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Windows XP: SVCHOST and Windows Update


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Reposted here from '[patchmanagement] SVCHOST and Windows Update' - MARC.


Doug Neal is Senior Program Manager for Windows and Microsoft Update.


Original Issue

In September we witnessed a large number of reports of SVCHOST taking high CPU for extended periods of time. This was primarily on Windows XP machines running IE6 or IE7. There were a few reports of this happening on Windows XP with IE8, but only a few.


Issue Identified

From the extended Windows Update logs, we saw the issue stemmed from inefficiencies in the Windows Update Agent processing long lists of superseded updates. And the problem was exponential in that each additional superseded item took twice as long as the previous item to evaluate. With lists as long as 40+ superseded items, the processing cost on SVCHOST via the Windows Update Agent had an exceptional impact on client PCs.


Due to security requirements, the Internet Explorer product was required to continue building a chain longer than what is normally permitted in Windows Update. Over time, this exception exacerbated the previously unknown inefficiency in the Windows Update Agent. Upon review, MSRC agreed to do away with the (now outdated) requirement to maintain long supersedence lists and permit a shortening of the supersedence to only reasonable numbers like most Microsoft products on Windows and Microsoft Update.


While the underlying issue is with the WUA client, such a design change and rollout would take a lot longer and doesn’t resolve the problem in the short term for those impacted now.


Attempted Fixes

As a result, we took what we believed were the right steps to expire large chunks of superseded (outdated, unnecessary) updates in the IE6 and IE7 supersedence lists. Testing suggested this would be sufficient and we made the change on the backend in a release in October that expired these many unnecessary updates. Turns out the Windows Update Agent has smarts built into it that outsmarted us and the problem persisted for the majority of impacted customers. We made a more comprehensive change in November and an even larger set of logic and expiration changes in December. Unfortunately, the problem still wasn’t solved.


Our customers have done a great job of letting us know the problem still hasn’t been resolved. We appreciate the quick and detailed feedback. And we share your frustration that we haven’t been able to solve this for you more quickly.


We’re working diligently to release changes to the supersedence logic that will comprehensively solve this problem. It’s a top priority. And the right (and smartest) people are on it. And as this problem has become more prevalent, we’re working to provide a KB article that will publicly describe the issue so customers can discover it via searches and the recommended guidance. Unfortunately, there is no ‘fix’ or quick workaround that can be applied at this time as we concurrently work to provide a backend fix and some guidance on the real, best solution.


I appreciate your patience. And want to let you know we’re working through the holiday to provide the right fix as soon as possible. As you can imagine, we don’t have an ETA. And we want to make sure the next fix is the last and comprehensively solves this for our customers.



doug neal

Microsoft Update (MU)

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V.T. Eric Layton

Ah, yessss... there is extensive discussion about this in my thread about building the desktop system for my great nephew. Installing IE 8 solved the issue for me.


Thanks for posting this, Corrine. :)

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Guest LilBambi

I already had IE8 and it was getting that high CPU usage/slowness and was having trouble with Windows Update on Windows XP Pro in a VirtualBox.


I installed the IE8 Cumulative Security Update and Windows Updates immediately started working again, and it did seem a bit spunkier, but have to work with it more to be sure. I had to close it down for the show tonight. I talk about this in Fix when XP refuses to update topic. I kept the same name Liz gave hers at FreedomList when I talked about my experience with it.

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I have to argue with this statement

There were a few reports of this happening on Windows XP with IE8, but only a few.
That is not true based on my personal experience. Between frapper and me, we have 5 XP computers. 4 of the 5 were "broken" in December. That's 80%. Yesterday I got an email from a girlfriend running XP and unable to update windows because the computer kept freezing. So now we have 6 computers running XP and IE 8 and 5 of the 6 are "broken".
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Guest LilBambi

Totally agree Liz! Did you read the posting I did about an hour or two before Corrine posted this one? It's linked in my posting here. I used your topic at FreedomList since that one I was able to find on Google.


Mine already had IE8 as well.

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Guest LilBambi

When you did it, did you download it and then disable your antivirus protection and close down any non-essential programs first? I always do that just in case there are issues with something running.

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I'm having the same trouble with updating XP Mode on WIN7 Pro. I downloaded the IE8 Software, and the IE8 rollup update and installed both. Did a restart after the IE8 upgrade, and then again after applying the rollup update. XP Mode was still searching for updates 4 hours later when I had to shut down. I might try installing the rollup update again after shutting down MSE.

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My understanding is that they are working quite diligently on it. Microsoft Windows XP is still a supported product, and they are not going to treat it any differently just because its EOL is coming up. It is to their advantage to have Windows Update working as flawlessly as possible on Windows XP as possible.




Aryeh Goretsky



i hope ms resolves the dead-slow update crawl,

but we all know ms has no incentive so to do.

matter of fact, my opinion remains,

ms is dis-incentive-izing us from using server 2003 or xp.

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Hello ,

It's been a while that I have posted here but This SVCHOST problem (99% to even 100% CPU)has been a nightmare for me on my wifes backup XP SP3 computer..All the classic symptons, extremely slow functions ,no MS update at all,and seeming worst of all no solution in sight.I have read numerous solutions on various web sites and tried many of them to no avail. Finally, after I read a thread on another site,(14 page long at the time of this posting) a poster supplied a direct link to the appropiate KB's .exe files that fixed it for me..I it was the IE8 file that worked in my case ,XP is now back to normal and perhaps even snappier than before ..(maybe just my imagination).Here are the links:


For Windows XP 32bit here are the direct download links:


IE6: WindowsXP-KB2898785-x86-ENU.exe


IE7: IE7-WindowsXP-KB2898785-x86-ENU.exe


IE8: IE8-WindowsXP-KB2898785-x86-ENU.exe



I downloaded the appropiate file from another computer and put it on a flash drive, as my XP could not even complete a simple download.

Then I installed it from the flash drive and Voila...Many suggestions may have worked but with my limited XP skills I hesitated to try them all.

Moderators, please see fit to modify or delete anything or all if I have broken any forum rule as it has been a long time here..


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Hope it helps mac.


It worked for me.


Try to get the updates again before you do that. Sometimes it's just some queue crap.

Well, I took a chance and just reinstalled the downloaded IE8 rollup update I already had after turning off MSE. After rebooting, I went to WU to check for updates and it ran for over an hour until I had to leave to do my Christmas dinner shopping, but I left it running. Upon returning home an hour or so later, I saw WU was offering 20-odd updates. I selected them all and let XP download and install them all. It was still installing when I had to leave the house again to pick up some things that I had forgotten. Upon retuning home, the update had finished successfully and XP wanted to restart. Upon restart, I restarted MSE and then checked to see that IE8 was working normally, which it was. Thanks for the suggestions Fran and everybody! :thumbsup:

Edited by mac
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