Windows Update fails with code 8E5E0408: a fix

I maintain a PC where Windows 7 refused to perform updates. When in
“Windows Update” I clicked to find new updates, it informed me that I’d
first have to install new Windows Update software, but when I clicked to
proceed, it returned

Windows could not search for new updates
An error occurred while checking for new updates on your computer
Error(s) found
Code 8E5E0408 Windows Update encountered an unknown error

The “more information” button in Windows Update led to a cul-de-sac with no
useful information at all. In fact, so far as I can tell, even Microsoft’s
web site contains not a single page that deals with this specific problem.

After many useless tries with advice from many different places on the Web,
I finally succeeded in fixing the problem and getting
Windows Update working again. Here are some things I tried—based on
the many different sources I consulted, including a large number of pages
in—that didn’t work.

  1. Setting updates to be automatic
  2. Clean boot, disable non-MS services, reboot, try again, reboot, re-enable non-MS services, try again
  3. sfc /scannow followed by replacing missing or corrupted files (there were none)
  4. chkdsk C: and fix file system problems (there were none)
  5. Installing and running the “System Update Readiness Tool (SURT) for Windows 7” (it didn’t work)
  6. Installing and running the “Windows Update Agent” (“encountered unrecoverable error”)

One thing I didn’t try, because it looked worse than re-installing Windows entirely, was

  1. an in-place upgrade (actually repair, not an upgrade)

However, because I was willing to look quite widely, I chanced on a page at
Microsoft that looked promising, the page about KB971058, “How do I reset
Windows Update components?” It wasn’t correct in every detail, but I
adapted it and my procedure worked; at any rate, Windows Update now works
again on that PC.

Here’s exactly what I did. You’ll need to take all these steps in a command
window with administrative privileges—and sorry to say this, but if
you don’t know how to do that, you shouldn’t proceed. Get help from someone
more experienced, because you may have to adjust these steps to the
environment of your own PC.

First stop BITS (Background Intelligent Transfer Service), the Windows
Update service, the Application Identity service, and the Cryptographic
service. You must do this to let them release the files they’re using,
which may be corrupted.

for %N in (bits wuauserv appidsvc cryptsvc) do net stop %N

Windows Update uses BITS, and if the BITS queue files are corrupted, BITS
won’t work. Delete those files. They’ll be rebuilt when the services

del "%allusersprofile%\Application Data\Microsoft\Network\Downloader\qmgr*.dat"

Other files, including Cryptographic Service files, may also be corrupted,
so make them inaccessible by renaming their directories. They’ll be
rebuilt—ideally in uncorrupted condition—when the services
start up again.

ren %systemroot%\SoftwareDistribution SoftwareDistribution.bak
ren %systemroot%\system32\catroot2 catroot2.bak

Now reset the BITS and Windows Update services to their default security
state, so they can be accessible and run with the correct privileges.


To re-register executable library files used by BITS and Windows Update,
reposition to the directory that contains them…

cd /d %windir%\system32

…and re-register them. If you get messages here about failure to register
something, ignore them.

for %R in (atl urlmon mshtml shdocvw browseui jscript vbscript scrrun msxml msxml3 msxml6 actxprxy softpub wintrust dssenh rsaenh gpkcsp sccbase slbcsp cryptdlg oleaut32 ole32 shell32 initpki wuapi wuaueng wuaueng1 wucltui wups wups2 wuweb qmgr qmgrprxy wucltux muweb wuwebv) do regsvr32.exe %R

In case the problem includes network errors, reset Winsock.

netsh winsock reset

Microsoft thinks you should reset the Windows HTTP proxy, but I suspect you
need to do that only if you use Internet Explorer. (You shouldn’t use
Internet Explorer, but chacun son goût. It’s your funeral.)

netsh winhttp reset proxy

Restart the services you stopped above. I rebooted after starting these

for %N in (bits wuauserv appidsvc cryptsvc) do net start %N

Now try Windows Update again.

That’s what worked for me. Now you can remove the now-unused directories
you renamed above—once again, in a command window with elevated

rmdir %systemroot%\SoftwareDistribution SoftwareDistribution.bak
rmdir %systemroot%\system32\catroot2 catroot2.bak

And done.

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10 Responses to Windows Update fails with code 8E5E0408: a fix

    • Thanks for the note, Bob. The answer to your question is “Maybe, but if I did, it didn’t work”.
      Those “Fixits” are hidden behind their buttons with no details, and I’m reluctant to use them without knowing exactly the details that Microsoft doesn’t provide. Nonetheless I did try a couple (not specifically mentioned in the main post, but included in “a large number of pages in—that didn’t work”). They didn’t work. Whether one of them was the one on that page I don’t know. I do know that Microsoft’s other “troubleshoot Windows Update” pages were culs-de-sac or irrelevant. Their “troubleshooting” for Windows Update 8E5E0408 seems to me all trouble and no shoot.

  1. tony says:

    It works, thanks so much

  2. AF says:

    After 20 hours of trying varios MS instuctions and fixes I tryed this which worked. Thanks!

  3. Andre says:

    Guy, God bless you! Thank you so much! I was looking for this solution for many months

  4. Eddy says:

    YAY! it worked. Thanx mate, first solution tonight that actuaaly DID work!

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