Troubleshooting Windows Freezes

Posted by Bob, Slimware

Although fixing problems with automated tools such as SlimCleaner Plus or DriverUpdate is our recommended route, we have compiled step-by-step instructions to fixing the most common issues below. WARNING: these instructions are intended to be followed precisely.

This article will guide you through the process of troubleshooting problems and errors that cause Windows to freeze. Follow the steps in order to achieve the best results. To begin, start with the next section below...

Update Windows

The first thing that should be done is to download and install any and all available updates for Windows. You can check for updates by visiting Microsoft's website.

Follow the instructions provided on the web page. Microsoft will automatically detect which version of Windows you are running and advise you appropriately to check for updates. If you haven't installed updates in a while, there will likely be several updates and the process may take one or more reboots of your system. Be patient, these updates are important and will prevent much more than just a system freeze.

Update 3rd Party Software

After updating Windows, check all of your installed software for updates as well. Updating Windows is a must in any troubleshooting procedure but the real cause of the problem is likely one of the applications installed on the computer. Most applications today provide a feature that will check for updates if accessed. Search the program interface for Update or look under Settings for update options. If they cannot be found, visit the sofware developers website and check for updates there.

After updating all of your software... If you are experiencing a system freeze when attempting to access a particular program, that program is the problem. Have you tried updating it yet? If not, try to update the program and run it again. If you have already updated the application or there are no available updates and it is still causing a system freeze, you've identified the problem.

How to Uninstall an Application

  1. Click Start

(Windows XP)

  • Click Run

  • Type into the Run dialog: appwiz.cpl

  • Press Enter

(Windows Vista/7)

  • Type into the search field: appwiz.cpl

  • Press Enter

You should now be looking at a new window titled: Add/Remove Programs. The window will state that the list is being populated. This means that it is looking for all of the software installed on your computer and putting it into a list for you to view. If you have a lot of software installed, this may take a few moments. Once the list has appeared, continue...

  1. Browse through the list of applications and find the problem application that causes the system freeze. Click on it once.

  2. Click the Uninstall/Change/Remove button.

An uninstall wizard will appear in a new window and ask you if you would like to uninstall the software. Select Yes and continue. The uninstaller will guide you through the uninstallation process and prompt you for input if necessary. It will notify you once it is complete and prompt your acknowledgement: Click Finish.

Update Device Drivers

The software for your hardware devices, the drivers, may be corrupted or out-of-date. The best method to fix this problem is to simply download and install the most current, available driver for your hardware device. However, because there are so many different manufacturers for countless types of hardware devices, it would be difficult to provide an in depth tutorial for each manufacturer. You can read our guide to updating system drivers or read on for tips and tricks for finding drivers.

When updating device drivers, keep these thoughts in mind...

  • The drivers for any given hardware device are hosted on the device manufacturers website. For example, if you have an nVidia graphics card, you would visit to search for an updated nVidia graphics card driver.

  • If you don't know the manufacturer of your hardware device, you can access the device manager for more information about your hardware. Click Start > Run (XP) / Search Field (Vista/7) > Type: devmgmt.msc

  • Once you've found the manufacturers website, browse the home page for a link like or similar to Drivers, Downloads, Support. Drivers are typically found by following links such as these. You may be asked to provide information about the hardware device you are attempting to update in order to locate the appropriate driver.

  • Once you've found the page that the drivers are hosted on, look for the download link next to the hardware device name. On some sites, the download link is the device name itself. Make sure you are downloading the correct version of the driver for your particular version of Windows.

Updating your hardware devices will solve system freezes if the problems are the result of out-dated or corrupted drivers. If updating the drivers does not solve the problem, continue reading below.

Registry Errors

A lot of the time, the root cause of freezing problems are errors within the registry. However, because the registry information for each application and driver is so unique, it is beyond the scope of this article to address these issues. It's also important to mention that editing the registry is hazardous for most users. Incorrectly handling registry information can result in a permanently damaged system. The Windows registry contains sensitive information that is necessary for the normal operation of your computer. If the system freezes are the result of registry errors, these issues will have to be resolved in a manner of your choose.

Hardware Failure

After attempting all of the above troubleshooting steps, turn off the computer, unplug it and open the case. There is a possible hardware failure or overheating. We have addressed some of the environmental issues that may be causing Windows freezes, including overheating, in our Proper Hardware Care Part 2: Environmental Threats article, part of our Proper Hardware Care series of articles. If you are uncomfortable handling the internal components of your computer, you should take it to a service center to get checked out.

You should first troubleshoot your RAM. You can do this by running the computer off of a single RAM stick at a time. If the computer will not POST from one of the RAM sticks, you know that the RAM stick is bad and needs to be replaced.

You can also check the CPU for damage. Carefully remove the heatsink and inspect the processor for surface damage and bent pins. Don't forget to reapply thermal paste before reinstalling the processor.

Next, the power supply should be checked. To test the power supply, you will need a special tool for testing circuit conductivity. They can be obtained at many electronics hardware stores and some automobile stores.

Lastly, plug the computer back up and turn it on, but leave the case open. Make sure that the fans are operating and that they are operating smoothly. If the fans are making any strange noises or are running roughly, it's time to replace them.


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