Data Doctors: The freezing computer survival guide

Q: My computer has begun to freeze on an intermittent basis; what should I do?

A: One of the most annoying situations in computing is when the computer freezes up in the middle of an important task, seemingly out of nowhere.

The reality is that when this happens, it’s a sign you have a significant issue that needs to be addressed.

Ignoring the freeze-up and rebooting every time can lead to a variety of additional problems, such as filling your hard drive up with junk files. It’s also one of the more complicated issues to troubleshoot because it’s intermittent, which can get frustrating.

Browser freezes

Since we all spend so much time on the internet, your browser could be the only problem.  To determine this, the next time your web browser freezes, switch to your word processor or another browser to see if they are functioning properly.

If other programs function properly, you’ll want to spend time looking into various browser-related causes, and if nothing else works, your problem likely resided with the operating system or faulty hardware.

Common causes for browser freezes include malware, too many tabs opened, third-party add-ons that are conflicting with one another, or a corrupted cache.

Running a full security scan of your computer can check for malware in all areas of your computer. Opening your browser in Safe Mode will disable third-party add-ons or extensions to see if things run smoothly without them.

If you are a ‘taboholic’ that tends to surf with a large number of tabs open, you may be running into a memory issue that can be resolved by closing unneeded tabs or adding RAM (Random Access Memory) to your computer.

Bypass your cache

To test for corruption in your browser’s cache (a local copy of commonly used websites), try bypassing it, which forces everything to be downloaded from scratch.

If the freezing goes away, it’s time to clear your cache, and if it doesn’t, try uninstalling and reinstalling the browser, especially if another browser works without freezing.

Faulty hardware

This one can get a little tricky to diagnose unless you are comfortable opening your computer and have spare parts to test with.

One of the first things we do in our service process for freezing computers is to check for obvious signs of blown capacitors on the motherboard.

A faulty memory module can also cause freezing issues, so swapping out the memory as a test is another approach.

If your hard drive is old or completely full, it may be time to replace it with something larger and faster.

OS (operating system) issues

Software and OS issues are one of the most common causes of intermittent freezing problems.

If you recently installed a new software program, try uninstalling it to see if the problem goes away.

If your computer hasn’t been maintained in a while, a cleanup of the OS or a complete reinstall may be what’s needed.

Asking for help

If you’re going to ask someone for help, it’s helpful to share a few things with them, such as: when it started happening, if it’s intermittent or always happens with specific programs and if you’ve started noticing any strange noises or excessive heat.

Ken Colburn is founder and CEO of Data Doctors Computer Services. Ask any tech question on Facebook or Twitter.

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