:mrgreen: OK - my first post - took 12 hours but tenacity and refusal to"reformat an re-install" (per dell support) wins. I hope this saves someone a lot of pain and frustration. I figured there are a million posts on the problem - why not start a new post with just a solution that worked for me. so you won't have to read for an hour. also a link to a cool utility to monitor the processes on your machine is at the bottom.
Situation: CPU utilization would hit 100% with svchost.exe. Could not figure it out but saw that little shield letting me know Windows automatic update had updates for me to install. When you tried to install them it never happened because of the cpu utilization. If you went to microsoft.com to check for update it would not work/ microsoft updates hang on checking your computer for updates or error out.
Solution: in a nut shell: In Services - the service 'Automatic Updates' - says it is started but in reality it is not.
I am going to give you the fix now rather then at the end of a 200 line write up.
1) Reboot as normal - the moment you see your desktop hit cntrl - shift - esc all at once to bring up the windows task manager. You want it to load before cpu utilization hits 100%
2) When task manager opens click on the services tab to show the services and then click on the cpu column heading to sort the processes by cpu utilization - sort it so the process using the most cpu is on top and you can see it. svchost.exe will show itself there soon enough. (when it does just kill it - I know I will get grief for saying that but you have to because you cannot do anything else.... remember my system did a windows update or was at least trying to)
3) If you have the time and you are not yet hitting that 100% mark with svchost.exe, click Start - run -and type in "services.msc". when the services window loads sort the services by name a-z by clicking on that column heading.
4) find the service 'Automatic Updates' - my guess is it says STARTED and AUTOMATIC on this screen however - double click on it for more details - I will venture to guess in here it says STOPPED on the top even though the other screen says started. It may have even said started at the bottom third of the details screen as well - any how - it is a mismatch. Change this service to "Disabled" and hit apply - you may have to hit STOP (I do not remember but I think you do) when it says disabled and stopped click OK to close I also cannot remember if I rebooted here or not. I think I did but I don't think I needed to. If you do, you will have to go through the steps all over again, so I would try it first without rebooting.
5) On your list of services, find the service called "Background Intelligent Transfer Service" double click to verify but it should be set to Manual and stopped - if so click OK. If not change it to be so.
6) On your list of services, find the service called "Event Log" double click on it should be automatic and started. If not change it to be so.
7) reboot - repeat steps 1, 2, and 3.
8) Again, find the service 'Automatic Updates' - double click change it to Automatic and then start the service. ( you are done)
That's the fix - the automatic update services says it is started but it is not.
Follow up steps I took:
I then double clicked on the windows update icon (yellow shield) I choose a custom install - I installed the update - cpu did hit 100% for about 1 to 2 minutes - You need to be patient. when the update installer minimizes I actually click on it to maximize it again just so I can monitor the status. I was about to give up when it started the actual 'installing update' rather than saying initializing which is where it hung in the past. again be patient - 2 minute wait time is long but it will work. The update did install successfully in about 5 minutes. I was fine.
I went to microsoft.com and the updates and ran an update check and all is good - 1 optional update but it ran error free. cpu utilization is at 4%.
A tool you need: Very cool tool. Free tool. Windows XP services.
Called process explorer for windows.
You can see every process - every application running the process - color code them tons and tons of details and options. really cool - small - quck and easy. 10 out of 10. I will try to attach it here as well
Hope this saves someone a lot of pain and frustration.
Enjoy your day - Please don't ask for personal or additional support from me - I did that when Dos 2.1 was an upgrade ... too old and tooo tired : )