Frozen and unresponsive PCs

Audience: people who wish to be able to fix their PC on their own.

If you know how to hard reboot most modern laptops you might pick up some ideas on how to explain it to your customers/relatives but don't get too excited.

Tip: do take backups. Get someone you trust verify them with you to make sure everything is backed up.

Warning: if you have important data on your machine that hasn't been backed up, think twice before attempting any of this. It usually works for me but if a modern PC acts up there is often a reason for it: a disk might be about to break, you might have faulty memory or the computer might be infected with something. Trying to fix it might make things worse or hide smaller underlying problems until they grow bigger and you lose data.

What we are trying to fix

From time to time either my PC refuses to boot or someone who I'll want to help (mostly very close family these days) will call with a PC that has “frozen” or refuse to boot.

Note: I have written about my laptop that wouldn't boot one of its OSs earlier, this is primarily about frozen or unresponsive computers.

What do I mean when I write 'frozen”?

When I write frozen I mean that the computer is on, but doesn't react at all to the keyboard, mouse or other ways of interacting with it.

Things I try before saying a PC is frozen:

If a PC appears frozen, I typically wait a couple of minutes and then do a hard reboot (see later in this post).

What do I mean when I write 'unresponsive”?

If a PC isn't frozen but is too slow to use I'll typically try to shut down all applications and reboot it.

If I can use the keyboard and/or the mouse to try to shut down the PC but it doesn't react I'll classify it as unresponsive and reboot it.

Reebooting a frozen or unresponsive computer

Warning: this will cause unsaved data to be lost. Sometimes it can be recovered from drafts etc but you can probably consider it gone if you hadn't saved it.

Usually what I do is keeping the power button pressed until I see the bios screen. This might take a few seconds.

Tip: Sometimes, as you press the button your computer will react and as what you want to do; in this case you might want to try to answer the question, – a controlled reboot is way better for the OS than a hard reboot. If that doesn't work and you want to reboot anyway, just keep the power button pressed next time even if the PC seems to be reacting again.

Filed under #stupidPCrepairs