The quickest way to find the solutions to a particular computer problem is to enter a short and accurate description of it, such as pc freezes or program freezes or random pc freezes, all very common problems, in the site-search box provided at the top of every page on this website. A list of pages containing those or your own keywords will be presented.
Click here! to skip the following informative PC-problems preamble and go to the links to the pages of computer problems and solutions dealt with on this website, grouped in categories, provided below. Otherwise read on...
Click The Administrative Tools in Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 to read detailed information on those useful tools, including the Performance Monitor that can be used to troubleshoot various system problems.
Visit The Computer Support Services Provided by PC Manufacturers and the Sellers of PC Components page on this website for information on computer support and how you can take a vendor to court if it fails to provide a replacement of or a refund for goods that have failed completely or become unfit for purpose within the statutory two-year warranty applicable in the EU, which, as you should know, is applicable to the UK. Note that warranty laws differ from country to country or even between the states in the same country, as can be the case in the USA.
Another very common problem is a computer that suddenly slows down significantly. There could be many causes, but the first thing to check is that there is enough free space on the hard drive or SSD drive. Windows needs about 15% free space to function.
If your PC has a hard drive that is partitioned into two or more partitions with Windows installed on its default C: partition and Windows is bringing up a message sayaing "Low Disk Space. - You are running out of disk space on Local Disk (C:)...", and there is plenty of free space on the other partition(s), there is a simple drag-and-drop way to increase the space on the C: drive and reduce it on another partition. Just use the free Easeus Partition Master Home Edition according to the illustrated instructons provided by this video:
Note that web browsers, such as Internet Explorer, the Recycle Bin, System Restore and the virtual memory Page File reserve drive space, which is not taken into account when Windows computes the free space, so, if you are short of space, restrict the amount reserved for those areas of Windows. A free tool, such as MemInfo from http://www.carthagosoft.net/ tells you how much disk space the Page File uses. Watch how much space is used during the most demanding use you put the computer through, add a bit of overhead and then apply a manual setting. Use a web search using a query such as windows 7 page file to find out how to do that in Win 7.
To find out how much free space (not counting the reserved space) a drive has, open My Computer (XP) and Computer (Vista/Win7), right-click on it and click on Properties in the menu that is presented. If you installed software just before the computer slowed down, see if uninstalling it fixes the problem. Also, run a full system scan with one or more malware scanners, such as Malwarebytes or Security Essentials. Recently, my laptop slowed down significantly and a virus infection turned out to be responsible. An unpatched security vulnerability in the Java Virtual Machine had been exploited. I have since uninstalled Java and intend to leave it uninstalled. A full system scan using Security Essentials removed the infection.
It is advisable never to allow Windows Update (which can be run from its website http://update.microsoft.com/ or from within Windows via the Control Panel, called Automatic Updates in Windows XP), or any other software or website to update the device drivers (that run all devices) automatically, because it is not uncommon for a new driver to make its device malfunction or nor work at all. Sometimes the wrong driver can be installed, so only update drivers if a device isn't working properly or you are notified that a driver being used is leaving the system open to a serious security vulnerability. Otherwise, the golden rule is: if a driver ainít broke, donít fix it. Remember that if you should run into problems with a device after a driver has been updated and you can boot into Windows itself or its Safe Mode, all versions of Windows from Windows XP upward provide a Roll Back Driver feature.
Read How To force Windows XP/Vista/Win7 to boot/start up in Safe Mode from within Windows to find out how to do that if Windows can start up normally and you can't get into Safe Mode by pressing the F8 key repeatedly at startup just before Windows starts to load.
Updating other software is much less problematic due to Windows Update and other updating tools, such as Secunia PSI, seldom causing any trouble by installing bad or unnecessary updates.
If a particular piece of software suddenly fails to work, probably due to corrupt files, here is an example of what I do first to fix the problem. I use printing software called Cleverprint that adds fancy features to the standard printing options provided by Windows. Today, for no apparent reason, it failed to work. I could have restored a restore point using System Restore using one with a date that preceded the problem to see if doing that fixed the problem, but I chose instead to uninstall it (using the Control Panel's Add or Remove Programs in Windows XP and Programs & Features in Vista and Windows 7). I then searched Windows Explorer for a folder under Program Files called Cleverprint and deleted it, opened the printer option in the Control Panel, deleted the entry for Cleverprint and then entered the command regedit (in the Run box in XP and the Search... box in Vista and Windows 7) and used its Edit => Find (pressing the F3 key finds the next item) to locate and delete all of the entries that had the name Cleverprint in them. Finally, I reinstalled Cleverprint, which then worked properly.
If you open a lot of programs, web-browsers and web-browser windows (multitask) and the computer freezes while using a program or browser and it doesn't have much RAM memory (say, 1GB, running Windows XP, Vista or Windows 7) then buying more memory will probably sort the problem out. I was using my laptop with 1GB of memory that dual-boots XP and Windows 7 (both 32-bit versions) to run Dreamweaver and plenty of Internet Explorer windows and IE would freeze the entire system when I opened yet another window, requiring a reboot, so I went to crucial.com/uk and ran its Memory Advisor to buy another 1GB, which solved the problem. I was given a diagnostic hint when the free tool, MemInfo, showed the memory usage in the red (in the Notification Area) whenever the freezing took place. Note that Gadgets in Windows 7 provides a memory meter, but Gadgets are a security risk and should be disabled (search microsoft.com for disable gadgets), which is why I use MemInfo in Win7. I also use it in Windows XP.
For that matter, MemInfo can be used as a diagnostic tool. Open it by right-clicking on its icon in the Notification Area. Click Settings and set it to show as a percentage how much memory is in use. Watch what the percentages are during the periods when you are using most programs and if the percentage increases markedly for no good reason or goes into the red, there could be a malware infection that is using the extra memory. Malware is usually badly programmed and often doesn't use the system efficiently, so, the first thing to do when you detect odd system behaviour is run your scanner(s). When MemInfo suddenly went into the red on my laptop, I ran a full-system malware scan that discovered two viruses that had infected the system via a recent vulnerability in the Java Virtual Machine, because they were both located in the Java folder within the Application Data folder.
Note that you should use double the memory that a 32-bit version uses for a 64-bit version up to 4GB. Almost all new computers are now shipping with a 64-bit version. 4GB on a 64-bit version is the equivalent of 2GB on a 32-bit version. A 32-bit version can't use more than 3.5GB, so don't install more than 4GB. Do the following to find out if a computer is running a 32-bit or 64-bit version of Windows Vista or Windows 7. Only Windows XP Professional (not XP Home) has a 64-bit version and computers using it are rare because it is buggy and requires 64-bit drivers.
1. - Click on the Start button and enter msinfo32 in the Run box (WinXP) or the Search... box (Vista/Win7).
2. - Press the Enter key in XP (not required in Vista/Win7). In Vista and Win7, click the link called msinfo32.exe.
3. - Under the System Information heading, look for the category called System Type. A computer described as an x86-based PC is running a 32-bit version and a computer described as an x64-based PC is running a 64-bit version. x86 was the term used for a 32-bit computer before 64-bit comuters became available, so it has stuck.
Having 4GB of memory in a 32-bit system and as much memory as you can afford in a 64-bit system is advisable because Windows then mostly works using memory instead of its virtual memory swap file on the hard disk drive, which is used to swap data in and out of memory as it is being used or is discarded due to no longer being in use. This results in less wear and tear on the hard drive, thereby extending its life.
There is such a wide variety of hardware and software problems that can beset a desktop, laptop, netbook or tablet computer that the best way of organising them and their solutions is to arrange them by category. In that way, you can get an idea of which category of problem your computer has been afflicted by and then have a look at the available solutions. Therefore, the effective troubleshooting of any kind of problem involves having to narrow down what the likely cause is and then explore the available solutions.
For example, if with good grounds you suspect that the computer's operating system is responsible for the particular problem affecting your Windows computer, you can have a look at the category of problem dealt with for the particular version of Windows that your computer runs. Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 are the versions currently in use and being supported by Microsoft, each of which have their own problems-and-solutions section on this website.
This page provides descriptive links, below, to all of the problem-and-solutions sections on this website.
There are two broad categories of computer-related problem - software problems, which include the operating system, the applications, utilities and the networking and system-monitoring software, etc. - and hardware problems cause by the computer's components (hard disk drive, CD/DVD drive, motherboard, memory, power supply unit, etc.) or peripheral devices, such as a external hard drive, printer or network router, etc.
The best way to determine if a Windows PC problem is software- or hardware-related is to run a program, such as the Disk Defragmenter, in Safe Mode, which is accessed in all versions of Windows by pressing the F8 key just before Windows starts to load, or, even better, from a Linux boot disc provided from the Knoppix and Ubuntu Linux websites that runs the computer from the disc. You download the disc as an ISO file and burn it to a recordable CD or DVD disc by making use of the burn-as-an-image feature provided by disc-burning software. Note that to boot the system using a boot disc, the system BIOS has to have the boot-order settings of devices set so that the CD/DVD drive is set as the first boot device. Windows 7 provides disc-burning software, but there are many excellent free third-party tools, such as CDBurnerXP Pro from cdburnerxp.se.
I can still use an old Ubuntu Linux 8.4 boot disc (site: ubuntu.com, at version 12.04 in June 2012). It takes 5 minutes or so to load from the disc, but when loaded provides access to the web automatically when its Firefox web browser is started. The version of the browser is the version current when the version of Ubuntu being used was current, so it would be best to update the boot disk regularly in order to update the browser, because some banking sites might require the use of certain versions of a browser. Ubuntu Linux detects if you are connected to the web using a wired or a wireless connection and connects automatically. If you are using a wireless connection you have to enter your encryption key, which always has to entered when a new computer or smartphone tries to connect to a network centred around a wireless router/modem. If you suspected that your computer had been infected by a virus, you could run an online virus scanner, such as the one provided by Kaspersky.com. Look for "Free Antivirus Scan" at the top of the home page. This is also a very secure way of accessing banking and financial websites, such as PayPal, because malware cannot intercept logon information. An Ubuntu boot disc also provides access to plenty of other software, such as an image viewer and an office suite.
Note that you should always read the information that is provided during the installation process of free software in order to avoid installing unwanted software, toolbars, etc. This program has the option to install a toolbar that you have to opt into, but with others you have to opt out or the third-party software is installed.
If the computer can be run in Safe Mode, which uses the most basic device-driver and Windows software or from a Linux boot disc, the problem is almost certainly software-related. If the computer fails to work using that method, the problem is almost certainly hardware-related.
When you sure sure that the problem is hardware- or software-related, you can then take an educated guess at which section of this website is most likely to provide a problem that covers the available diagnostic symptoms you have observed and have a look at the listed problems.
Alternatively, you may know for sure what is causing the problem, say a network router, in which case, you will just have to visit the Networking and Internet Problems section of this website linked to below.
December 15, 2012. - In 2010, Microsoft made available beta (test) troubleshooting software called Fix It Center that works on Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. You can download it as a file and then install it, or use the Run option (to install it directly) that presents itself after you click on the Try it now button on the download webpage provided below.
In Windows XP, you are provided with five troubleshooting options, but there are many more troubleshooting options with Windows Vista and Windows 7. You are provided with an option to create an online Fix It Center account that puts you in touch with Microsoft's support personnel for additional help. The following webpage provides the download or direct installation option plus information on the new software. -
The troubleshooters available for your version of Windows are installed, such as CD/DVD Reading & Writing, which you would run if you have a problem with your PC's optical drive, Printer Troubleshooter, Windows Firewall Troubleshooter, etc. If you can't link a problem to a particular troubleshooter, just run all of them one at a time from top to bottom.
For example, Windows Vista is prone to getting its file associations mixed up, which means that the wrong program gets associated with a type of file, such as a web browser being associated with .jpg image files instead of an image viewer. If, say, in Vista Windows Media Center opens on startup or pops up all the time, even though any boxes in the Startup and Windows Behavior settings have been disabled, you can apply the following Fix it remedy or directly or run the appropriate Fix It troubleshooter, which is this case is the File & Folder Troubleshooter.
When you run an .exe file on a Windows XP, Windows Vista or Windows 7-based computer, the file may start a different program -
If the Fix It troubleshooter fails to fix a problem, you can often find a third-party tool that might fix it. In this case, the problem has to do with the programs that Windows has associated its file types with, so I tried a web search using the search query file association fix and found the free File Association Fixer 1.0 from http://majorgeeks.com/File_Association_Fixer_d6366.html.
The hardware and software problems dealt with on this website are in the order of their popularity. When applicable, the order will change to match the popularity recorded by this website's web logs in the previous month.
Click a link below that describes the type of computer problem to go to that information