SOLUTION: Windows Update cannot currently check for updates, because the service is not running.

A common problem following the replacement of a hard drive (or other low-level storage-related change, such as a storage driver or interface change) is a broken Windows Update.  I’ve been seeing this more and more frequently, in fact, on Windows 7 machines after performing drive recoveries and installing a new drive.

The exact message is:

Windows Update cannot currently check for updates, because the service is not running.  You may need to restart your computer.

While lots of solutions are offered across the internet for this problem, ultimately, it’s actually relatively simple: the storage driver is frequently to blame.  Specifically, the Intel storage driver (generally iaStor.sys), which comes as a part of the Intel Matrix Storage Manager package (renamed to Intel Rapid Storage Technology on later versions of Windows).

It’s been documented in other places as well that this is in fact the root of the problem.

Problem is, there are different versions of the Intel Matrix Storage Manager for each manufacturer — so it isn’t always possible to simply download the latest version directly from Intel and install it.

The HP version of that driver is listed above, and it will indeed work for many systems in question.  For other manufacturers, it’s best to search for the driver manually and download it directly from the PC manufacturer’s web site.  You can use search terms such as:

intel rapid storage technology driver ich10r vista 32-bit

To locate a suitable version for your particular situation.

If this still does not correct your issue, you may need to follow up the driver upgrade with a reset of the Windows Update repository:

  1. Open an elevated Command Prompt (Run as Administrator).
  2. Type the following commands (pressing ENTER after each one):
    1. net stop wuauserv
    2. net stop bits
  3. Open a Windows Explorer window and navigate to %WINDIR% (e.g., normally C:\Windows).
  4. Rename SoftwareDistribution to SoftwareDistribution.old.
  5. Return to the elevated Command Prompt and type these commands:
    1. net start wuauserv
    2. net start bits

This procedure has corrected the problem on all of the PCs where I’ve encountered it thus far.

Disk corruption, LPM, and the iaStor.sys factor

Recently, I took delivery of a sick laptop where the customer had complained of instability and general slowness of operation, as well as system errors of various types. He was relatively tech-savvy and had attempted some repairs on his own.

Anyhow, after some serious chkdsking and system file repairs, I was left with a system that misbehaved rather curiously on a regular basis. Any time significant disk access was required, the system would hang for what seemed to be an indefinite period of time, prompting me to perform a hard reboot. It was very frustrating indeed.

Event Log errors pointed to a possible problem with iaStor.sys, the Intel disk driver.

This customer did not have Intel Matrix Storage Manager of any version installed, and Windows Update declared the drivers up to date. Intel’s automated driver update utility also cleared the system without any recommendations.

Intel Rapid Storage Technology

However, having noted the driver date of 2006, I decided in desperation to update the disk driver. The newest version of the driver is bundled with the new version of Matrix Storage Manager, which has been renamed to Intel Rapid Storage Technology [download here]. I first downloaded and installed this.

Next, I noted problems reported by users of the Intel drivers with older SATA drives, apparently related to Link Power Management. Although the new drivers reportedly correct this by disabling LPM on these drives, I don’t entirely trust Intel’s resolution, as the registry entries still indicate that it is enabled. There’s an easy fix for this also:

  1. Open Regedit.
  2. Navigate to HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\iaStor\Parameters\PortX
    (where X is any number representing the port of each installed drive)
  3. Change the Value of LPMDSTATE from 1 to 0 for each key.
  4. Reboot the PC.

Upon the completion of these steps, the problems were resolved, and disk access on the machine was much faster (not to mention reliable). A number of other repairs were still necessary following this thanks to the aftermath of the disk corruption (such as additional system file repairs, software install problems including .NET Framework issues, and deep-seated MS Office issues), but after all of the repairs were complete, the PC was working like new again.

If you’re looking for computer help in the Louisville area, look no further.  Call me today and get it done right!