Windows Update on Vista – Error 779

This is one of those posts where I complain about Microsoft and Windows Update (of which there seems to be a large number of people complaining recently, specifically on Vista with regards to updates released last week). For the last couple of months I’ve been ignoring a “Security Update for Excel 2003 (KB905756)” which has been failing with the ever useful Error Code 779.  When I first came across this error I rebooted a couple of times and tried a couple of things but didn’t have the time or patience to investigate it further.  Following a couple of complaints by others about Windows Update on Vista last week I decided enough was enough and that I’d sort it out this morning.

Turns out that 2 hours later I was able to get the update to install.  This involved a certain amount of trawling of the Windows Update newsgroup followed by a bit more Googling. The things to try are:

  • Disabling firewall and anti-virus software (never a big fan of this but tried it anyhow to no avail)
  • Try downloading the update and installing it manually (didn’t work)
  • Try running msiexec /p c:<updatename>.msp /l*v c:Update.txt /qn from an elevated command prompt (didn’t work since this update was an executable.  Even after hacking around to get at the contents of the exe I still could get it to install)
  • Try renaming the %windir%SoftwareDistribution directory (this is not a good idea is it effectively resets Windows Update and requires a reboot before the computer will again talk with the update service – and still didn’t work)
  • Running the update manually was coming up against “Error 1913: Setup cannot update file C:WIndowssystem32mapisvc.inf. Verify that the file exists in your system and that you have sufficient permissions to update it.” After searching on this error I decided to take ownership of this file (again not something I like doing with system files) with the Administrators group on the local computer.  I then granted the Administrators group full access to the file and retried the installation – finally it gave one last error about not being able to locate an application file with the typical “please insert the product installation disc” prompt.  I inserted the disc and hey presto it installed (perhaps all I needed to do was to have the disc in the drive while the update was installing?)

Honestly what a painful process – I really pity the average user who comes across these issues and I can see why I often see computers with the red security shield in their taskbar! 

Advice for Morts: go buy a Mac – they seem to have fewer issues.

Advice for Microsoft: sort out your flag ship products.  Vista and Office 2007 are so bloated they struggle to get up in the morning.  We could do with less features and more stability!