Computer Freezes Up: Common Issues And Solutions

by Rod Dunne on August 9, 2010

in Articles, Performance

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Most computer problems give you some kind of indication of what the issue is (e.g. a code or message). However, when a computer freezes up you rarely get such helpful information.

Here, we’ll look at common causes and solutions to these forms of slow computer problems (hangs & freezes).

Computer Freezing Up At Startup

The root cause of computer freezes on startup can be hardware issues and problems with system files.

  • Listen for any unfamiliar noises from the hard disk. Scratching sounds could indicate the bearings are starting to seize. Possible mechanical faults should be checked out by a technician.
  • Make sure all air vents are unblocked.
  • As Windows boots, check that the BIOS identifies the entire amount of RAM on your PC. If it doesn’t, open the box and see if the RAM is installed tightly. With the box open, check all hard drive cabling is secure (power & IDE ribbon).
  • Boot the computer in safe-mode (hit F8 as it boots). This limits the number of services running (one of which may be causing the computer freezing up issue). After Windows starts, scan for viruses, run Windows update and run a PC repair software/registry cleaner tool.
  • For XP users, we have a separate post on troubleshooting Windows XP slow startup problems.

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Computer Freezes Up When Using Certain Software

If you only have a slow computer when using specific programs then there are some additional things to try.

  • Research the program developer’s website for known performance issues, program updates (install them if available) and customer tickets stating a similar problem. If a computer locks up due to a single application it may have minimum system requirements (CPU/RAM) which make older computers unstable.
  • Research user forums for similar issues. Approach workarounds tentatively as they may only work in isolated cases, or indeed cause more issues.
  • Consider using alternate software that does the same task if research fails to bring up a solution. This is especially true with web browsers where you can find the computer freezing up on some web pages depending on how the browser supports the HTML specification of the page.

Computer Freezes Up Randomly

If you find your computer/laptop freezes sporadically then you need to look at some of the broader possible causes of the issue.

  • Free up some hard disk space if it has dropped below 10% of full capacity. Below 5% and the operating system will struggle to use virtual memory and start deleting system restore to gain some space.
  • Run a disk defragmenter tool (e.g. Regtool). Over time, the use of fragmented data increases the strain on RAM and CPU in order to cache any files you work on.
  • Scan internal drives and external media (HDD, USB memory sticks) for viruses, adware, malware and spyware – any of which can damage the registry and overwrite system files.
  • Check the Windows registry for faults using a registry cleaner tool.
  • If you find the computer freezing up while online then try a different web connection (e.g. free Wifi). It is possible to experience hanging problems due to the broadband connection. Check with the ISP for any known faults on the line.

Related Posts: Computer Running Very Slow – Troubleshooting Tips

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