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Realised that windows had not been updating for a while. If I asked windows update to search for updates, it would come back in a few seconds complaining
Error: Windows could not search for new updates. An error occurred while checking for new updates for your computer. Error(s) found: code 80070002 Windows Update encountered an unknown error.
Windows 7 home edition, 64 bits.

Tried all the Microsoft methods + others, eg listed here Error code 80070002 Windows Update encountered an unknown error. - Microsoft Community
Did not help. Mostly more errors.

Trying may way through all the ideas on google, I found out that other things did not work either:

  • SP1 could not install
  • sfc /scannow would not start (Windows Resource Protection could not start the repair service”
  • Microsoft FixIt - Can't install, says I must first install one of the following versions of the .NET framework: v4.0.30319 ... Contact your application publisher for instructions about obtaining the appropriate version of the .NET framework. I try to install the .NET Framework 2.0 and get the error message "You must use 'Turn Windows features on or off' in the Control Panel to install"
  • “Turn Windows features on or off” gave just a blank window
But crucially it turned out: the Trustedinstaller service had not started correctly. More specifically, there was an error “<Failed to Read Description. “ in the Services overview (type “services” in the search field under start button).

There is a bit of documentation around that from 2009, when apparently Avast flagged the C:\WINDOWS\servicing trustedinstaller.exe file as a virus which made people delete it. But the trustedinstaller.exe file was where it should be, and I had no reasons to believe it was corrupt. So did not bother to copy the file from another computer. Maybe it would have worked, though.

What solved the problem in the end was “simply” to run the computer in “boot repair mode”. Hit F8 during startup, and that appears as one of the options for booting the computer.
Now, the trustedinstaller curiously did not show up anymore under the Services window, but it showed running in task manager.
Almost instantly, windows update announced it had 130 updates ready to be installed…
Hope this is useful for others.
 
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