Why Does my Computer Freeze?
Find out what’s happening and get some links to good tools to diagnose and resolve them easily and most of the time, freely!
When your computer stops responding or crashes on you there are typically several reasons why that is happening. I’m going to list them here, and will give you some tools to see what’s happening and find out what the problem is. I don’t go into detail on everything, but I’ll list them all and give you some links and references so you can keep exploring the vast amount of articles for those situations that are happening to you…no need to reinvent the wheel!
Malware, Virus’ and Anti-Malware Virus Tools
Yeah, i’m going to start here. Unfortunately it has to happen this way, but most of you are probably infected with something. These types of software can be anything from tracking toolbars, to full-out eat your computer Worms. Mostly though, it’s tracking stuff and trojans that are just really taking up all your processing power and making your data unsafe. There are tools out there for every type of infection that you can get, and a dozen articles each day are written by people trying to give their answer to the problem.
That’s not what we are going to do here. I’m going to give you a list of cleaning programs that are proven and trustworthy, but most of all….mostly idiot proof. I’ll also tell you what to do to identify and remove most of the things that you will find without all that research. Each of these will have specific steps to them and I will tell you what to do for each one. Start at the top and work your way down to make your life easy!
This tool is underrated and super easy to use. When you launch it, you want to run the first three tools from the left side menu; Cleanaer, Registry, and Tools.
Cleaner – This module gets rid of things such as your temporary files, cookies, and cache which will make your machine much better just because it has less junk to sort through. Pay close attention to the browsers, if you want to save things like your download history or recently typed URL’s be sure to uncheck those boxes.
Registry – This is the only utility I ever allow to automatically clean registry entries on a regular basis when it’s not an emergency. Your registry is your compute’s brain…don’t let anything else touch it. And make sure to save a backup when it prompts you to! I always make a folder in Documents called CCleaner Registry Backups so I know where to look and what they are later.
Tools – This will allow you to uninstall programs, change what is running at startup and all sorts of other things. I like to just use the first two options, Uninstall and Startup.
Uninstall – A good rule of thumb is to look at the applications, and figure our which ones you know and which ones you can or should keep. By default anything with the manufacturer’s name or Microsoft can stay if you are not sure. Look for applications with no icon, or things that say updater or doesn’t have a publisher listed and get rid of them.
Startup – Almost everything you install wants to run some sort of service at startup. If you don’t use it every time you start your computer, disable it. If you need it to run you can always launch the program and manually run it. Look around for things that have weird names that you don’t know what they are, and then look at the File path and maybe go explore there to see what’s all in the folder. If it doesn’t look right you can disable or delete anything quickly from here. again, usually anything with the computer manufacturer’s name, or hardware such as sound or storage devices, let those stay.
This is designed to find all those common programs that infect people and eliminate them. It’s hard on your machine so plan on not using it for a couple hours while this runs. The reason behind that is that it is hammering your disk looking at every file and determining if it’s good, bad, or indifferent. That takes resources and time, run the installer, follow the prompts and let it do it’s thing! Psst…Click the big “Scan Now” button.
This is a single screen cleaner with two buttons, Scan and Clean (Nettoyer if you end up with a non-english version). When this is done, you want to reboot your machine when it prompts you, so use the two tools above first and then run this, rebooting when prompted. When it comes back up you will see a notepad on your screen that shows all the bad stuff it removed. It may take a few minutes for your computer to come up after this is run, just let it happen…no touchy!
By the time you are done with these three tools, your computer will be as clean as possible without having to earn a degree to figure out the rest of it. They are all free, or have a free version, so use those and buy the premium is you want to show your support for these great tools!
Virus’ are different beasts altogether. They are designed to embed themselves into your system and never let go, but don’t worry they are beatable! With the proper tools you can remove almost any virus. If you see the name of the virus anywhere, use the Google machine to find out the specific tools and steps for those virus’. Really though, you just want a good antivirus to protect you from these things.
What most people don’t realize is that, starting with Windows 8, Microsoft has given you antivirus as part of the operating system! It uses Windows Defender and Microsoft Security Essentials (rolled into the one Security Essentials app in Windows 10). So if your computer came with a free year of Norton, McAfee, or some other software, REMOVE IT IMMEDIATELY as those are not going to protect you to the level Microsoft’s built-in anti-virus protection will.
If you are not down with letting Windows protect you for free, and want to know for sure that you are getting proper protection, I personally recommend Trend Micro or BitDefender. They catch more of the common things than any other software and each has a version that includes Anti-Malware protection, if you can afford it, get it. (that’s a period)
Once you have picked the best product for you, run a full scan. This can take hours or days, so leave the computer or run it overnight and let it do a complete scan. Respond to anything it asks you with “Quarantine” or “Remove” if you don’t know exactly what it is.
Now that you have removed the malware and virus’ from your computer, you should see a great increase in performance. This will keep your machine running smooth and stop it from crashing if one of these was the problem! However, if it wasn’t keep reading for what to do next.
Most people still don’t really understand what drivers are or why they are so important. A very simplified answer is that they are the translator between your hardware and your software. Your hardware speaks one language (let’s say Klingon) and your software speaks another language (let’s say Ferangi), there has to be a translator to let them understand how to work with each other. That’s the driver. Some of you will argue the simplicity of and feel free to, but that’s a very basic way to understand what it is.
Some hardware will work fine with the drivers that came with Windows or on the Disk…right up until they don’t work anymore. The reasoning can be be because they get corrupted somehow or that they are doing more work for the new applications you are running and need some reprogramming (updating). Before I go on, let me say… BEWARE OF DRIVER UPDATER TOOLS!!! I emphasize this because most driver updater tools are bogus and are really trojans sent to infiltrate your computer. Your hardware manufacturer will have updates for your hardware that are proper and compatible with what you are using. Go to the manufacturer’s site and download the latest drivers and firmware for whatever you have.
Don’t know how to get the info on what hardware you have…no problem, use the Google machine and find out! Start by looking at your Device Manager. Click Start and type devmgmt.msc into the run box on Windows 7, or just start typing on newer Windows OS’. That will get you to the place that shows all your hardware.
Start by looking to see if anything has an exclamation point icon next to it. If it does, that’s likely your problem. If it doesn’t start with your Display Adapters (video cards). Typically, your card will have a name and model on it, so go to the manufacturer’s website and search for drivers for that. Then move on to your Disk Drives and Storage Controllers. Those will be the most common cause of driver issues that you will need to fix before moving on. You can go through the list exhaustively, but I usually stop there.
Windows OS Issues
Sometimes there may be a problem with Windows itself….Wait…WHAT!?! Yeah really, there could be a problem within windows that is causing the crash/freeze. Here is a great article with tools that will walk you through finding out why something froze or crashed, and some resolutions to fix those issues. Mostly you need to look at the logs and see what happened. It won’t always tell you but sometimes it will. Find the error that says “The last machine restart was unexpected” or something along those lines and then look before that to see what was written to the logs.
Unfortunately, when a crash happens that is unexpected, it does not give Windows the opportunity to write an error, so you may see nothing. Use the other tools on this link to try to find out what it could have been and if you get lost or don’t see anything that jumps out at you, move on to Application Issues.
Windows Tweaks for Better Performance
The most effective tweaks you can do to Windows to increase performance are very simple and quick to accomplish. There are literally thousands of tweaks, but here are the one’s I use and why.
Adjust Power Options
By default Windows comes with the “Balanced (recommended)” option enabled. If you get your computer from Dell, Asus, HP, or anyone else really they have their own power settings that mimic the “Balanced (recommended)” option. Stop that at once! Go to your control panel -> System and Security -> Power Options then expand the “Show Additional Power Options” and there it is…”High Performance”…why are you hiding this from us?!? We want performance, so let’s get it!
Virtual Memory and Page File
By default, windows handles your virtual memory and page file for you, and most of the time that’s fine. However, if you are experiencing errors such as “Page file in non-page area” you can adjust these settings and even move the virtual memory to another faster drive to help resolve this issue. Here are some links to discussions on those options.
Applications that have memory leaks, were poorly designed, or were designed with specific hardware specifications can crash…a lot! Windows is usually pretty good at allowing the program to crash without impacting the operation of the computer (due to some really cool design they have done). However, it’s still possible that a faulty application could cause a system freeze/crash.
The quickest and easiest way to identify if there’s an application hanging is to run What Is Hang. This has to be running when the application hangs, so if it’s something you can reproduce, run the utility and then reproduce the problem to see what it says! If you have zero clue as to why it’s locking up on you and can’t reproduce the problem, you’ll have to hope that Windows is detecting the crash and writing it to a Windows Error Reporting (WER) file so you can look to see what’s happening. Use App Crash View to check out the .wer logs and see if that happened.
If there’s nothing being logged anywhere, you are going to have to move on to Hardware Issues to see what hardware may be causing the problem.
Hardware is not limitless on it’s lifetime. Just like you have to maintain your car, and replace hardware that breaks there, you have to do that with your computer as well. It’s a matter of WHEN not IF your hardware will fail. So let’s start with the most common hardware issues and work our way to the most costly and difficult.
Your hard drive is where all your files are stored, your applications are installed, and your Operating system lives. You cannot work without one, and working with one that’s going bad is as painful as not having a computer sometimes. If your computer is freezing and it’s not one of the above issues, this is the most likely cause. What you don’t realize is that the hard drive is a precision piece of equipment, and if it’s not running at 100% all the time, it can cause slowness, hanging, or crashing. Here is a good list of tools for testing your hard drive, pick one or two and try them out to see if they will let you find and fix problems. Note: If there are too many errors on the disk, just plan on replacing it anyway, even if it is fixable right now, because it’s on the way out.
Your power supply is powering all of your hardware, all the time when it’s on, even if you are not using it. If has fans to try to keep itself cool, but it’s working hard all the time, and so will wear out eventually. Most of this heat it produces is pushed out the computer but not all, and that means you need to have good air flow to keep it cool. Check out the Cooling Issues section below for tips and tricks on keeping your computer cool.
Also, having too much load on the power supply can cause hardware to crash and in turn cause your computer to crash. Make sure you have the right Wattage for the hardware you are running. If you added a new device and then the computer started freezing, it’s likely that the device needs more power than you can give it. Each piece of hardware will tell you how much it needs when you install it, so you’ll have to do some maths. Just make sure you have more than enough power for now and in the future if you buy or replace your power supply and don’t go cheap, you’ll just be replacing it again sooner rather than later. Check out Tom’s Hardware for a list of good PSU’s.
Your computer is constantly generating heat when it is powered on. This means you have to try to keep it cool while it’s on. With bigger cases and better airflow it’s easier for the cooling to happen naturally and consistently over time. However, sometimes you have a small case or laptop and you don’t have the natural cooling that provides. This means you have to help it stay cool, and part of that is keeping it clean…on the inside too!
If you have the option to add fans to your case, then do it. it’s inexpensive and will help keep it cool. If you don’t then make sure you perform regular cleaning of the case or access ports on the laptops. What does that mean? Well it means purchasing a can of air and some rubbing alcohol. If you have a tower, take it outside…yes outside, you’ll thank me…and take the side off of the case. Then use the can of air to spray in as many crevices as you can but BE CAREFUL! You don’t want to spray the coolant on the electronics, so read the instructions on the can and follow them. This should be done every 6 months unless you have pets, then do it more often because that dander loves to get sucked into the case and jam up your hardware.
If you want to see quickly if this is a problem, take the side off of the case and keep using the computer, the extra air flow will keep it cooler and you’ll see quickly if your system stops crashing that this was the problem.
If you have a laptop, use the rubbing alcohol on some Q-Tips to clean out the vents that you can access. Don’t use too much and make sure to have the machine turned off first. Then use the can of air to blow though the vents. You’ll likely use most of a can every time, but keep blowing until stuff stops coming out!
So when you start experiencing freezing or crashing computers, you can really get into the fixes immediately and inexpensively before you have to consider spending any money on having a professional look at it. Doing these things for the first time can be scary and time consuming, so be prepared to spend some hours on it. However, a professional can spend a fraction of the time by jumping steps and going toward the issue in a more direct manner just because they have the experience and can see what should be done next by looking at the results of the previous items and can typically get it done faster for a cost. Make sure you know what you are getting into, and are prepared to call a professional company like Ubora if you don’t want to deal with it or just fill out the form below and we will get back to you.
Ubora Founder and CTO