Windows Update has been broken for the last few days on Windows XP. As soon as IE8 loads the web page, it fails with error 0x80248015 before the user can search for fixes.
Why would anyone care? For one thing, although Microsoft stopped issuing new patches for XP, all previous bug fixes remain available, which is great for machines that have not been updated in a long time. Also, Microsoft continues to update their Malicious Software Removal Tool for Windows XP every month.
Most likely, this is a bug rather than an intentional action by Microsoft.
For one thing, Windows Update was working until very recently and there were no announcements about it ending. Also, Microsoft servers just had a huge Schannel bug and the first fix for it was itself buggy. Finally, others have reported that Windows Update is also failing on server versions of Windows.
I first experienced the problem on Nov 19th, then again on the 20th and just verified today (the 21st) that it has not yet been corrected.
Three different machines in two physical locations all failed with the same error. Two of the machines needed a few patches, one was up-to-date, except for the November edition of the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool.
On the first machine, I was able get Windows Update working by stopping and re-starting the two underlying services: Automatic Updates and the Background Intelligent Transfer service. However, that only worked once and only on that one machine. The same trick did nothing on the other two machines.
A number of search engine provided fixes did not work for me. What did work, on all three machines, was this:
1. Stop the Automatic Updates service and the Background Intelligent Transfer Service
2. Rename the SoftwareDistribution sub-folder in the C:\Windows folder
3. Start the two services
That's the good news.
The bad news is that this only works for one go-round with Windows Update. Thus, I had to do this before running Windows Update every time.
It wasn't hard to find other reports of the same problem, and this trick has, apparently, not helped everyone.
If I hear of a permanent fix, or at least an explanation, I'll update this blog.
UPDATE Nov 24, 2014: For more on this topic see Fighting with a broken Windows Update - Part 2