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XP Pro slow startup caused by wuauclt.exe

    Question

  • My computer takes a long time (10 min) to complete it's startup. I have traced the problem to heave disk access by
    wuauclt.exe. The log shows six minutes being consumed by the operations listed in the log below.

    2009-11-21 07:20:44:859 2020 8d4 Agent   * Search Scope = {Machine}
    2009-11-21 07:26:27:984 2020 8d4 Agent   * Found 0 updates and 60 categories in search; evaluated appl. rules of 872 out of 2151 d

    Perhaps someone could give me a hint what is going on.
    Saturday, November 21, 2009 2:14 PM

Answers

  • A general solution to any problem related to Windows Update is to stop the Automatic Update service by starting services.msc from the Start >Run. After that rename the folder C:\Window\SoftwareDistribution and start the Automtic Update service again. Make sure that you visit http://update.microsoft.com/windowsupdate and run a scan for updates and install any critical updates. Restart and see if the problem remain.


    Renaming the SoftwareDistribution folder is *not* (IMHO) a recommended "diagnostic step".

    It is an appropriate *remediation* when, and only when, diagnostics confirm a problem with the WUAgent datastore. (We're not there yet.)

    The pending question of what version of WUAgent is involved is because later builds of the WUAgent have been explicitly rearchitected to resolve such performance issues, and if an earlier version is being used, the correct solution is to upgrade the WUAgent.

    If the latest version is being used, there are other known causes, entirely outside the scope of the SoftwareDistribution folder, which also must be first eliminated.

    Given the description of "heavy disk access by wuauclt.exe", my first suspicion is that this machine has an exceptionally large %windir%\Installer folder, and the disk churn is the result of extended effort in scanning the numerous installed MSI packages -- many of which may be Office 2003 updates. This is a known cause of this behavior. When this scenario is encountered, the recommended resolution is to uninstall Office 2003, reinstall Office 2003, and apply Service Pack 3 directly (thus eliminating years of intervening MSI updates that need to be stored in the %windir%\Installer folder.

    Lawrence Garvin, M.S., MCITP:EA, MCDBA
    Principal/CTO, Onsite Technology Solutions, Houston, Texas
    Microsoft MVP - Software Distribution (2005-2009)
    My MVP Profile: http://mvp.support.microsoft.com/profile/Lawrence.Garvin
    My Blog: http://onsitechsolutions.spaces.live.com
    • Proposed as answer by Teddy Ostergaard Sunday, November 22, 2009 11:58 PM
    • Marked as answer by Ted Lind Monday, November 23, 2009 3:33 AM
    Sunday, November 22, 2009 5:44 AM
    Moderator

All replies

  • Have you verified that it actuallt is the Windows Update checking that causes this? If you disable the service "Automatic Updates" does the machine then start at normal speed?
    Saturday, November 21, 2009 2:42 PM
  • I turned off Windows Update and the start time went from ten minutes to a little under four minutes. I did get a couple of extra warnings from McAfee  (I am a Comcast customer and use their free McAfee AV) about my computer being unprotected in the process. It was a big improvement. The update program seems to look at a lot of files on the disk. The start time is disk access limited. The CPU is loafing along most of the time.
    Saturday, November 21, 2009 6:03 PM
  • My computer takes a long time (10 min) to complete it's startup. I have traced the problem to heave disk access by
    wuauclt.exe. The log shows six minutes being consumed by the operations listed in the log below.

    2009-11-21 07:20:44:859 2020 8d4 Agent   * Search Scope = {Machine}
    2009-11-21 07:26:27:984 2020 8d4 Agent   * Found 0 updates and 60 categories in search; evaluated appl. rules of 872 out of 2151 d

    Perhaps someone could give me a hint what is going on.

    What version is the Windows Update Agent?
    Lawrence Garvin, M.S., MCITP:EA, MCDBA
    Principal/CTO, Onsite Technology Solutions, Houston, Texas
    Microsoft MVP - Software Distribution (2005-2009)
    My MVP Profile: http://mvp.support.microsoft.com/profile/Lawrence.Garvin
    My Blog: http://onsitechsolutions.spaces.live.com
    Saturday, November 21, 2009 9:29 PM
    Moderator
  • A general solution to any problem related to Windows Update is to stop the Automatic Update service by starting services.msc from the Start >Run. After that rename the folder C:\Window\SoftwareDistribution and start the Automtic Update service again. Make sure that you visit http://update.microsoft.com/windowsupdate and run a scan for updates and install any critical updates. Restart and see if the problem remain.

    Saturday, November 21, 2009 9:34 PM
  • A general solution to any problem related to Windows Update is to stop the Automatic Update service by starting services.msc from the Start >Run. After that rename the folder C:\Window\SoftwareDistribution and start the Automtic Update service again. Make sure that you visit http://update.microsoft.com/windowsupdate and run a scan for updates and install any critical updates. Restart and see if the problem remain.


    Renaming the SoftwareDistribution folder is *not* (IMHO) a recommended "diagnostic step".

    It is an appropriate *remediation* when, and only when, diagnostics confirm a problem with the WUAgent datastore. (We're not there yet.)

    The pending question of what version of WUAgent is involved is because later builds of the WUAgent have been explicitly rearchitected to resolve such performance issues, and if an earlier version is being used, the correct solution is to upgrade the WUAgent.

    If the latest version is being used, there are other known causes, entirely outside the scope of the SoftwareDistribution folder, which also must be first eliminated.

    Given the description of "heavy disk access by wuauclt.exe", my first suspicion is that this machine has an exceptionally large %windir%\Installer folder, and the disk churn is the result of extended effort in scanning the numerous installed MSI packages -- many of which may be Office 2003 updates. This is a known cause of this behavior. When this scenario is encountered, the recommended resolution is to uninstall Office 2003, reinstall Office 2003, and apply Service Pack 3 directly (thus eliminating years of intervening MSI updates that need to be stored in the %windir%\Installer folder.

    Lawrence Garvin, M.S., MCITP:EA, MCDBA
    Principal/CTO, Onsite Technology Solutions, Houston, Texas
    Microsoft MVP - Software Distribution (2005-2009)
    My MVP Profile: http://mvp.support.microsoft.com/profile/Lawrence.Garvin
    My Blog: http://onsitechsolutions.spaces.live.com
    • Proposed as answer by Teddy Ostergaard Sunday, November 22, 2009 11:58 PM
    • Marked as answer by Ted Lind Monday, November 23, 2009 3:33 AM
    Sunday, November 22, 2009 5:44 AM
    Moderator
  • I totally agree with you Lawrence, my "solution" is just a remediation for the problem. My experience though tell me that customers want the problem resolved as quickly as possible and many times it is really time consuming (expensive) to actually find out the cause of the problem. If my "solution" would work we could save time but with the disadvantage of not knowing the actual problem :)
    Sunday, November 22, 2009 8:23 AM
  • I totally agree with you Lawrence, my "solution" is just a remediation for the problem.
    Except that we have not yet identified the *PROBLEM* !! :-)

    And there's no guarantee that your "solution" will solve the problem -- particularly if it's caused by one of the *known* causes of this performance issue.

    In fact, in all of the known causes (none of which have been confirmed or ruled out in this scenario), none of those causes has, as a remedation, the renaming or removal of the SoftwareDistribution folder.

    So just as it may be "time consuming" to actually find out the cause of the problem, it's twice as annoying to be sent off to implement "solutions" that don't actually resolve the problem, and even worse when it's discovered that the "solution" (which didn't solve anything) has damaging side-effects - like completely destroying the entire Update History stored in the WUAgent's datastore.

    Lawrence Garvin, M.S., MCITP:EA, MCDBA
    Principal/CTO, Onsite Technology Solutions, Houston, Texas
    Microsoft MVP - Software Distribution (2005-2009)
    My MVP Profile: http://mvp.support.microsoft.com/profile/Lawrence.Garvin
    My Blog: http://onsitechsolutions.spaces.live.com
    Sunday, November 22, 2009 3:41 PM
    Moderator
  • You are correct. I did try the renaming and it had no effect.  I have had the computer for a few years and I regularly do MS Updates. I have Office 2003 installed.  I am sure there are many of the old update files on the disk.  


    I am planning on upgrading to Windows 7 (clean install)  and upgrading my MS Office in a few months. I will be changing out the disk drive and want to get a little time in on the new drive before I upgrade and get my income taxes out of the way.  I think I will just live with the problem until then. I am sure the upgrade will clean everything up. I do appreciate the advice from all. Thanks.
    Sunday, November 22, 2009 6:35 PM