Whether it's once a month or 20 times a day
I’ve worked with a lot of clients and one issue I’ve seen consistently in Windows is random freezing. It doesn’t seem to matter which program you are running, how long Windows has been running or anything else, Windows will just randomly freeze and you have to either kill the computer or do some other undesired action to get the system back up and running. I’ve had some people’s computers freeze 10 to 20 times a day!
Unfortunately, there is no easy fix for the freezing problem. Firstly, it can be caused by different issues depending on your computer. Secondly, it depends on what level of freezing you are experiencing. A random freeze once a month is definitely a different problem than 10 to 20 freezes a day.
In this article, I will try to help you troubleshoot the problem with various solutions I have used over the years. If none of them worked for you or you have a different solution, post a comment here!
Check Event Log
The first thing to do is to try and check the Event Log and see if there are any events in the System or Application log that could help you identify the problem. Look for yellow exclamation and red x icons right around the time the computer froze.
Now a lot of times you may not see anything useful in the Event Viewer because if the computer freezes, then the events may never get written into the log. So then it’s kind of useless, but depending on whether your random freezes are caused by software or hardware, you may or may not see some helpful event logs.
If you do see something useful, but you’re not sure what it means, then post the contents of the log here and we’ll try to help you out!
Memory, Memory and Memory
If you’re getting a lot of random freezes and you’re pretty certain that Windows is not the problem (you just installed a fresh copy, etc), then check your computer memory. This has been the culprit many times over and it’s very hard to detect.
When checking the memory, there are a couple of things you have to look at. First and foremost, it’s good to make sure the memory is not bad. You can do this by downloading Memtest86, burning the ISO onto a CD, booting up the computer and running the diagnostics. If you get any errors, then you should definitely replace the faulty memory chips.
If you get no errors, that is good, but it still does not mean there is not an issue with the memory. The next thing you have to check on the memory is the type, speed, voltage, etc. Why is this important? Well, your motherboard might have certain memory settings and if the memory chips installed are running at a different speed, voltage, frequency or timing, then it can cause all kinds of random freezes in Windows.
The best thing to do here is to look up the documentation on your motherboard and your memory and go into the BIOS and adjust the settings for your memory to match what is recommended by the motherboard. This is called a QVL (qualified vendor list). The manufacturer of the motherboard will give a list of brands and memory part numbers that will work with each specific motherboard. It’s best to get one from that list.
If not, you can still try to adjust the settings manually. For example, one client had an issue where the DRAM frequency of his memory was 1333, but the motherboard documentation recommended 1066. He was able to adjust this in the BIOS and his computer started working normally again, no freezes!
Lastly, make sure your memory is placed in the memory slots properly. It’s amazing how a slightly loose memory chip can cause havoc to your system.
Disable USB, Network and Other Devices
If you have an ASUS or Gigabyte motherboard, there seems to be a lot of issues related to Windows 7 64-bit. Users have reported disabling certain hardware components has fixed the problem. Obviously, disabling your USB ports is not ideal, but you can at least try it out and see if that’s the issue. Try to disable everything you can including the network card, card readers, other ports, etc.
You can also go into Device Manager from the Control Panel and disable hardware from there too if you can’t figure out how to do it in the BIOS.
Update Drivers & BIOS & Windows Updates
Though this doesn’t help in most cases, it does in some. Go ahead and update all the drivers for all hardware on your computer including the hard disk, network card, sound card, graphics card, and anything else. It’s best to go to the website of your computer manufacturer and download all the latest drivers from there.
It’s also a good idea to go ahead and update the BIOS to the latest version, especially if you’re running Windows 64-bit. Sometimes this helps clear out power issues caused by ACPI, etc.
Lastly, it is a good idea to go ahead and download the latest updates from Windows Update. Microsoft has known about this issue for a long time, especially when it’s related to hardware, and have been releasing fixes for a while. You may get lucky and have it simply go away after an update.
Install Microsoft Hotfixes
In addition to installing what you get from Windows Update like Windows 7 SP1, you should also install any relevant hotfixes that Microsoft releases to fix specific issues. You can check out this link to see a list of post SP1 hotfixes:
Go through and try to install all the hotfixes that you think can apply to your system. Some people had to install 15 to 20 hotfixes and then their systems started working fine. Usually Microsoft will package up all these hotfixes into a service pack, but since the release of SP1, there hasn’t been another release, so you’ll have to manually find and install these fixes.
Uninstall Third-Party Software
From the software side of things, if your computer is freezing, it could be due to a third-party program like an anti-virus program or anti-spyware app. I’ve seen lots of freezing with some users running AVG or ZoneAlarm on their systems, but it could be any software.
If your system was running fine until recently, then go back and see which programs you recently installed and uninstall them. Some programs just don’t run well with Windows 64-bit and end up causing a lot of grief. If you have a high end system with top-notch specs, then it could very well be related to a crappy piece of software that was not written to for 64-bit and is therefore running in a 32-bit mode.
Just to rule out any issue with Windows system files, go ahead and boot off the DVD and run the Startup Repair. Once you load the tool, you can perform a startup repair, try a system restore, or go to the command prompt. At the command prompt, you can try running a couple of commands:
chkdsk drive: /r
For chkdsk, just replace the word “drive” with the drive letter you want to scan, i.e. C:, D:, etc. The sfc command is the System File Checker, which will go through and fix any issues with corrupted or missing system files. So basically, you need to run the startup repair, try a system restore and run these two commands at the command prompt.
Perform a Clean Boot
Again, if it’s a software issue, a clean boot can help you track down the problem. You can read this article on Microsoft’s website about how to perform a clean boot:
It’s really useful way to diagnose a software problem, especially if it’s with a service running in Windows.
Adjust Power Settings
Windows has some advanced power settings that can also cause more problems than provide benefit! Go to Control Panel, Power Options and click on Change Plan Settings next to the power plan you have selected.
Now click on Change advanced power settings.
Now scroll down and disable the USB selective suspend setting and the PCI Express – Link State Power Management setting.
Make sure they both say “Off”. Go ahead and try to reboot your computer and see if the issue has been resolved. You can also try to disable other power saving features as some people have had success with this. For example, you can change the time to turn off the hard disks to a much longer time.
This covers all the issues I have run into that caused the freezes in Windows 7/8/10. I’m sure there are many more, so if your computer is freezing and none of these solutions solved your problem, post your computer specs and any other relevant details here and we’ll try to help! Enjoy!