Q: My computer becomes unresponsive from time to time, which is frustrating. Why is this happening and what can I do about it?
A: Few things are as frustrating as waiting on your computer to respond to your keystrokes or mouse clicks, but when this happens, it’s not something you should continue to put up with.
In some cases, this can be the sign of nefarious activity that’s chewing up your computer’s processing power in the background.
Malicious programs won’t appear with an icon on your taskbar or provide you with any indication that they’re running other than impacting your computer’s ability to perform normally.
The possibilities are numerous, especially if you don’t regularly maintain your computer.
Start by restarting
The first step in your troubleshooting approach should be to restart your computer, which will flush the working memory of everything that it’s dealing with and replenish the resources to your operating system.
If after a restart the responsiveness of your computer improves, you may be asking your computer to do too much.
The most likely area that is being overwhelmed is the working memory, better known as RAM (Random Access Memory).
If you tend to open dozens of tabs in your web browser, each one eats away at your memory, so try going on a ‘tab diet’ to see if things work better. If they do, adding more RAM (if possible) could be an upgrade that would allow your computer to keep up with your appetite.
If restarting your computer doesn’t improve the performance, you’ve got a more serious situation.
Another quick check should be to see how much free space your hard drive has available. Your computer uses free disk space to supplement your RAM so when it gets full, your computer’s performance level will suffer.
If you’re getting close to full, consider getting a larger hard drive that’s based on the Solid State Drive (SSD) technology that provides the fastest performance.
Heat is an enemy of your computer, so if the cooling system on your computer isn’t functioning properly, it can result in unresponsive behavior.
Desktop computers have exhaust vents and cooling fans that need to be operating properly to prevent overheating.
If you haven’t blown the dust bunnies out of your computer in a while, check your vents and make sure that the processor’s cooling fan is still spinning by removing the cover.
Operating system corruption
One of the most common problems we see is some form of corruption of the operating system, which is the foundation that all your programs rely upon to function properly.
Everything from an update gone wrong to an outdated software driver can bring your computer to a crawl.
It’s possible that one of the components in your computer has failed or is failing, which requires some technical know-how and spare parts to determine.
Bad sectors on your hard drive, a faulty power supply, a bad memory stick, or even something that’s plugged into a USB port can be the cause.
Detecting operating system and hardware issues is something that takes some tech skills, so if the easy tests don’t work, consulting an expert is the quickest way to get things working properly.