Troubleshooting a Computer Lock Up

By Candace Benson

Although it may be uncommon for a computer to completely lock up, it can happen and ongoing freezes can be a frustrating experience for computer owners. Crashed programs are far more common, and although they may cause the computer to appear to be frozen, you may use the Task Manager to close them. In many cases, uninstalling recently installed software or hardware may correct persistent freezes. Faulty hardware, overheating system components and software incompatibilities may also cause computer freezes.

Step 1

Right-click on an empty section of your taskbar. Wait up to 15 seconds to determine if the computer is completely frozen or if a program has become unstable. Click on "Task Manager" if the computer responds. Manually shut down the computer by holding down the power button for five to 10 seconds otherwise.

Step 2

Locate the unresponsive program in the Task Manager on the default "Applications" tab. Highlight the program and click "End Task." Verify that you wish to immediately "Close" the program.

Step 3

Remove any discs from your optical drive if the disc caused the lockup. Examine the disc for scratches, cracks or fingerprints. Clean the disc if possible, and reinsert it. Replace the disc if it continues to cause freezes.

Step 4

Click "Start" and select "Control Panel." Click "Classic View" in the left column if applicable.

Step 5

Double-click "Programs and Features" in Windows 7 or Windows Vista or "Add/Remove Programs" in Windows XP.

Step 6

Examine your list of installed programs. Remove any programs that you installed recently to determine and eliminate software incompatibilities. Uninstall anti-virus or firewall programs if you have more than one of each type installed, because having multiple firewalls or anti-virus programs running at one time may cause your system to freeze. Double-click a program you wish to uninstall and follow the on-screen prompts to complete the removal. Restart your computer if prompted.

Step 7

Ensure any recently installed hardware and software is compatible with the version of Windows installed on your computer by checking the Windows Hardware Compatibility List.

Step 8

Return to the Control Panel if you recently installed new hardware or if your computer is completely locking up. Double-click "System."

Step 9

Click on "Device Manager" in the left column in Windows 7 or Windows Vista. Click on the "Hardware" tab, and then "Device Manager" in Windows XP.

Step 10

Examine the Device Manager for any red or yellow error icons. Double-click any hardware shown with a yellow exclamation point or a red "X," and read the information given in the "Device Status" section.

Step 11

Double-click any recently installed hardware. Click on the "Driver" tab and select the "Update" button. Allow Windows to search for new drivers online. Install any updated drivers.

Step 12

Visit the vendor of any recently installed hardware, and check for updated drivers at the vendor's website. Download and install any new device drivers for your new hardware.

Step 13

Shut down your computer. Unplug all peripherals and cables. Remove the left side panel of your computer case when facing the front of the case by unscrewing screws or manipulating latches. Examine the interior. Use compressed air to clean the interior, including the power supply and fans. Reattach the side panel and all cables and peripherals, and attempt to use the computer again.

Step 14

Point a regular house fan toward the exposed computer components, and turn on the fan if the computer continues to freeze. If the computer does not freeze afterward, the cause of your freezing may be due to overheating system components. You may need to replace a fan or another component.