Problem of the week

Tips & Hints

Why does my computer keep freezing?

25 April 2001

It takes a bit of detective work to find out what causes a computer to freeze. Usually it is a software problem, a program is doing something that ties up all the computer's resources. More rarely it is the operating system itself or the hardware.

The first thing is to check the hard drive for errors by running Scandisk. If there are no problems with the drive, start the computer in safe mode. Hold down the F5 key before the blue Starting Windows screen appears and the computer will run in safe mode, the control key also works for Windows 98 and ME. Run the computer for a while and see if the same problems appear, keeping in mind you will have no access to the Internet, networks or CD's and possibly no printers. If the computer still locks then you probably have a hardware problem. If it doesn't lock then it is almost certainly software that is causing the problem.

Uninstall any unnecessary programs and disable virus checkers, indexing programs and any other utilities. Windows 98 and ME users can use the msconfig command to disable their start up commands. It is then a matter of re-enabling or reinstalling each program or utility to see which one is causing the freezing, often reinstalling the errant program clears the problem.

If you decide to reinstall Windows, it is best to do a clean re-install, otherwise the problem may still be in the system. At the very least this means installing Windows into a new directory, at most it means reformatting the hard drive. Before reinstalling you must back up all your data, have the installation disks for all your software and have the latest device drivers for you system on hand.

Freezing or locking computers is often an indicator something is wrong. It could be anything from the hard drive failing to your virus scanner not working properly. Whatever it is, it could cause you to lose data. Don't just accept it and work around the freezing, get it fixed. It will always cost more if you leave it until it is too late.

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