Solving the mystery of Windows updates

Q: Several years ago, I purchased an HP Envy PC, model h8-1414. I've upgraded the operating system from Windows 8 to Windows 8.1 to Windows 10. Now I can't get automatic Windows 10 updates to complete; the updates freeze and I'm forced to restart the PC. A few hours later, the PC tries to update Windows 10 again, with the same result. Because of this, I'm running Windows 10 version 1511, when I should have been updated to version 1709. Any suggestions?

–– Francis Larriviere, Opelousas, La.

A: You have two problems. Your 2012 PC has reached the end of its ability to be updated to newer versions of Windows 10. In addition, the version of Windows 10 you are now using received its last security update in October, which will make it unsafe to use in the future.

The solution to both issues is to get a new PC.

How did you get into this fix? I suspect that your PC was barely compatible with the initial version of Windows 10 (aka version 1507) and the first update (1511), that were introduced in 2015. But it isn't compatible with newer versions of Windows, such as last year's Anniversary Update (1607) or this year's Creators Update (1703) and Fall Creators Update (1709.) Note that your computer model doesn't appear on HP's lists of PCs that are compatible with the Anniversary Update ( or the Creators Update (

What will happen next? Your PC will continue to work with Windows 10 version 1511. But without new security updates, it’s only a matter of time before it will fall victim to future hacker attacks or malware.

Whose fault is this? Not yours; you updated your PC as best you could. And not really Microsoft’s; it continues to automatically update Windows 10 free on compatible PCs. Blame the rapid pace of technology change, which makes the lifetime of a PC about five years.

Q: I have two Dell desktop PCs and a Dell laptop that run Windows 7 Professional. During all of 2017, the desktops have automatically downloaded operating system updates. But the laptop hasn't received an update since the end of 2016. What can I do?

–– Rich Mueller, Maple Grove, Minn.

A: It's a software compatibility issue that's easily fixed. Microsoft altered the software on its Windows 7 update servers this year. That disrupted the servers' ability to communicate with PCs that had an outdated piece of upgrade software called an "agent." The solution is to download new agent software that will enable your laptop to talk to the Microsoft servers again. (

–– Whether you have a 32-bit or 64-bit processor chip on your laptop. To find out, go to Control Panel and click the “systems” icon. Then use either the “x32” or “x64” download link on the web page listed above.

–– How to open the “zip” folder that will be downloaded to your PC. A zip folder is one that has been digitally compressed to make it download faster. To open such a folder, you “unzip” it by right-clicking the folder, choosing “extract all” from the resulting menu, and then following the instructions on the website above.



Steve Alexander covers technology for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Readers may write to him at Tech Q&A, 425 Portland Ave. S., Minneapolis, Minn. 55488-0002; email: Please include a full name, city and phone number.