When Windows Update gets broken, Windows is a crippled operating system, unable to fend off the latest security threats, unless you're willing to spend the time digging through the Windows Knowledge Base looking for patches to install.
It's no fun looking at a fresh (or refreshed) installation of Windows XP SP2 and see that there are over 70 updates waiting to be installed - but every time you try to install them, the installer rolls over and plays dead after a few seconds.
Dial-a-fix to the Rescue
When this happened to me recently, I spend a lot of time Googling my way through various forums and newsgroups, and after awhile, a common thread appeared: try a program called Dial-a-fix. Lots of users with broken Windows Update functions were swearing by Dial-a-fix.
They're right. I installed it, clicked the Fix Windows Update checkbox, and in just a couple of minutes, I was able to install every one of those 70+ updates.
So, What Is Dial-a-fix, Anyway?
In the words of its creator, "DjLizard," (also known as Michael Cooke):
Dial-a-fix is a collection of known fixes gleaned from Microsoft Knowledgebase articles, Microsoft MVPs, and other important support forums...
As the figure shows, Dial-a-fix is designed to repair problems in five major areas: Prep, MSI (Windows Installer), WU/WUAU (Windows Update/Automatic Update, SSL/HTTPS/Cryptography, and component registration.
According to creator Michael Cooke;
Dial-a-fix's primary philosophy is to fix problems by setting various things back to their original Microsoft defaults.
A close look at the menu shows that Dial-a-fix works by stopping and restarting some services, re-registering some components, and performing other maintenance tasks - all from a single GUI.
Dial-a-fix Versus Manual Repairs
Dial-a-fix has two big advantages over manual Windows fixes:
It performs many repairs with a single selection
It repairs not only the obvious problems but other Windows features that work together with the feature you're trying to fix.
For example, if you wanted to fix Windows Update manually, you would need to run a complex series of command-line statements to stop services, reregister over a dozen .dll files, then restart two services. And, because other problems can also affect Windows Update, Dial-a-fix also automatically selects repairs for SSL/HTTPS/Cryptography and programming cores/runtimes.
Learning How to Perform Manual Repairs with Dial-a-fix
To learn exactly what Dial-a-fix does, make sure tooltips are selected, then hover your mouse over any checkbox: Dial-a-fix pops up the steps it will perform when the option is selected. In this example, the steps needed to stop Windows Update services are listed.
Even though you'll probably decide that Dial-a-fix is an easier way to fix the problems it's designed to handle, reviewing the steps it takes to perform a repair provides a crash course in how to use command-line utilities like Net Start, Net Stop, and
Getting Your Hands on Dial-a-fix
You can download Dial-a-fix from the Dial-a-fix section of Djlizard's website. It's free to use, but donations are appreciated (and worth making). Dial-a-fix works with any 32-bit version of Windows from Windows 98 through Windows XP and Server 2003.