How to Stop a Windows Computer from Freezing Windows is probably the most popular operating system on the market. Although popular, it is not perfect. In fact, it could even be called i...

How to Stop a Windows Computer from Freezing

Windows is probably the most popular operating system on the market. Although popular, it is not perfect. In fact, it could even be called infamous; it is known to run slowly, freeze, and crash on users frequently. On good systems this is rare, but when your computer suffers from a lack of maintenance, problems are to be expected.

Stop a Windows Computer from Freezing

Unfortunately most users don't perform routine maintenance on their systems. You don't need to be a computer expert to be able to perform simple maintenance, all it takes is a little of your time.


1. Run a virus scan. Viruses are usually the culprits behind random errors, freezing, and crashing. How to run a virus scan depends on what anti-virus software you have, but basically you select drive C: and/or other disks (especially hard disks) that you suspect to have a virus, and click a button to activate the scan.

2. Uninstall programs you no longer need. Unnecessary programs may not seem like much, but some of them do run idly in the background, and this takes up memory. To uninstall a program, enter the control panel and click "Add/Remove Programs," select the program you want to uninstall, and click "Change/Remove". You can also insert the installation CD and select uninstall, or look for a file something like "uninstall.exe" in the program files.

3. Close some applications. Do you always minimize programs rather than close them? Don't worry about that picture you have open, it won't go away after you close it. That web browser, just bookmark the page or save the process (saving if you have FireFox). Save what you want to save, and close the windows quickly before you decide you want them open (you should know that to close a program you click the little "x" in the upper right corner of the window, there is a more efficient way of doing this without using the mouse... press ALT+F4 to close the window, ALT+TAB to navigate through open windows).

4. Delete any files you no longer need.
This helps if you do it before defragmenting your disk, since there are fewer files for the defragmenter to move. Select the file(s) you want to delete, and press the "delete" key, or right click and click "delete".

5. Use the scheduled maintenance tool. Under the "accessories" folder in the start menu there is a folder called system tools. Depending on your version of Windows, there is a program with a name along the lines of "Maintenance Schedule Wizard." This program will help schedule disk cleanups, disk defragmentations, and more. They all help with keeping your computer's performance at the optimum. Note that in Windows XP it is called "Task Scheduler".

6. Clean up your registry. Find a registry cleaner or clean it manually. Don't clean it manually if you aren't comfortable changing important system settings. Also try using disk cleanup from the start menu under system tools. This folder can be found in accessories.

7. Defragment your hard disk.
Click START>PROGRAMS>ACCESSORIES>SYSTEM TOOLS>DISK DEFRAGMENTER. Follow the onscreen instructions and choose the C: drive. If you're wondering what this does, think if it this way: When you use your computer, files must be opened on your computer, then closed. When files are moved or deleted, they jump around on the part of the disk physically. Eventually the files are scattered everywhere, and it takes your computer longer to find them. By defragmenting your hard drive, you put all of the files close together again, and it's easier for the computer to find them. Defragmenting your drive may take anywhere from ten minutes to several hours depending on the size of the disk and the number of files.

8. Open up your computer case and dust it out.
Dust can make even the best computers run slowly. Unscrew the screws on the side of the case, remove large pieces of hardware and tie down cables, and start vacuuming out dust. Be careful not to suck in any jumpers, pins, wires, etc. You may find it necessary to start removing hardware to access other hardware. Be sure to dust out the heat sync and other fans. If you don't feel comfortable doing so, contact a tech-savvy friend or simply use an air-can. Don't worry too much, it's large amounts of dust that will cause real problems.
  • While you're in the computer, check the heat sync to see if it is faulty. This can cause any operating system to freeze, especially the higher NT versions of Windows.
  • Although the above suggests a vacuum cleaner to dust out a computer, there is a risk of static discharge. It isn't recommended that you do this if you are uncomfortable. Instead, try using an air duster. For removable fans, take them out and CAREFULLY clean them.

9. Format your disk and reinstall your operating system. Be sure to back up your data, for everything on your hard disk will be deleted.

10. Downgrade to a lower operating system (e.g.: From Windows XP to Windows 2000).
Your computer's specs may be too low to run the operating system at a satisfying level. The minimum requirements are MINIMUM, meaning that if you just meet them, you will just be able to run the operating system. For optimal performance, be sure to have at least the suggested specifications, not the minimum.

11. Consider running a small Linux distro.
Use a search engine to find a distribution of Linux that you think you would feel comfortable. Linux is another operating system, and is open source, meaning it's legally free. If you want an interface similar to the Windows interface, go with a KDE version. Try looking on Linux informative sites such as distrowatch for the most recent versions of Linux and reviews on the downloads.

12. Buy or build another computer.
Maybe not the solution you were looking for, but this is probably the best alternative if your computer fails to function properly after so much work. Remember that computers aren't designed to last a long time, most last about 2 to 5 years before hardware issues start showing up (this is not related to the Windows installation, which will usually last you about six months to a year on low maintenance).
  • When you want to get rid of a program, don't just delete the shortcut, uninstall it from the control panel. Deleting a shortcut is just that, deleting the quick file that executes the main executable on your desktop rather than directly. Uninstall programs rather than delete shortcuts.
  • Empty your recycle bin at least once a week. Even though the files are in the recycle bin, they take up space and sometimes still run.
  • Consider downloading or buying better maintenance tools. The tools included with Windows are just a start at what you want to do, and they might not be as good as other maintenance tools. If you have the hard disk space, download and install better maintenance tools, and be sure to use them.
  • It may sound silly, but consider using a lower screen resolution. See if it lowers the CPU usage.
  • Run the Desktop Cleanup Wizard. In the higher NT versions of Windows, there is a tool that allows you to clear unused shortcuts from your desktop. Right click on your desktop and go to properties, and find the Desktop Cleanup Wizard.
  • Beware of computer viruses online when you make any downloads. Scan zip folders before you extract them, scan executables, scan anything suspicious. Don't go overboard, though.
  • Be careful handling any computer hardware. If you don't feel comfortable handling computer hardware, ask a tech-savvy friend to help you.
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