Understanding why some computers freeze, and what can be done about it

There are many reasons why freezing occurs on the average Windows computer

Understanding why some computers freeze, and what can be done about it

The most common ones I have dealt with are a combination of hardware and software problems. The following list is based on my own technical observations over 12 years of troubleshooting a wide variety of my client's computer problems:

Freezing - Hardware causes:

  • Poor or faulty memory chips (it is important to match the motherboard specifications and choose a good brand of memory)
  • Low power or poor regulation from aged worn Power Supply Units (PSU) this is common in computers older than two years with a low grade PSU
  • Overheating of the CPU, Motherboard Chipset or PSU (heat ventilation)
  • Failing or corrupted hard drives (bad sectors or a damaged Master Boot Record)
  • Faulty Video Cards (more common with older low end AGP video devices)
  • Low grade or faulty motherboards based on a SIS or VIA Chipsets (non-Intel). These 'clone' motherboards usually exhibit a typically short life span, low performance and instability. Genuine Intel motherboards have been noted to perform well for years
  • Low hard drive space causing virtual memory allocation failure

Freezing - Software causes:

  • Limewire and Kazaa peer-to-peer file sharing software causing backdoor malicious activity (usually hidden and progressively damaging)
  • Spyware and Malware invasion through poor computer protection via Internet activity
  • Forcing the computer to shutdown during a critical system registry disk saving event. This can corrupt the windows registry hive (SYSTEM or SOFTWARE)
  • Faulty or buggy device drivers in particular video and motherboard chipset drivers
  • Corrupted Windows Registry Hive (Windows XP and Vista)
  • Poor or compromised installation of Windows OS, and the motherboard BIOS settings
  • Left over device drivers from previous hardware since removed from the computer

Your possible Solutions:

If the computer is over four years of age, it is likely to be to be poor advice to encourage you to spend more than $400 on any required repairs or any upgrades. Often it is wiser to purchase a new computer, and have your original software and data migrated to the new system. This is a service that I provide for such situations.

Otherwise, have worn parts like power supplies and hard drives replaced as they occur. Plan to have the average computer phased out over at least 4-5 years of its age. Plan timely backups where your data is critical, and do not ignore early symptoms of problems for they usually escalate over time.

Plan to have your computer checked by a good computer engineer at least once per year, for normal things like spyware, excess internal dust, and critical updates to software. Just like a good Motor Car Technician knows common problems that occur (over time) with your valuable car, so it is with computer systems. It is a fact that most computer problems occur because of poor maintenance and degraded software protection while on the Internet.

Your computer needs skilled help to regularly be made aware of new Windows and Spyware updates against new attacks and malware from most normal Internet access. This is beyond most people to cope with for it changes daily! For those users with a slow dial-up connection for Internet access, it is often the case that critical updates fall years behind the needed security wall provided by regular updates.

Do not assume your current protection such as any anti-virus is the single answer to your computers long-term health! New Spyware, Trojan and Malware techniques are employed nearly every day, and they really do use some very smart adaptive exploits to get at your system. I have seen many computers arrive in my service workshop with clients that claimed they had some protection software (often outdated), yet the computer was in most cases choked with 50 - 200 background malicious software (Trojan and Malware objects). In some cases this was crippling to performance or just causing embarrassment to the client (via unexpected adult site Trojan hijacking causing random popup' links to open).

There are three essential ingredients you must accept computer management for:

  • Proven Anti-Virus for email protection (AVG or NOD32 is highly recommended)
  • Proven Spyware removal and immunization on a weekly base (Spybot is highly recommend)
  • A physical firewall provided by your broadband or cable modem unit (not just a software firewall). If your modem does not provide a firewall, then upgrade to a unit that does. Software based firewall's are very intrusive, need regular subscriptions, and they do slow the computer operations.

Peter Bowey