What to Do if Your Windows 10 Computer Stops Responding
There’s a reason Windows 10 is the last version Microsoft will ever release to the public: Windows 10 is faster, safer, and more capable than any version that has come before. Instead of upgrading Windows to version 11 or version 12, Microsoft shifted to pushing out major updates with new features every six to twelve months, with bug fixes coming in several regular patches every few weeks.
Of course, just because Windows 10 is more stable than any previous version of Windows doesn’t mean you won’t hit some bumps when using your computer. Every operating system has its fair share of bugs and problems, and Windows 10 still falls into that category.
If your Windows 10 PC keeps freezing up or not responding, you’re probably at your wits’ end. A computer that keeps freezing when you’re trying to work is infuriating, and it can result in lost data, lost time, and lost productivity.
If nothing is working on your PC until you hard reboot, you aren’t alone. This is a common occurrence and one you’re going to want to fix. Instead of leaving your computer to continue to freeze, let’s speed up Windows 10 and get your computer back up and running in no time.
Windows 10 Computer Stops Responding
A computer locking up like this is usually a software issue. It is rarely hardware as those will cause a system crash rather than freeze. Overheating will cause the computer to shut down, hardware failure will usually cause a blue screen.
A RAM issue may cause freezing but that’s rare. It is mainly down to software. Either too many programs requiring resources, missing files, file corruption, system interrupts, or the processor task queue becoming stuck.
Before we proceed to long-term fixes, let’s review what you can do to get Windows to respond.
Force Restart Your Computer
Hold down the Power button for several seconds until it shuts down. Wait for about 30 seconds before rebooting it. For most issues, this will get you back up and running quickly.
Open the Task Manager
Using the keyboard combination CTRL + ALT + Delete open your task manager and force quit any open applications that are frozen. If one application is having a serious error it can cause a slow-down with your entire system.
Next, you’ll want to do some basic troubleshooting to figure out and permanently fix the underlying reasons for your troubles.
Check for Changes in Windows 10
When a Windows 10 computer stops responding for no reason it is usually because something has changed. Before we get onto troubleshooting, have you made any changes recently? Added a new program? Installed new antivirus or security software? Recently encrypted your hard drive? Made any other significant change? If so, that’s the place to begin.
If you made a change and your Windows 10 computer began freezing, undo that change or remove the program. Reboot your computer and see if it freezes again. If it does, move on to these other troubleshooting techniques. If the computer no longer freezes, it was the change you made that caused it. Investigate that further.
Troubleshooting in Windows 10
Fortunately, Windows 10 makes it easy to start the troubleshooting process. Once you’ve fixed the initial problem and your computer is responding, start the troubleshooting process. This is especially important if your computer has locked up more than once.
- First, check for any options to troubleshoot detected errors. If one does not pop-up, head over to your Computer’s Settings and click on Troubleshoot. If one is available, it will appear here.
Running the troubleshooter may expedite your solution by pointing you right to the problem. You can also try running your Windows 10 device in Safe Mode to locate the issue. Safe Mode essentially runs only the native processes on your device. This means that if the computer ceases freezing, there is third-party software causing the issue.
- Assuming your computer isn’t currently frozen, use the Win + R keyboard shortcut and type in ‘msconfig‘ and click OK.
- Next, check the Safe boot box under the Boot tab and restart your computer. Upon restart, your computer is in Safe Mode and you can begin to detect the software causing your freezing issues.
View Running Programs
Occasionally, having too many browser tabs open or too many programs running at once can cause a Windows 10 computer to lock up. Windows is pretty good at sending apps to sleep but it’s not perfect.
- Right-click an empty space on the Task Bar and select Task Manager.
- Keep it open on your desktop and monitor running programs.
Keep a steady eye on Task Manager and processor utilization. If you’re lucky, you will catch a program using up your processor as your computer freezes or it will freeze with Task Manager visible with the offending program in red. Remove or reinstall that program if there is one.
There may not be a program hogging resources so if you don’t see one, move on to the next task.
Look for Missing Files
If your computer freezes when you are performing a particular task, such as word processing, editing video, or something, it may be that program causing the freeze. If you can identify a single program, uninstall and reinstall that program. A required file may have become corrupted or accidentally overwritten and be causing the lockups.
Remove the program and reinstall it to see if that’s the case. Check first that your data from the program will be retained before removing it!
File Corruption Causing Windows 10 to Freeze
Windows 10 has a tendency to make a mess of itself sometimes and requires a little work to return it to normal. There are some tools built into the operating system that can help, SFC, and DISM.
System File Checker, SFC, is an integrated tool that scans Windows for errors and automatically fixes them. DISM, Deployment Image Servicing, and Management can check Windows Store and Windows Update for errors. Both can be run from the command line.
- Right-click the Windows Start button and select Command Prompt (Admin).
- Type ‘sfc /scannow’ and hit Enter. Wait for the check to complete.
- Type ‘dism /online /cleanup-image /restorehealth’ and hit Enter.
The two checks are completely separate so you will need to wait for SFC to finish before starting DISM. You should see progress on the screen along with mentions of any errors or file issues the tools find. Both tools will automatically replace any corrupted or missing files so once finished, that’s it for these.
Driver Issues Causing the Computer to Stop Responding
Another form of file issue is drivers. If the Windows 10 checks went okay, you might want to try reinstalling all your drivers. As driver updates are always a good thing, this is good practice anyway. Here’s how to accomplish this.
- Navigate to the Device Manager on your PC by right-clicking the Start menu and clicking on it.
- Next, locate the driver(s) you need to either update or reinstall, right-click on it and choose Uninstall device.
Reboot your computer and Windows will reinstall the drivers for you.
Reinstall or Restore Windows 10
If none of those things work, your only real option is to reinstall Windows 10 or perform a system restore. Select a Restore Point before the freezes started happening or boot from your Windows 10 installation media and select to reinstall while keeping your files and settings. Hopefully, that should fix it!
Unfortunately, there are several reasons why a PC running Windows 10 can freeze up, all of which boil down to hardware or software problems. It probably goes without saying, but start with the simple approaches, such as a restart, forced if you have to, and then scanning for missing files and drivers if the restart didn’t work.
Share your thoughts and experiences dealing with Windows 10 freezing up below.