You’re sitting at your computer quickly typing the assignment or report due tomorrow when the cursor suddenly stops blinking.
You reach for your mouse, but the pointer won’t move, either.
That’s when you start pressing all the keys in a panic, hoping you won’t lose all your work.
Before you lose all hope and unplug the computer, read this article to learn more about your options.
We’ll tell you how to get your computer working again and teach you how to identify the culprit.
Computer Is Frozen And Won’t Turn Off (What To Do)
If your computer is frozen, press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to open the Task Manager.
Then locate the program that isn’t responding, select it, and click End Task.
If you’re using Windows 8 or lower, sometimes End Task won’t work.
In this case, right-click on the non-responding task and select Go to Process.
Then right-click on the corresponding process, and select End Process or End Process Tree.
The computer may freeze again for a few seconds, but it’ll kill the deadlocked process and return to normal operation afterward.
Unfortunately, you’ll lose all your unsaved data unless the application has an autosave feature like Microsoft Word.
With that brief explanation, let’s dive deeper to see why your computer freezes and what you can do about it.
Step 1: Unfreeze Your Computer
Computer freezes usually indicate that a program’s algorithm is stuck in a loop.
A conflict in the program’s code may prevent the algorithm from performing the next action.
For example, the algorithm may try to access a corrupted file.
Since the file is unreadable, the algorithm won’t receive the data it needs to operate and therefore gets stuck.
The situation is more common than you think, but program developers usually handle those edge cases without bothering the user.
If your computer freezes, your first instinct might be to turn it off by pressing the power button.
However, that may result in lost work.
Also, because your OS won’t go through the proper shutdown sequence, critical files, such as the Windows registry, may become corrupted.
Here are a few things to try before cutting the power to your computer.
A. Check For A Deadlock
A deadlock occurs when two programs want to use the same resource (e.g., a file) at the same time.
Operating systems are designed to prevent or resolve simultaneous resource access to ensure data consistency.
However, due to poor programming or outdated software, especially drivers, you may experience deadlocks.
If your computer goes into a deadlock, your OS has been unable to resolve the conflict, and it’s stuck.
To check, move your mouse cursor or press the Caps Lock button on your keyboard.
If you see a response, your OS isn’t deadlocked, and you can kill the frozen application using the Task Manager.
However, if nothing happens after waiting a couple of minutes, your PC is deadlocked, and you have no choice but to force a shutdown/restart.
B. Kill The Frozen Application
Assuming your Windows isn’t deadlocked, press Ctrl + Shift + Esc to open the Task Manager.
You can also press Ctrl + Alt + Delete, but that doesn’t bring up the Task Manager directly.
Instead, you’ll see a list of options and have to choose Task Manager separately.
Once the Task Manager is open, locate and kill the frozen program by pressing End task, as explained above.
C. Restart Windows Explorer
Sometimes, killing the offending application won’t unfreeze your computer.
Alternatively, it may unfreeze the computer, but your Start Menu and Taskbar disappear, too.
If that happens, you need to restart the Windows Explorer, the graphical file management program in Windows.
This utility allows you to open and close different windows, move and delete files, and interact with the Taskbar.
Here’s how you can restart Windows Explorer:
- Open the Task Manager by pressing Ctrl + Shift + Esc.
- Navigate to the Processes tab.
- If you don’t see the tab, click More details to see the tab.
- Scroll down to find Windows Explorer (or explorer.exe in Windows 7 and 8).
- Right-click on it and select End Task.
- Press Windows Key + R.
- Type in Explorer and hit enter.
Note: If you don’t see your Taskbar after getting rid of the frozen application, you only have to go through the last two steps.
D. Force Shut Down Your Computer
If none of the previous steps help, you have no choice but to cut power to your computer.
This way, you’ll break the deadlock, and Windows can load all the programs from scratch.
However, that doesn’t guarantee that the deadlock won’t occur again.
That’s why you need to identify and eliminate the root cause.
Step 2: Identify The Underlying Cause
A computer freeze could be due to many reasons, but it always comes down to one situation: your computer is stuck in a loop or deadlock and can’t escape.
Over the years, software developers have become great at preventing these issues.
However, issues caused by hardware and driver conflicts are much harder to prevent.
Let’s go over a few common causes of PC freezes.
A. Check Windows Logs
Fortunately, Windows gives you the tools you need to diagnose the problem in most cases.
B. Event Viewer
Windows Event Viewer is a system utility that collects and displays all the messages recorded during application and system operations.
These messages include the errors and warnings generated as your operating system runs different applications and drivers.
After you unfreeze the computer, open the Event Viewer by typing in its name in the Start Menu search box.
From the left-hand sidebar, expand Windows Logs > Applications and scroll down to around the time that the freeze occurred.
If you find an Error message, click on it and view the event description in the bottom pane.
These descriptions are almost always vague.
However, if you search them on Google along with the Event ID, you’ll find more information about the error and its cause.
You can try the System category if you don’t see any errors under Applications.
Unlike the Application category, which reports program-level events, the System category contains Windows-level errors.
If you find an error in this category, you most likely have a driver or hardware issue.
C. Reliability Monitor
The Reliability Monitor is one of the lesser-known components of Windows.
It helps you identify issues that affect your system performance and reliability.
To open it, search “reliability” in your Start Menu and click “View Reliability History.”
If you’re running Windows 7 or 8, you can find the utility in your Control Panel.
Follow this path:
Control Panel > System and Security > Security and Maintenance > Maintenance > View reliability history.
D. Blue Screen Of Death
If you don’t find any error logs in the previous steps, it doesn’t mean they aren’t available.
When your system runs into a critical error that may damage the files it needs to operate, it doesn’t have the time to properly record everything and attempt to resolve the error without the user’s involvement.
Instead, it dumps the error details into a log file and shows the user a blue error screen.
This screen has become known as the Blue Screen of Death (BSoD) because it halts system operations and displays a bunch of scary text.
Windows 10 doesn’t come with a pre-installed component to let you read BSoD error logs.
Therefore, you’ll need to install a third-party utility, namely BlueScreenView.
Once you download and install the program, it’ll automatically scan your Windows drive for BSoD dump files.
Find the logs for the relevant crash based on the date it occurred.
Then note the Bug Check String and Caused By Driver fields.
Google those values to find more information on what caused the crash and how you can fix it.
Now that we’ve covered the best ways to pinpoint the cause of your computer freezing, we’ll cover a few common solutions in case you still can’t figure out what’s making your PC stop working.
Common Solutions For Computer Freezing
1. Close Background Programs
Lack of computing resources, especially RAM and CPU, is one of the top reasons computers freeze.
Your computer doesn’t have the horsepower to execute the instructions, so it stops responding.
You can free up resources by closing the unnecessary programs that run in the background.
These include video conferencing apps, download managers, auto-update schedulers, and more.
Although these programs seem harmless, they each use a tiny portion of your computer’s resources to stay running.
Click the small triangle next to your clock to open the System Tray.
Then hover over each icon to see which application it represents.
If it’s not critical to keeping your computer functioning, right-click on the icon and select Exit.
You may be tempted to keep those apps running so that you can load them more quickly, b
ut remember that they’re wasting your resources, and you can open them whenever you need them.
Once you’ve closed all the unnecessary background apps, check the Resources tab in your Task Manager.
If you have less than 1 GB of RAM or 10 percent of CPU available, check the following two solutions.
2. Close Heavy Browser Tabs
Modern web browsers, especially those based on the Chromium engine, are notorious for consuming too much RAM.
If you check your Processes in the Task Manager, it’s not uncommon to see your favorite browser hogging up a few gigs of it.
One of the main reasons is that modern websites keep plenty of scripts running in the background to show you ads and make the website interactive.
Your browser add-ons also consume RAM and CPU when your browser is open.
If you have multiple tabs and add-ons, you can bet that your browser uses over 1 GB of RAM.
Fortunately, modern browsers have the tools to let you see which tabs and add-ons are hogging up your resources.
Firefox and Chrome have a dedicated Task Manager that shows you how much RAM and CPU each tab and add-on consumes.
To open the Task Manager on either browser, open the menu and go to More Tools > Task Manager.
3. Disable Uncritical Windows Services
If you still don’t have enough free RAM and CPU, you can start stripping down your Windows to its minimum.
Windows has many uncritical components that you may not even use.
There’s no harm in disabling them.
An exhaustive list of all the non-critical Windows services is beyond the scope of this article.
Here are a few you can disable without any harm:
- Windows Mobile Hotspot Service: Allows other devices to connect to your laptop to access the internet.
- Print Spooler: Sends your print requests to a printer.
- Fax Service: Allows you to send faxes using your computer.
- Downloaded Maps Manager: Windows 10 has a native map application similar to Google Maps.
- Offline Files: You’ll only need this service to access files hosted on a local server in a local network.
- Program Compatibility Assistant: Helps you install older applications on Windows 10.
- Remote Registry: Allows remote users to modify the registry settings on your Windows.
- Touch Keyboard and Handwriting Panel: You won’t need this service if you don’t have a touch-enabled device.
How can you disable these services?
Follow these steps:
- Press the Windows Key + R.
- Type in services.msc and hit enter.
- Locate the service you’re looking for.
- Right-click on it and select Properties.
- Click Stop.
- Set Startup Type to Manual.
- Click OK.
Once you’ve disabled all your intended services, restart your computer for the changes to take effect.
4. Scan Your Computer For Viruses
Viruses and malware can make your computer behave strangely.
Sometimes, they use up all your hardware resources to do unnecessary operations or try to access files and cause deadlocks.
Install an up-to-date antivirus and antimalware suite and scan your entire system.
The scan may take up to a few hours, but you’ll know whether your computer is infected.
If it is, you’ll eliminate the virus and the frequent freezes.
5. Inspect Your Temperatures
Overheating is a huge problem among PC owners because they don’t regularly clean their cases or keep them in well-ventilated areas.
Overheating causes thermal throttling, where your CPU and GPU intentionally operate at lower frequencies to avoid generating excessive heat.
However, electronic components can only take so much heat before they stop working.
Check your temperatures if your computer freezes regularly and you can’t even open the Task Manager.
Your motherboard utility probably shows you the internal temperature of your PC.
Restart your computer and keep pressing Del or F2 to enter the BIOS utility and check your temps.
Core Temp tells you each CPU core’s temperature in real-time, while HWMonitor gives you detailed temp numbers for all your PC parts.
You can compare the numbers with your hardware’s Thermal Design Power (TDP) to see if you’re in dangerous territory.
However, as a rule of thumb, you should look into anything beyond 80 degrees Celsius.
HWMonitor can also help you detect thermal throttling.
6. Test Your RAM
We discussed how you could free up some extra RAM on your computer.
However, if you don’t have enough physical memory available or your current modules are damaged, you will likely experience frequent freezes.
At the time of writing, 8 GB is the minimum amount for running your computer smoothly, as Windows 10 will take up almost 3 GB.
Therefore, consider upgrading your RAM if you have anything below 8 GB.
You should also check the health of your current DIMMs using the built-in Windows utility.
Here are the steps:
- Press Windows Key + R.
- Type in “mdsched.exe” and hit Enter.
- Alternatively, you type in Memory Diagnostic in the Start Menu.
- Click Restart now and check for problems.
Once you select this option, your computer will restart and check all your memory blocks, which will take a few seconds.
You’ll see a message if the program finds any problems.
7. Check Your Hard Drive
Hard drives are one of the few mechanical parts in a computer and are notorious for getting bad sectors.
Sectors are the smallest position of a hard drive that store 512 bytes of data.
A bad sector refers to a physically damaged sector that can’t be read.
Once Windows discovers a bad sector, it tries to read the data on the sector and move as much of it as possible to another sector.
However, the data may be too corrupt to salvage, or the destination could be a bad sector, putting your OS in an endless loop and causing it to freeze.
You can check your hard drive’s health using the chkdsk utility that comes with Windows.
Here are the steps:
- Press Windows Key + R.
- Type in cmd and hit Enter.
- Type in chkdsk /f /r and press Enter.
This command scans all the sectors on your drive, tries to fix bad sectors, and tries to recover the data on the bad sectors.
The utility is a versatile tool that accepts many parameters for different scenarios.
You can learn more about them on Microsoft’s official website.
Once the scan is over, we also recommend running the following command:
wmic diskdrive get model,status
The command runs a self-diagnostic test to check whether your drive is about to fail.
If you receive OK under status, your drive doesn’t show any signs of degradation.
You can also install CrystalDiskInfo to get more detailed results about your hard drive’s health.
The application runs a similar self-diagnostic test, but it gives you loads of information, including a health score and stats on your total drive usage.
Finally, consider upgrading your hard drive to an SSD, as these newer drives are much faster and don’t involve mechanical components.