Windows Update Error: 80070490

So yesterday when I was playing with my Vista Media Center, I was playing around with WebGuide and I was getting long delays when browsing through the folders. I know there was a network transfer bug in Vista that caused it to be slow and since all the files I was sharing were located off box, I decided to see if there was a new patch to fix this. That’s when I noticed that my system hasn’t done a Windows Update since December 5th, 2007. So after clicking on check for new updates, I get this error code: 80070490

Looked simple enough. I thought if I search online for this number along with windows update, I’d get a simple solution on how to fix it. Boy was I wrong.

First, I tried the Windows Update help file. It showed me a different bunch of error codes, but none that match mine.

So the next thing was the search engine. There were a bunch of hits, but none with a simple solution. According to, 80070490 means Permission denied / [Problem initializing or using session variables] or Element not found. Not really sure what to do about that.

There were no official solutions. People have contacted Microsoft Support, but the only fix is to “upgrade” your Vista. I’ll elaborate later. The 2 most helpful sites I found in regards to this issue were actually threads:

I believe they both originate from the microsoft.public.windowsupdate newsgroup, but there’s several additional replies in the Google one. I also like the formatting of the Google one better as they hide the replies.

Here are the several solutions suggested:

I recently encountered this problem as well, and what the technician told me to do was enter the services menu, and reset the following services in this order: BITS (Background Intelligent Transfer Service) – Cryptographic Services – Windows Update)

then restart your system. that worked for me once but it only worked until i restarted my computer again. any other more permanent ideas would be greatly appreciated, and i hope that these suggestions help somebody.

I wasn’t exactly sure what “reset” meant, so I restarted the following 3 services in order:

  • Background Intelligent Transfer Service
  • Cryptographic Services
  • Windows Update

I then restarted my computer. Windows Update still didn’t work and still returned the dreaded 80070490 error code.

The problem was eventually resolved by Microsoft Support via their free service for update issues – thanks for that advice, PA Bear. In spite of trying various ‘fixes’ with guidance from Microsoft, I ultimately had to ‘upgrade’ (not reinstall) Windows using the original Windows Vista disk. This process takes much longer than a typical install – so long in fact that at one stage I thought the system had frozen and that I’d have to do a complete reinstall. Fortunately ‘upgrade’ eventually completed the various tasks and all original data, other installed software and setting were preserved, so ‘upgrading’ was the better option – for me at least.

I hope this helps. Good luck.

This is actually the solution that has worked for most people that encountered this error and is in fact the current solution provided by Microsoft Support. What you do is stick in your original Vista DVD, perform what you would do with new install, and when the option comes up to for Upgrade or Advance/Custom, select Upgrade. I’m not exactly sure what it means to Upgrade when I already have Vista Ultimate installed, but what the heck, I just followed directions. They note that it does take several hours to complete. Of course that depends on how fast your machine is.

Anyway, I’m already somewhat pissed. What the heck is this error and why am I repairing my Vista install when I haven’t done anything to it in the past month. But worse of all, half way through the repair, it says my system isn’t compatible to install this version of Vista and tells me to run the compatibility tool. It then reboots and restores the previous configuration. I tried this like 3x, each time waiting an hour or so before it hits this error.

I finally gave up with this Upgrade solution.


An idea hit me. Since the last successful Windows Update was on December 5th, 2007, what if I try doing a System Restore to the last point before that date. I hate doing System Restores as it smudges up tons of settings and breaks applications you’ve installed after that date. Anyway, I do a System Restore to November 30th, 2007 and behold, Windows Update suddenly works again! I had to reinstall WebGuide and a couple other apps, but this error needs to be better documented.

Update: David has provide an extra solution for people who have installed Daemon Tools or Alcohol 120%. Apparently there was a problematic file (sptd.sys – Scsi Pass Through Direct) that causes Windows Upgrade to fail. I’m guessing the file is what allows you to have virtual cd/dvd drives. The solution was to delete the problematic file, upgrade Daemon Tools, or uninstall it altogether. You can read more about the solution in his comments.

Update #2: Patrick provided a very interesting tool to try:

When Googleing for answers I found out that many people had this problem and that it was not easy to fix. But one guy (jhaysITQ) found a Microsoft tool called “System Update Readiness Tool” that fixed 3 systems for him. I tried it and TADA, it worked for me too!

I hope it helps some of you people too!

Check out his original post here: 80070490 Vista Windows Update Failing

Tool info and download here (about 70 – 75 MB): System Update Readiness Tool

70 Replies to “Windows Update Error: 80070490”

  1. @someguy All versions of Vista has System Restore. It should be located inside Control Panel. Just search for system restore once you have Control Panel open.

  2. thanks for that Krunk. I just read the comments cvbrown left… boy were those some of the stupidest things some ppl have said so I wanted to say thanks for all the suggestions.

    Secondly I checked my windows update thing and it said that the updates were last checked 12/11/2009. however the system restore thing only goes back to the 21st. I don’t know how often windows updates checks, but i’m presuming that it checks every day so the problem might have come up then and I had no idea. I’ll try the system readiness tool, then i’ll do the system restore.


  3. Thank you Sue. This is the only option that worked for me. Painfully installing 19 updates individually.
    Can anyone explain why ‘stand alone’ update works and MS Update system doesn’t?

    PS email IS a required field

  4. Easiest fix i found on two server systems with that error was to download the patch via the security bullentin link and install it manually.

  5. OS Windows Vista x64 Home Premium SP2
    Error Code 80070490 Started 12/15/09

    Can anyone tell me if installing Windows 7 x64 Home Premium Upgrade will resolve this update issue?

    Thank you

  6. I think I have the 80070490 error figured out, or at least on my machine. All the updates that you get the 80070490 error on, well they have already been installed, that’s why the error. I wrote the update KB number down and searched through the installed updates and they had all previously been installed..successfully.

  7. I’ve tried all of the above that were relevant (I don’t have those other two programs installed).

    Readiness tool didn’t fix it and trying to upgrade Windows from the CD got me as far as the Upgrade option, but it was grayed out since it wanted me to have a prior version.

    I have Windows Vista Ultimate.

    My best guess is I’ll have upgrade to Windows 7. I suppose I can’t keep my programs and files but will have the further headache after going through all this of reloading everything. But then again it’s just not right rewarding Microsoft for their stupidity, so this might be my breaking point to go to Linux.

    Any suggestions to fix this or best alternatives to Windows 7?

    1. If you’ve tried everything suggested here, I’m not sure what else to suggest. Though upgrading to Win7 doesn’t mean you can’t keep your programs. Most installed programs should work after you upgrade.

      1. That’s great news about the programs remaining on an upgrade – I had forgotten that fact. And I should be able to live without a few updates for awhile before I get the Windows 7 discs back from my dad.

        Thanks a lot for the quick reply!

      2. Hi Krunk
        I tried 2 d.load system readiness tool & it says the update does’nt apply 2 my system!
        I have windows vista basic 32bit & have tried pretty much everything 2 resolve the problem
        with no success.
        Your help would be very much appreciated.

        Many Thanks.


        1. I’m not sure I could be of much more help since there are so many different ways that have worked for different people. Have you tried restoring your system to a previous state?

          There’s also a bunch of other things you can try that people have posted in the comments.

  8. My error message (same as above) began on 9/3/10. I had a fully updated Windows Vista OS with SP2 installed, and all the updates. However, I was on vacation, camping, and the battery ran down while the pc was on standby. So, when I went to login, I got a Login Failure message. After I returned home on the 8th, I researched that error, only to find out that I had to restore back to my last backup, which was 9/2009. After days of that, my Windows Update keeps bringing me Vista SP2, but then I get the Failure message: Element not found over and over again. Today, I have downloaded the manual MS UPdate Standalone Pkg, and run it several times. I have also manually downloaded SP2, but continue to get the Failure message: Element not found. It would be cheaper, time and $$ wise, to upgrad to Win 7, I think! Maybe that is what is behind all these failures – $$ for MS!

  9. Hi,

    I managed to resolve similar issues doing the below:

    My checklist:

    1. IE proxy set
    2. Part of Local Admins

    Issue resolution details:

    Windows 2003:

    -Stop Automatic Update Services
    -Delete created a new folder (download) C:\windows\SoftwareDistribution\Download
    -Start Automatic Update Services and try to update

    Windows 2008 X64 SP2:

    -Stop windows update service
    -Rename old folder and create a new folder (DataStore): C:\windows\SoftwareDistribution\
    -Rename old folder and create a new folder (Download):C:\windows\SoftwareDistribution\Download
    -Start windows update service
    -Try windows update

  10. Hola,

    tengo este problema pero en Windows Server 2008 y Restaurar el sistema no es una opcion para solucionarlo. Intente bajar los archivos e instalarlo manualmente pero aparecen con fecha de publicacion del 2009

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