Losing Internet While Updating Windows: Bad?

Here’s what happens if you lose your internet connection while updating Windows:

In the overwhelming majority of cases, absolutely nothing will happen. 

You don’t need an active internet connection while installing Windows updates. 

If you lose your internet connection while downloading the update, then the process takes longer, as the download cannot complete until your internet is restored.

So if you want to learn all about what happens if you lose your internet connection while updating Windows, then this article is for you.

Let’s get started!

Losing Internet While Updating Windows: Bad? (All the Info)

Why Does Nothing Usually Happens When You Lose Your Internet Connection While Updating Windows? (3 Things)

focused woman working with laptop while sitting at table

There are a lot of reasons why losing Wi-Fi doesn’t really impact updates.

The most obvious reason is that the download completes before the installation begins (we’ll cover that in detail in a bit). 

There are also tons of features and redundant systems that are all working to protect the integrity of the software throughout the update process.

#1 Robust File Systems

Stylish woman typing on laptop outdoors

Since Windows 7, Microsoft operating systems have used the NTFS file system.

This is a major upgrade from the file systems used before, and it creates a stabler, more robust system to build an operating system.

Modern Windows builds (10 and 11) use something called “self-healing NTFS.” 

While this is built on the same file system that has been around for more than a decade, this setup adds reliability to the overall structure of Windows.

To skip a lot of technical jargon, the self-healing system is able to detect and resolve file corruption to a pretty high degree. 

If something goes wrong with an installation or download, this robust system finds and fixes the problems automatically. 

In the vast majority of cases, a disrupted download won’t corrupt files, but even if it does, this design feature prevents the majority of possible problems.

#2 Pre-Downloading

attractive woman using laptop at cafe.

The biggest reason why it doesn’t matter if you lose Wi-Fi is built into the Windows updating process. 

First, the computer downloads the update.

Then, after the update is completely downloaded, it can install that update.

It’s pretty simple, but because the computer doesn’t have to download a single file while actively installing the update, it doesn’t matter if you lose your internet connection. 

The internet connection is completely irrelevant to this aspect of updating.

Now, you might wonder what happens if you lose Wi-Fi while downloading the update.

In that case, the download pauses until your connection is restored. 

Because the download uses the same file system as the rest of Windows, corrupted files are dealt with automatically. 

The entire update is checked after the download completes and before the update is installed, so the automation finds and resolves problems before they manifest.

So, regardless of when you lose your internet connection, it really doesn’t impact the update, with one exception. 

The download gets delayed by however long you don’t have internet access.

That’s really it.

#3 Redundancy Loops

Woman with glasses working on computer at night

Already, you’re seeing how robust design and good order of operations protect your computer when you run updates, but that’s not the end of it. 

Windows operating systems and updating protocols also have something we can call redundancy loops (this is not an official term).

Basically, at each important stage in the update process, things are done in a repetitive fashion to increase the chances that Windows will find and correct errors before your update is installed. 

When the download is active, information is sent redundantly to make sure every important file is successfully downloaded.

Similarly, when the system checks the files before they are installed, it’s done in a redundant, thorough fashion. 

The system isn’t just going through a quick checklist one time and assuming that’s enough.

There are multiple checks that overlap each other in what they cover. 

It’s pretty exhaustive, and it’s why Wi-Fi-related update problems are quite rare with modern Windows.

Are There Things That Can Go Wrong if You Lose Your Internet Connection While Updating Windows? (3 Things)

woman working in computer with wifi router

Even with all of these checks and backups, things can sometimes go wrong. 

In the vast majority of cases, an update issue is a bug in the software (which is a design problem and not a Wi-Fi problem), or there is a compatibility issue. 

Again, automated checks are supposed to prevent both of these issues, but they do pop up now and again.

To have an updating problem specifically linked to your internet connectivity, you’re looking at a narrow and very uncommon list of issues, but since we’re already here, let’s talk about them.

#1 Corrupted System Files

Exhausted young african-american professional woman stressed at work

This is probably what most people assume happens when you lose Wi-Fi in the middle of downloading an update. 

The signal gets interrupted, and whatever data was actively transferring can get messed up by that disruption.

This is a pretty accurate assessment of how things can go wrong. You absolutely can get corrupted files when the download is interrupted. 

While automated checks and redundancies are designed to overcome such issues, there are times when a problem makes it through all of those defenses.

Corrupted system files can lead to a range of issues.

They can produce absolutely no problems and leave nothing to notice. 

They can totally crash the operating system and make the computer unusable (until the software is repaired).

The problems can exist anywhere in between.

Again, this is very uncommon, but it is technically possible for a disrupted download to corrupt system files and creates problems when you install the corrupted update.

We’ll talk about how to fix such problems in a bit.

#2 Failure to Verify Your License or Key

frustrated young woman while working on laptop at home.

This is another thing that doesn’t happen too often, but sometimes, after a major Windows update, the software will try to verify your license. 

This is done automatically, but it requires that your computer communicates with Microsoft servers. 

If you don’t have internet access, then the verification fails.

You’ll get a notification from Windows that your license cannot be validated. 

Typically, this problem goes away once you connect to the internet again. 

If that’s not the case, you can contact Microsoft support to resolve the issue.

Keep in mind that if this problem occurs, you can still use your computer, but you’ll get a watermark and warning messages until your license can be confirmed.

#3 Problems With the Microsoft Account

Man working on laptop

Generally speaking, you have to have a Microsoft account to use modern versions of Windows. 

Exceptions exist, but the vast majority of users are utilizing a Microsoft account whenever they run a Windows machine.

If your setup is tied to your Microsoft Account, then you need internet access in order to sign in. 

This isn’t exactly an updating issue, but if you lose internet access during the update process, you might not be able to sign into your computer when the update completes.

You’ll have to re-establish your internet connection first.

Basically, this is something that feels like an update error but isn’t.

How Can You Resolve Issues When They Arise While Updating Windows? (4 Ways)

Customer online service center for troubleshooting quick support

Issues are uncommon, but sometimes they happen. 

If you’re one of the lucky few, what can you do to fix the problem? 

There are a few steps you can take, and they’re outlined in detail below.

#1 Back-Up Before Installations

Various digital data storage devices.

Every IT expert in the business will tell you the same thing. 

Always back up your files before you run a software update or install new stuff. 

Even though errors are less common than they used to be, if something critical happens, you are likely to lose data.

When things hit a worst-case scenario, the solution is usually to completely erase the disk drive and install everything from scratch. 

That means deliberately deleting everything you have saved on the computer. 

A backup is the only way to get through this process and then restore all of your information.

So, back things up regularly, and you’ll be protected against the worst problems that can occur.

#2 Restart the Installation

female hands clicking computer mouse typing on laptop keyboard

Most of the time, if there is a corrupted file or other issues, the update will stop, and your computer will be reverted to the state it was in before you started updating.

This is a safety feature that prevents problems.

If this happens, you can completely redo the whole update.

It will download a fresh copy and try again. 

You should have no problems the second time around.

If you repeatedly can’t install an update, then Wi-Fi isn’t your problem.

Instead, there’s an issue with the update on Microsoft’s end, or there is a compatibility problem. 

Either way, you should probably contact support to figure out what is wrong.

#3 Use External Media

USB flash pen drive in manicured female hand.

If an installed update causes problems with your computer, your first step is to try to revert back to a working version of the operating system. 

You can find detailed steps for that here.

If you can’t revert, and the problem is severe enough that you can’t use the computer, you will likely have to reinstall Windows. 

In this case, you’ll probably need an external media source to do it. 

You can make a Windows installer flash drive pretty easily. 

Restart the computer and run it from the flash drive.

It will walk you through the steps.

Usually, this process will not damage your personal data stored on the computer. 

But, if you hit one of those worst-case scenarios, you won’t be able to reinstall Windows. 

That’s when you have to delete the drive and start from scratch, and it’s why you want to make backups before all of this happens.

#4 Get Tech Help

computer repair service - technician repairing broken laptop.

If nothing else works, then call in the pros. 

If an update is the source of your problem, Microsoft will usually help you out without charging you money. 

If for any reason, that isn’t a good option for you, then you can enlist the help of tech pros. 

You can go to your local repair shop or find help wherever you like. 

Anyone with experience in IT should be able to get you through the process to fix your operating system and make the computer usable.

But, it’s important to harp on this idea one more time. 

Absolutely no one can guarantee that your data will be ok if you don’t have a good backup.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.