This one took some investigation!
The Vista PC in question had 6 Windows Updates all failing with the same error code : 0x80071a2c. After several attempts at rebooting and installing the updates, I decided to delve deeper.
Looking in c:\windows\windowsupdate.log I found the following errors:
WARNING: Got extended error: “POQ Operation HardLinkFile OperationData \SystemRoot\WinSxS\x86_microsoft-windows-help-browser.resources_31bf3856ad364e35_8.0.6001.18702_he-il_9475a540718490ed\browser.h1s, \??\C:\Windows\Help\Windows\he-IL\browser.h1s”
Now, from what I found, the POQ error is due to Windows Update creating a hardlink between the two “browser.h1s” file locations specified above.
But the source file above doesn’t exist in the winsxs folder? At this point I had a guess.. The file mentions “browser.resources” and also “8.0”. Could this be Internet Explorer 8.0? If so – it isn’t installed on the machine and could explain the error.
So.. Installed IE 8 and the patches then went on fine!