What Should You Do When Your Computer Locks-Up?

Nothing turns the screws on a tight deadline like the stomach-clenching realization that your computer has locked up. Many experienced computer users use to cry (or laugh?) when encountering the Blue Screen of Death. Fortunately, PC manufacturers have moved past those days. However, a variety of issues still lock up your PC.  Let’s look at some of the causes and solutions for frozen PCs.

Viruses and Malware

Computer virus infection is a common cause of computer lock-ups. When a virus gets into your computer, it first usually causes slowness of program loads, then computer lock-ups and even internet theft of various kinds. Updating your virus protection program is a good start for maintenance but only after a full PC scan of malware and viruses.


Sometimes computers freeze up because they overheat, which is ironic in a way. There are all sorts of very technical ways to spruce up your PC with anti-heating methods, but feeling the sides with your hand will give you a clear enough idea if overheating is the issue.

Some heat around the air vents is normal, but anything that feels uncomfortably warm raises a red flag. You can try to blow out the inside of your PC with canned air. Continued overheating will stop your computer from working. If some of the basic steps don’t work, it may be time to call in expert PC repair for your overheating issues before it becomes a dead computer reality.

Inefficient Memory

Inefficient memory can also cause your computer to choke. This happens with older computers trying to run programs and games that take up a lot of the computer’s resources.

Check memory usage by opening the Task Manager when no programs are running. Review the Processes and Performance tabs. If most of the computer’s physical memory is in use when no programs are running, your computer simply doesn’t have enough memory to support itself – or you have viruses. To see how it fares using the programs you need, open one program at a time, rechecking the memory usage as you go. If you find that your program needs exceed your memory limits, then it’s time to either get a more capable PC or add more memory to your existing computer.

Take charge of a frozen system with these steps below to get you back up and running – data intact – in no time.

1. Wait. When a program isn’t responding it often means that your system may simply be grinding beneath an onslaught of processes. You can choose to End task or wait. Try waiting, if you can. If your cursor has stopped moving and the system doesn’t seem to be responding, give it a minute or two to work out the problem. This should not happen as part of your regular computer use routine. If it does, get your computer checked out.

2. Check to see if the system has locked up. If it doesn’t appear your computer is going to think its way out of the situation, determine if a particular program is causing the bottleneck. Press the Caps Lock key and watch the keyboard to see if the Caps Lock indicator light goes on. If it does light up, you’re probably only dealing with a sluggish or hung program. If it doesn’t light up, your entire system is likely to be locked up.

3. If a single program or task has gotten hung, end that task. Many times all you need to do to break a bottleneck is close whatever’s stuck, be it a program like Microsoft Word, your e-mail program, web browser, or something else. Go to the Task Manager (press Ctrl + Alt + Del or Ctrl + Shift + Esc). Click on the Applications tab, and look at the Status column. If any tasks are listed as Not Responding, click on the task to select it and press the End Task button at the bottom.

If you’re using a Mac computer, stop a single process by pressing Command + Period (.). Access the Force Quit Applications window (the Mac equivalent of the Task Manager) with Command + Option + Escape.

4. Reboot. Sometimes you simply need to shut everything down and give your computer a fresh start. If the whole system is locked up and you can’t access the Task Manager, go ahead and use the power button to shut things down. Press and hold the power button until the computer turns off. Count to 10, and then press the power button again to restart. You may get a message asking if you’d like to start in Safe Mode; choose Start Windows Normally first and see if it will start up normally.

On a Mac computer, restart the computer by pressing Control + Media Eject (the key with a triangle above a bar). To quit all open apps and restart, press Command + Control + Media Eject (or the Power button if your Mac does not have the Media Eject button. Newer ones do not).

More Help for a Frozen Computer

If you can’t get your system up and running again by rebooting or if it continues to lock up repeatedly, it’s time to call in the experts. If you have a more in-depth problem not covered above, it will also likely need expert work. Geeks on Site can help you deal with system crashes and freezes via online remote PC repair delivery as well as traditional service on site or in your home or office. Visit Geeks on Site for quick assistance 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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