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Originally published Friday, January 3, 2014 at 3:43 PM

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Windows update problems? Try the troubleshooter page

Puzzling startup messages indicate it’s time to use Microsoft’s update troubleshooter webpage, Patrick Marshall writes. The page has a downloadable diagnostic tool and a list of recommended steps.

Special to The Seattle Times

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Q: I have a 5-year-old Compaq PC running Windows Vista Home Premium. It gets very little use, but it’s fine for our minimal needs. A few days ago, when I got the message “Windows updates need to be installed” I went ahead and “accepted.” Unfortunately, I still keep getting this message that updates need to be installed, and when I start up the computer I get a message that says “Updates not installed correctly, reverting changes.” Then it proceeds to try and install the updates again. I saw a similar question in a recent column, and you suggested that the writer go into the Control Panel and try to uninstall recent updates. I tried that but there aren’t any updates to uninstall. I’m getting very frustrated, since I have to go through this process every time I start my computer. We are not very tech savvy and have no idea where to go from here. Help!

— Lori, Kirkland

A: There are many potential causes of update problems. Microsoft offers an update troubleshooter page at . Note two things on the page. First, in the upper-right-hand corner you can select whether you want instructions for Windows Vista, Windows 7 or Windows 8. Second, the page offers an automatic diagnostic tool that you can download. If it does not find and correct your problem, you can turn to the list of troubleshooting steps offered on the page.

Q: Two days ago I purchased a new Samsung laptop with Windows 8. My problem is with the download of Windows 8.1. I download the software from the Windows store and the computer does everything it is supposed to. It downloads the software, installs it, runs through everything and at the very, very end, when it looks like it is going to start up Windows 8.1, I get a blank screen that then blinks an electronic keyboard 3-4 times and then stops, and after a few seconds does it again. I have refreshed the computer and have tried twice to install 8.1, but the same thing keeps happening. Any ideas?

— Jeff Mendenhall

A: Quite a number of users are running into a variety of difficulties attempting to update to Windows 8.1. And generally I recommend following the instructions on the page cited in the answer to the reader’s question above. But your particular issue appears to be the result of Samsung being a little slow to update drivers for compatibility with Windows 8.1. Try updating your drivers, and then try installing Windows 8.1 again.

As a general rule of thumb, if you have any compatibility issues when installing an application or upgrading an operating system, it’s a good idea to make sure your system has the most recent drivers available — and not just for your computer but for any connected devices as well.

Q: I have a Dell computer running Win7. I have 2 HDs, C:/ and D:/ . When I open Task Manager and click “Show Processes from All Users,” I see duplicate entries labeled “SVCHOST.EXE.” Why are there so many instances of svchost.exe (local, system and network)? This takes an enormous amount of memory (about 106MB).

— Dave Greene, Bellevue

A: SVCHOST.EXE is a host process for Windows services. Applications and drivers that you’re running work by connecting to various operating-system services. These services are using launch SVCHOST processes to go about doing their business. In short, it’s not at all unusual to have many instances of SVCHOST.EXE running. If you want to see which service is running a given instance of SVCHOST, you can right-click on the instance and then select “Go to details.” On the Details display, right-click on the instance and select “Go to services.”

Questions for Patrick Marshall may be sent by email to or, or by mail at Q&A/Technology, The Seattle Times, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111. More columns at


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