Windows Update and error 0x80072EFD

A friend asked me to help “fix” her laptop, complaining it was “slow” and “has lots of spyware or something”. Not the best description, but hey, it was all I had to work with 🙂

After booting up the laptop, it was clear something was really wrong.  This was a Toshiba Sattelite M45 with a 1.8ghz Pentium M and 1GB of RAM but was running as if it was a decade old machine.   Firing up IE resulted in 17 popups and prompts to install various spyware programs and supposed “antivirus” programs.  I downloaded Windows Defender in hopes of cleaning up the spyware, but after installation, I was given an error that updated spyware definitions could not be downloaded and error code “0x80072EFD”.

I tried going to Microsoft Update but was given the same unhelpful error code.   My web searches resulted in a bunch of useless information with suggested solutions that were completely unhelpful such as changing URL to “https” instead of “http” or “reboot your computer”.   Seriously people, rebooting doesn’t solve everything.

I then found a message board post over at, where a user copy and pasted an email response from a Microsoft customer support rep named “Sarfaraz”.

One of the recommendations that Sarfaraz made was to check that the “Background Intelligent Transfer Service” (BITS) was running.  I went into the Windows Services menu and saw that the BITS service wasn’t running and was set to “manual” instead of “automatic”.  I changed the setting and started the service up and fired up IE again to go to Windows Update.

Hallelujah!  It worked!   Turns out my friend needed to apply 58 critical security patches.. ouch.  I installed all the security updates, got the the updated Windows Defender signature file and cleaned out 28 spyware infections.  Things in laptop land are good again.  Phew.

Sarfaraz, if you’re reading this, thanks for helping me out 🙂