Knowledge Base

System locks up, freezes or an error occurs.

Table of Contents:

  1. System locks up or freezes
  2. Search for Error Codes
  3. Run a Computer Diagnostic
  4. Run Routine System Maintenance
  5. Check Air Vents
  6. Update Drivers and BIOS
  7. Check Safe Mode for symptoms
  8. Update Windows
  9. Uninstall, Reinstall and Update Software
  10. Look for Multiple Anti-virus Programs
  11. Check for Malware
  12. Use System Restore
  13. Factory Restore or Reinstall Microsoft Windows

1. System locks up or freezes

If your computer suddenly stops responding while in Windows, you may be experiencing a system lock up issue. For system lock ups, there are steps you can take to attempt to discover the root cause.

Note: If the issue recently started, please note any recent hardware or software changes before beginning troubleshooting, as reversing those recent changes may quickly identify the issue.

A piece of hardware may be causing the lock up. Try unplugging all devices from your computer, including:

  • Printers
  • Scanners
  • Media Card Readers
  • Small Media cradles (iPod, PDA, MP3 player, etc.)
  • Digital Cameras and Video Recorders
  • USB storage devices
  • CDs or DVDs from all optical drives

For troubleshooting purposes on desktop systems, the only items that need to be connected to the system are a keyboard, mouse and monitor.

If you are unable to identify the issue by reverting recent changes or unplugging external devices, you can troubleshoot using the steps listed below.

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2.Search for Windows Error Codes

Windows may display an error code associated with the lockup or error. The quickest way to find info on this is to use the search engine of your choice to look for your specific issue as Microsoft have detailed info for each :

Search Dell | Search Microsoft | Search Google | Search Bing

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3. Run a Computer Diagnostic

To determine if your computer is experiencing a hardware problem, run the Dell Preboot System Assessment (PSA) Diagnostics. For information on how to run Diagnostics, and to determine the issue, refer to Dell Knowledge Base Article:

If the onboard diagnostics and other troubleshooting have not identified the root cause of the lock ups, you may wish to consider running the Quick Test or Full Scan at Dell PC Diagnostics. You can locate these diagnostics at the link below:

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4. Run Routine System Maintenance

Be sure to regularly run maintenance tasks on your computer to keep it at peak performance. Select your operating system below to learn more about performance and maintenance of your computer.

Windows 10 has built-in system maintenance and performance tasks. No action is needed.

Windows 8 and 8.1
Windows 7
Windows Vista
Windows XP

Also, use the System File Checker to verify the system files and folders on your computer. To run System File Checker, click Start.

For Windows XP click Run... and then type sfc /scannow in the box provided and press Enter.

For Windows Vista and Windows 7, type sfc /scannow in the Start Search box in the Start menu and press Enter.

For Windows 8, type "maintenance" at the Start Screen, then select Perform recommended maintenance tasks automatically.

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5. Check Air Vents

Blocked air vents can cause performance issues, as the system may not be receiving the proper air flow and the processor may overheat. To protect itself from overheating, the processor will slow itself down and this performance decrease can be interpreted as a lock up. To ensure that this is not the root cause of the lock up issue, please complete the following steps:

  1. Check the vents on the computer to see if they are covered with dust and not allowing heat and air to pass through. See example shown in Figure-1 for a laptop vent and example shown in Figure-2 for a desktop vent.

    Figure-1 Vent on the bottom of the Laptop with dust.

    Figure-2 Vent on the front of a desktop with dust.
  2. Turn off the System
  3. Remove all power sources: Unplug the AC Adapter and Remove the Battery, or Unplug the Desktop Power Cord.
  4. Use a compressed air can to blow the dust out of the vents. Be sure to hold the can at an upright (near 90 degree angle) and hold it 15-20 centimeters (6-8 inches) away from the target.
Do not use your mouth to blow the dust out of a laptop. The moisture from your mouth can cause permanent damage. When using a can of compressed air, use according to the directions on the side of the can, as you can cause damage to the computer if used incorrectly.

6. Update Drivers and BIOS

In many cases, lockups can be caused by outdated drivers or BIOS settings. Be sure to regularly update your drivers to take full advantage of your hardware and software.

Generally speaking, you should update your drivers and BIOS in the following order:

  1. BIOS
  2. Chipset driver
  3. Video driver
  4. Audio driver
  5. Network driver
  6. Other drivers

Try updating each of these drivers individually and then retest the system to see if the problem continues.

7. Check Safe Mode for Symptoms

Safe mode prevents non-crucial applications and drivers from loading. This allows us to eliminate the software as a possible root cause of the lock ups or freezes.

Note: When using safe mode, the video resolution will be 800 X 600 and may make your icons and text appear larger than normal. Additionally, your desktop background will not be present in this mode. These are normal behaviors and will not require troubleshooting to repair, as they will return to normal when you log back into regular mode.
Notice: Please note that when you log into Safe Mode, your anti-virus program will be disabled. Please use caution when connected to a network or the internet while your anti-virus is disabled.

To boot into safe mode, please follow the instructions below:

  1. Start the computer
  2. Tap 'F8' on the keyboard immediately and every one second until the Dell logo screen disappears. From there you will see the Windows Advanced Options Menu on the screen. (If the Windows Advanced Options Menu does not appear, restart the system and try again.)
  3. Select Safe mode with Networking and press Enter
  4. Log on as the administrator or as a user with administrative access

For instructions on booting into Safe Mode in Windows 8/8.1, reference the following article at Dell's Support Website: How to boot into Safe Mode on Windows 8 on your Dell PC.

Open applications and test the computer in safe mode. If the symptoms exist in safe mode, please continue the troubleshooting steps in this article. If the symptoms do not exist in safe mode, the issue is likely related to a driver or software and you may wish to complete steps 6 and 7 to see if you are able to resolve the lock ups or freezing.

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8: Update Windows

Be sure that your computer is running with the latest updates for Windows. Visit the Windows Update website to be sure your computer is fully updated.

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9: Uninstall, Reinstall and Update Software

If your computer is locking up or hanging while using a particular application, try uninstalling the application completely from the computer, then reinstall it and visit the software vendor's website to update the software to the latest version.

Notice: Before uninstalling any application, please be sure to back up any critical data. Additionally, please be sure you have the required media and product key to reinstall the software. If you are in doubt, please check with the software vendor before uninstalling.

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10: Look for Multiple Anti-virus Programs

The use of multiple anti-virus software programs may cause your system to lockup. Anti-virus programs come pre-installed on most Dell Computers, so customers sometimes install other anti-virus programs without realizing that there is already one installed. If you decide to install an alternate anti-virus software, it is important that you first uninstall any other anti-virus programs that may be running on your computer.

Choose only one anti-virus program and reinstall it. It is not recommended to have more than one anti-virus software program installed on your computer. Multiple anti-spyware packages that do not have an AV component do not conflict and can remain on the computer.

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11: Check for Malware

Malware (virus, spyware, etc.) can definitely cause a Windows system to lock up or appear to hang. To check for malware on your system and to ensure that your computer is up to date on security software, visit Dell Knowledge Base Article, "Protect Your Computer or Remove Malware in Microsoft Windows"

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12: Use System Restore

Microsoft Windows contain a feature known as System Restore to roll back changes to the computer based on "restore points" that are commonly scheduled by Windows. To access and use this feature, refer to the link below and select the System Restore option:

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13: Factory Restore or Reinstall Microsoft Windows

If you are still experiencing lockups in Windows, and the troubleshooting steps above have not resolved the problem, there is likely an underlying issue with the operating system. To restore Microsoft Windows to the original factory configuration, refer to Dell Knowledge Base Article:

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Windows Support Page
More information and support for your Windows operating systems can be found on our Windows Support webpage.

Article ID: SLN129591

Last Date Modified: 01/03/2018 04:22 PM

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