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I have a server whose WSUS has been inoperable for quite a while. I suspect it crashed when the server's system drive starting running out of space, but I really don't know for sure. The only relic I see that WSUS was ever installed is a directory C:\WSUS containing the SQL server MYSQL$WSUS, as well as some scheduled tasks to auto approve updates. There are no services corresponding to this database, nor do I see any installations in the Programs list for WSUS.

At this point I'm preparing to just reinstall WSUS altogether. However, I'm wondering, should I attempt to delete the C:\WSUS directory first, or just leave it be and hope the installation will take care of it?

Using Explorer, when I try to enter the C:\WSUS\MSSQL$WSUS\ directory, the window literally freezes for 60 seconds, which makes me think maybe something more serious could be going on. Attempting to connect the SQL Server Manager to WSUS also causes a long gui freeze.

Finally, in the Server Management console, when attempting to view the Update Services, a server error is reported, saying

File or assembly name Microsoft.UpdateServices.Administration, or one of its dependencies, was not found.

Should I just go ahead with the reinstallation attempt, or should I be doing something else to try to recovery the previous WSUS installation?

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Trying to resurrect the old install is.... Let's say if one of my co-workers considered that I would be calling the guys in the white coats to bring in the straight-jacket.

Any leftovers of the previous install will cause issues when attempting to re-install.
So you really need to clean house first.

Delete all folders, including the ones under the IIS wwwroot. Delete the site from IIS.
And delete the database completely. (If the server runs a full MSSQL delete it from the SQL management tools. If it is SQL Express stop that service and then delete the database files.)
Also clean-out the registry keys referring to WSUS. Don't forget any stuff under the "Uninstall/Installed programs" part of the registry.
Move the downloaded updates folder (if you kept a cache copy) temporarily to a different folder (just rename it).

After all that is done you should reboot the server BEFORE dong a re-install from scratch.
After re-install and configuration let it sync once with the upstream WSUS, or directly with MS.
When it starts downloading updates stop the BITS service and put that on "Disabled" to revent accidental restart. Then move the original downloaded updates folder over the newly created folder-structure. Then put the BITS service back on "Manual" and give it s start to resume syncing. With a bot of luck this will prevent WSUS re-downloading everything from scratch.

For further tips (and a lot more detail on the above) I can recommend www.wsus.info. There is a lot of useful info on that site.

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Thanks for the recommendations and links. –  merv Jan 10 '13 at 3:23

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