Can Windows Update fail because of a hardware issue?

Recently I have been unable to download or install Windows Updates on my Windows 7 Professional SP-1 32-bit machine.  Windows Update says it is "Searching for Updates", and that continues for twenty minutes, or until I close the window.  I tried various solutions which were suggested in a previous EE question thread, but there was no resolution -- please see   These included sfc /scannow; deleting contents of subfolders in the Windows>SoftwareDistribution folder; running the Windows Update Diagnostic Utility; and installing a Microsoft fixit -- the System Update Readiness Tool.  I also restored a saved disk image from a time when Windows Update worked correctly, all to no avail.  I used the Windows 7 SP-1 installation DVD to perform a repair upgrade, with no resolution.

Since then, I installed a fresh (not upgrade) Windows 7 32-bit system on the same desktop, and Windows Update still never stops searching for updates.  I also have a 64-bit Windows 7 partition on that machine, and Windows Update has stopped working on that system as well, with the same perpetual checking behavior.  

These observations lead me to suspect a hardware issue.  I can't understand how a hardware issue could selectively impair just Windows Update, with no other gross symptoms.  But I can't logically explain why Windows Update just keeps searching -- even if I restore a saved disc image from a time when there was no issue, and even on a fresh Windows 7 installation
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Dan CraciunIT ConsultantCommented:
On a fresh installed Windows 7, Windows Update can take between 3 to 8 hours to complete.
Leave it overnight and see if it completes.

i assume you can use the internet normally ?
and no errors in device manager - and all drivers updated ?
nothing specific reported in event viewer?
it is hard to believe that only windows updates are affected by hardware problems - but in IT world - everything is possible
Wait much longer than 20 minutes. Checking for updates alone, without downloading them, can take hours. After that, depending on the speed of your internet, the download could take about an hour, and the installation of the updates will again take several hours. Besides that, if your system is without SP1, install that first, before looking for updates.

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ddantesAuthor Commented:
Thanks to everyone for commenting.  Internet connection is good, and drivers are all installed.  I'll let the Windows Update run longer, and then post again.
"Searching for Updates", and that continues for twenty minutes, or until I close the window.

Per your Question you are definitely not waiting for long enough. If it fails it will tell you so, If it is still at looking for updates, and the cursor still moves when you move the mouse, it is doing it's work and you shouldn't interrupt it.

You can use the WSUS Offline tool to download the updates beforehand, and then you can use it to do at least some of the updates. This may be a little bit faster in the long run, although usually the process almost  takes as long.
also how much ram have you got?
many sytelms from that time had only 2 Gb - causing slow performance
ddantesAuthor Commented:
There is 8 GB installed RAM.  Because it is a 32-bit system, it uses RamDisk to make use of the extra RAM.  In the past, it's taken only a minute or so for Windows Update to display important and optional updates on this system.  However, since the issue began after restoring a saved disc image, I should give it a substantial amount of time to search for updates, and then post again.
ddantesAuthor Commented:
Waiting longer allowed the updates to appear.  There is still an issue -- changes are reverted after reboot, and the update installation fails.  But that is a separate matter.  The "perpetual" checking for updates does eventually end with a presentation of available updates.
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