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July 26, 2006

Windows Update Broke My Machine (svchost.exe -- application error), and How to Fix It

If you turn on automatic updating for you machine, every Tuesday-ish, Microsoft will send you patches, and they'll quietly install.  Amazingly, these patches (at least for me) never break anything.  Until now, that is.  After a recent update, my machine would spit out the following message every time I would boot.

svchost.exe -- application error the instruction at "0x745f2780" reference memory at "0x00000000". the memory could not be 'read'

Looking into the event log yielded the following:

Faulting application svchost.exe, version 5.1.2600.2180, faulting module msi.dll, version 3.1.4000.2435, fault address 0x00012780.

The problem wasn't so much this error message, but the fact then when the dialog with the error was closed, the machine became unusable (no new executables would start).  If I left the dialog open, I could use my machine "normally", but it would hang on shutdown.

Something with Windows Update broke something with the Windows Installer.  Reinstalling Windows Installer 3.1 didn't solve the problem, but the follow spelunked from Google saved my bacon:

Perform these steps leaving the svchost crash dialog open.

1. Click Start->Run, type "services.msc" (without quotation marks) in the open box and click OK.
2. Double click the service "Automatic Updates".
3. Click on the Log On tab, please ensure the option "Local System account" is selected and the option "Allow service to interact with desktop" is unchecked.

4. Check if this service has been enabled on the listed Hardware Profile. If not, please click the Enable button to enable it.
5. Click on the tab "General "; make sure the "Startup Type" is "Automatic". Then please click the button "Start" under "Service Status" to start the service.
6. Repeat the above steps with the other service: Background Intelligent Transfer Service (BITS)

Step 4: Re-register Windows Update components and Clear the corrupted Windows Update temp folder

1. Click on Start and then click Run,
2. In the open field type "REGSVR32 WUAPI.DLL" (without quotation marks) and press Enter.
3. When you receive the "DllRegisterServer in WUAPI.DLL succeeded" message, click OK.
4. Please repeat these steps for each of the following commands:


After the above steps are finished. Sicne temporary folder of Windows Update may be corrupted. We can refer to the following steps to rename this folder that

1. Click Start, Run, type: cmd and press Enter. Please run the following command in the opened window.

net stop WuAuServ

(note, you might need to reboot before the net stop command will work)

2. Click Start, Run, type: %windir% and press Enter.
3. In the opened folder, rename the folder SoftwareDistribution to SDold.
4. Click Start, Run, type: cmd and press Enter. Please run the following command in the opened window.

net start WuAuServ

UPDATE: This post has received a ton of comments.  One, in particular, suggests an easier fix for this problem:

1.Go 2 the start menu
2.Right click "my computer"
3.Click "properties" then the "automatic updates"
4.Choose "turn off automatic updates"
5.Reboot your computer
6.Go back to start menu and in all programs go to "windows update" you have to be connected to the internet.
7.Manually update windows.
8.Turn your automatic updates back on.

I have also had a number of people comment that the problem reappears after some time.  The recommended fix, if the problem reappears, is to turn off automatic updates, and just manually go to Windows Update periodically and update your machine.

Thanks for all the comments.  I've very please to know that this is solving the problem for many people. 

One last thing, if you're interested in the kinds of things you might face should if you're interested in Windows Vista, I recommend checking out the WinSuperSite.

Posted on July 26, 2006 at 10:30 AM | Permalink


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Tracked on Dec 17, 2006 8:03:18 PM


Been looking everywhere, about to give this a shot...THANKS!

Posted by: endernet | Jul 31, 2006 9:18:31 AM

Gave it a try! Hopfully it works!


Posted by: Benson | Aug 9, 2006 4:07:29 PM

After almost 8 hours of scanning my system for viruses, spy/adware and searching everywhere on the net for a solution, I couldn't believe I was reading the EXACT problem I was having along with the fix on your posting! Gave it a try and worked like a charm! I was about to give up hope and reinstall WinXP but then found the solution on your posting and, needless to say, I can't thank you enough for sharing it. After that I applied the latest Windows updates and now I'm back to normal; MANY, MANY, MANY thanks!!

Posted by: Oscar R. | Aug 9, 2006 11:28:49 PM

Thank you very, very much for this info. I had the exact same problem and this fixed me up - kudos to you and Google that helped me find your answer. I have a proposal to write today and this has saved me a load of time - thanks again!

Posted by: AndyToo | Aug 10, 2006 2:58:21 AM

Thank you very much! It was exactly my problem! Now it's solved :)

Posted by: Tobi | Aug 10, 2006 8:53:03 AM

As expressed in all the comments before, thank you very much for taking the time to explain this problem and give a solution! It saved my computer as well!

Posted by: Shadowcat | Aug 10, 2006 10:59:35 AM

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! Your advice was a great help and it has sorted out my machine. I was on the verge of throwing it the window.

Posted by: Bushman | Aug 11, 2006 6:08:26 AM

Thanks very much! I was figuring it was windows update. Now I'm only losing half a day of work instead of a whole one! Thanks again!

Posted by: ncsbert | Aug 11, 2006 10:04:19 AM

Awesome! 5 minutes later my system was back to normal. Thanks for posting this!

Posted by: Craig Green | Aug 11, 2006 10:09:36 AM

Thanks very much - I had exactly the same problem, and although I didn't need to do everything you outlined (just stopping the service then renaming the SoftwareDistribution folder was sufficient), I couldn't have fixed it without you.

Does anyone know if Microsoft has acknowledged this problem? Seems to be affected an awful lot of people.

Posted by: Phil Wells | Aug 12, 2006 2:17:24 PM

Thank's a million! I was about to throw my computer off the balcony.

Posted by: Comedy Mark | Aug 13, 2006 10:49:47 AM

Thanks a ton. Saved me about 8 hours, a butt whoopin, and my company about 1,000 dollars in lost productivity!

Posted by: Heber | Aug 15, 2006 10:09:33 AM

Thanks a lot it cleared up my problem.

Posted by: Don | Aug 15, 2006 8:52:49 PM

Thanks, I had exactly the same problem, and you helped me so much to fix it.

Posted by: Matthias | Aug 16, 2006 2:35:28 AM

had a half day scanning with any antiviruses and spyware/malware removers.... helped alot :)

Posted by: Jurgis | Aug 16, 2006 4:02:45 AM

I have a problem with renaming the file named SofwareDistribution - :
Error Renaming File or Folder
Cannot erename SofwareDistribution: Acces is denied. Make sure the disk is not full or write protected and that it is not curently in use

I tried to change the attribute settings but without succes.

Now what do I do??

Hope you can help me.

Thanks very much


Posted by: Jan | Aug 16, 2006 5:11:57 AM

Disregard the above message.
I found out why I could not rename the file.
The net stop WuAuServ had not worked.

Posted by: Jan | Aug 16, 2006 6:14:21 AM

Thank you SO much. I had a nice new laptop that suddenly stopped working and I'd had no luck tracking down the problem until I found your entry. Many Many Thanks!!

Posted by: Kevin | Aug 16, 2006 4:49:25 PM

May the path of your life be strewn with beautiful things!

10 minutes ago I was about to sledgehammer my pc into oblivion, but this post has saved me hours, if not days, of extra work :-D

Why this info is not in Microsofts knowledge base is bizarre

Posted by: shockstump | Aug 17, 2006 1:12:59 AM

Thank you very very much. I was about to reinstall windows.This has been a god send.YOU HAVE GOT TO LOVE THE INTRENET! THANK YOU AGAIN

Posted by: Tony Morris | Aug 17, 2006 5:48:10 PM

Thank you for your expertise. Your instructions were easy to follow and my computer seems to be working better now. Thank you for taking the time to share this information.

Posted by: Janet | Aug 19, 2006 9:45:22 PM

Thank you very much for saving my day, today ! :) To hell with MS' (un)knowledge base...

Posted by: Diego | Aug 21, 2006 6:38:01 AM

You are a GOD!!!

Posted by: henry | Aug 23, 2006 5:59:23 PM

The fix provided by MS did nothing. Thanks for doing what they can't

Posted by: Bob | Aug 24, 2006 7:01:18 AM

Ok your fixed worked but as soon as another update came out the PC had the same problems again? Any fix for this?

Posted by: Ed | Aug 28, 2006 9:28:40 AM

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