What should I do when a computer freezes or locks up?
This document contains recommendations on what to do if the computer freezes or dead locks. If your computer has stopped responding, follow the steps below to attempt to get the computer to unfreeze.
Tip: Some programs have an AutoSave feature. If you were editing a document at the time of the lockup, you may be able to recover a recent version of the document after rebooting. If your program does not have an AutoSave feature or the ability to recover a recent version of a document, you may lose all unsaved work due to a freeze or dead lock. It is important to save your work often to minimize or prevent this possibility.
Note: If only your mouse is frozen and not working, see our page on mouse not being detected or working in Windows.
Give the computer some time
Wait. Give the computer a few minutes to process. Sometimes a computer may appear to be froze, but it is really just slow or busy processing a complex task.
Is the computer dead locked?
See if the computer can respond to anything by pressing the Caps Lock key on the keyboard and watching the Caps Lock LED (light) to see if it turns on and off. If the computer can turn on and off Caps Lock, continue to the next step. If nothing happens, the computer is dead locked and you must reboot the computer.
End Task the Not Responding program
If the Caps Lock can turn on and off, Windows is still working, but another program may not be responding and causing the computer to freeze. Press Ctrl + Alt + Del to open the Windows Task Manager. If the Task Manager can open, highlight the program that is not responding and choose End Task, which should unfreeze the computer.
Note: It could still take ten to twenty seconds for the unresponsive program to be terminated after you choose End Task.
Reboot a frozen computer
If none of the above steps helped, you must reboot the computer. To reboot a frozen computer, press and hold down the power button until the computer turns off. Once the computer is off, wait a few seconds, then turn the computer back on and let it start as normal.
Note: During the computer startup process, you may see a screen asking if you want to start the computer in Safe Mode or Start Windows Normally. Choose the Start Windows Normally option and see if Windows starts up correctly, without error.
Resolve Hardware or Device Driver issue
If after trying all of the above, the computer is still frozen or continues to freeze after rebooting, there may be defective hardware or a device driver that is not working correctly. A defective hard drive, stick of RAM, video card, or other piece of hardware can cause a computer to freeze. A device driver can also cause a computer to freeze if it is out of date, conflicting with another driver, or just not working properly.
If you determine that a defective piece of hardware is causing the freezes, you should replace the hardware right away to prevent further damage to the computer. If a device driver is at fault, download the latest driver from the manufacturer's website and install it before the computer freezes. Or use another computer to download the driver and try installing the driver on your computer.
If you are unable to install the latest driver before the computer freezes, another option is to start the computer in Safe Mode. Once in Safe Mode, you can access Device Manager and uninstall the hardware device corresponding to the device driver that is not working correctly. Then, restart the computer and load into Windows normally. Windows should detect the hardware that you uninstalled and try to reinstall the device driver. This process may be enough to fix the issue and stop further freezes from occurring. You can also try installing the latest driver at this point, to make sure your computer is up-to-date for that device driver.
You can also try accessing the computer BIOS and disabling any hardware that is not working properly, to see if that stops the freezes from occurring. However, you should still replace that hardware, as you may not be able to use your computer fully if the hardware remains disabled.
Other possible causes for computer being frozen
There are many reasons for a computer to freeze up and stop working. Please view our page on Windows freezes or stops responding frequently for other possible causes and ways to troubleshoot.
Take PC to Repair Shop
If none of the above options work or are not possible to try, we recommend taking your computer to a computer repair shop and allow a computer technician to diagnose and fix the problem.