What to Do if Your Windows 10 Computer Stops Responding

Posted by Jamie on September 19, 2019

Windows 10 is more stable than any previous version but this being Windows, there are still plenty of foibles to get used to and lots of bugs and issues that still need working on. One common issue with computers of all shapes and sizes is when Windows 10 stops responding. This freezing can be for less than a second or until you reboot. As the latter is more serious, that’s the one I’ll concentrate on here.

Computer freezing, locking up, not responding, call it what you will. The symptoms are the same. You’re happily working or playing on your computer and suddenly everything stops. Nothing works, the mouse doesn’t move, there is no drive activity and you cannot do a thing until you reboot. This is a common occurrence and something we can fix with a few specific techniques.

Windows 10 computer stops responding

A computer locking up like this is usually a software issue. It is rarely hardware as those will cause a system crash rather than freeze. Overheating will cause the computer to shut down, hardware failure with usually cause a blue screen. A RAM issue may cause freezing but that’s rare. It is mainly down to software. Either too many programs requiring resources, missing files, file corruption, system interrupts or the processor task queue becoming stuck.

We can address most of these in just a few minutes.

Check for changes

When Windows 10 computer stops responding for no reason it is usually because something has changed. Before we get onto troubleshooting, have you made any changes recently? Added a new program? Installed new antivirus or security software? Recently encrypted your hard drive? Made any other significant change? If so, that’s the place to begin.

If you made a change and your Windows 10 computer began freezing, undo that change or remove the program. Reboot your computer and see if it freezes again. If it does, move on to these other troubleshooting techniques. If the computer no longer freezes, it was the change you made that caused it. Investigate that further.

Running programs

Occasionally, having too many browser tabs open or too many programs running at once can cause a Windows 10 computer to lock up. Windows is pretty good at sending apps to sleep but it’s not perfect.

  1. Right click an empty space on the Task Bar and select Task Manager.
  2. Keep it open on your desktop and monitor running programs.

Keep a steady eye on Task Manager and processor utilization. If you’re lucky, you will catch a program using up your processor as your computer freezes or it will freeze with Task Manager visible with the offending program in red. Remove or reinstall that program if there is one.

There may not be a program hogging resources so if you don’t see one, move on to the next task.

Missing files

If your computer freezes when you are performing a particular task, such as word processing, editing video or something, it may be that program causing the freeze. If you can identify a single program, uninstall and reinstall that program. A required file may have become corrupted or accidentally overwritten and be causing the lockups.

Remove the program and reinstall it to see if that’s the case. Check first that your data from the program will be retained before removing it!

File corruption causing Windows 10 to freeze

Windows 10 has a tendency to make a mess of itself sometimes and requires a little work to return it to normal. There are some tools built into the operating system that can help, SFC and DISM.

System File Checker, SFC, is an integrated tool that scans Windows for errors and automatically fixes them. DISM, Deployment Image Servicing and Management, can check Windows Store and Windows Update for errors. Both can be run from the command line.

  1. Right click the Windows Start button and select Command Prompt (Admin).
  2. Type ‘sfc /scannow’ and hit Enter. Wait for the check to complete.
  3. Type ‘dism /online /cleanup-image /restorehealth’ and hit Enter.

The two checks are completely separate so you will need to wait for SFC to finish before starting DISM. You should see progress on the screen along with mentions of any errors or file issues the tools find. Both tools will automatically replace any corrupted or missing files so once finished, that’s it for these.

Driver issues causing computer to stop responding

Another form of file issue is drivers. If the Windows 10 checks went okay, you might want to try reinstalling all your drivers. As driver updates are always a good thing, this is good practice anyway.

Reinstall or restore Windows 10

If none of those things work, your only real option is to reinstall Windows 10 or perform a system restore. Select a Restore Point before the freezes started happening or boot from your Windows 10 installation media and select to reinstall while keeping your files and settings. Hopefully that should fix it!

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