check for windows updates again and it then came back with no updates available where as before it had 2 important and 2 optional outstanding.
    So looks like the fix for me was to turn the windows module installer service to auto.
    Another 19 servers to try this on to make sure its working for all of them.

    Microsofts answer of a reinstall of the OS is rubbish and does break applications and services on live servers. So I do not recommend doing this. As MS support is only interested in resolving the issue and not providing a root cause analysis thats why they went with the last resort of reinstalling the OS. Which again I do not recommend following.

    For me changing the windows module installer service to auto fixed the issue.

    This is more of a widespread problem as googling the issue brought me to this site and several others where people were experiencing the same issue without resolution.

    Are they trying to force us to go to a newer OS?

    I have software assurance on Windows Server Datacentre so upgrading is not a licence issue for us, but is still a lot of work to migrate servers from older OS's to server 2019.

    Microsoft, this is an issue that you have introduced. You need to sort it out as a lot of people do not have direct support with you, but even if they do try reinstalling the OS it is not a fix as it breaks live servers.

    I spent weeks on trying to get to the bottom of this, I cleared the updates in October but now have exactly the same issue in November.

    Round the wheel we go again.

    I also have a monthly catch up call with Microsoft, so will raise it with them too so they can advise on acceptance of the issue and hopefully a resolution.

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  5. Jeff says:

    Something on this page is causing a memory leak in Firefox and maybe other browsers.
    I do not have the time to investigate what is causing it.
    I had this page open in Firefox for two days and the memory usage for this page went up to 29GB.

  6. Art says:

    Hi David, I now have this issue on one 2012std server. Did you get to the bottom of it ?

  7. Surinder says:

    Hi ALL

    I am having this on a a 2012 server as well , any ideas on what is causing this and how to really fix it .

  8. Arioch says:

    Posting this here, for this was where the Google ended directing me too.

    Granted, the story is a bit different.
    But posting it here, so perhaps other people could find it too if googling for the same issue and read then.

    It is about another cumulative update – KB4532920
    The same Windows Server, though: 2012 not-R2 Eng x64

    Suddenly one of secondary servers, running that OS, got frozen.
    It replied to pings, but RDP and shared folders did not react at all!

    After server was rebooted form local console the RDP connection handshake was painfully slow, but when established worked ok.

    After i entered RDP i was greeted with a prompt about Windows Update that i has to help make happen.
    Then it opened a regular Win7-style Windows update windows, with one single important update, yes this very "1019-12 Servicing Stack Update KB4532920".

    I tried to install it and was greeted with some Windows Update error 80246013.
    I tried again and the error changed to 80244019 "Windows Update is busy installing another update"

    But it was not.

    I looked into Windows Update history – and that was kind of shock, never seen such a thing before.

    From 2019-12-20 up to 2020-02-27 that very KB4532920 was being installed EVERY SINGLE DAY.
    Some days installation ended with "Failed", about 25% of the records.
    Other days installation ended with "Succeeded".
    No matter the result, next day it was getting installed again!

    If to speculate, it looks like if Microsoft made a "quick and dirty patch": instead if blocking the Windows booting until update installed, they now let it go on and instead they try to continue KB installation asynchronously.

    So the erratic infinite installation loop now does not result in infinite reboots loop, but.. well, merely in infinite installation attempts.

    After reading this page and especially David Daly's comment, i did the following:

    1. Launched Task Manager and switched to Services Tab
    2. Found and started TrustedInstaller AKA Windows Modules Installer
    3. Found and started MSIServer AKA Windows Installer Service
    4. Found and RE-started wuauserv AKA Windows Automatic Updates
    5. Opened Windows Updates interface and clicked Check For Updates – it was fixed, i was in "no updates pending" status.
    6. Immediately rebooted the server.
    7. Opened Windows Updates interface again – and "no updates pending"

    Seems the problem got solved, thanks to everyone above.

    I did not saw in Google nay mention of the update being infinitely installed again and again and again, so posting this experience here in case someone else will meet it too.

  9. Max says:

    Adding my expirience.
    I had the same problem too: Windows Server 2012 Standard after reboot all update is still in "pending reboot" state.
    I was try to go thru Arioch flow, adding DISM and sfc /scannow before – didn't help.
    But, after those steps i tried some "useless" thing: opened PC settings thru Windows Metro Interface – selected Windows Update and start downloading update – then restart the PC – and it's work.
    Looks like as one of solution for this issue.

  10. Pingback: Windows UpdateにおけるPending Restart無限ループからの脱出 – Fun Scripting 2.0

  11. Tovo R. says:

    I had this issue since february of this year. I searched on many website but i found my solution here.
    For me It was solved by uninstalling desktop-experience via powershell.
    The uninstallation hangs on 56%. I waited 1 hour, no change I decided to stop it and restart and miraculously the updates were installed.


  12. Seal says:

    Thanks, worked for me !

  13. Pete Smith says:

    Me Too

    Windows Installer to auto did a reboot which took ages over an hour, and then completed the updates.

  14. Steve says:

    That service did the trick for me after spending hours and hours trying to make the updates happen. Can't believe it worked but so thankful! Thank you for the post.

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