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Article ID: 2681286 - Last Review: February 26, 2015 - Revision: 12.0

Summary

At times you may find that your PC has become unresponsive. This article provides recommendations to help identify the potential causes for this behavior, and to help resolve this problem. If the methods in this article do not resolve the issue, perform a search to get more help from Microsoft Support (http://support.microsoft.com/search) or the Microsoft Community (http://answers.microsoft.com/)  using a more specific description of your problem.

Resolution

The first step is to identify the category of issue you are facing. For the purposes of this article, we will define four categories of behavior for PCs that become unresponsive, as follows:
  • Hang -- Your PC becomes unresponsive whenever you do a specific set of steps, and you must restart to recover the PC.
  • Random Hang -- Your PC becomes unresponsive seemingly at random, and you must restart to recover the PC.
  • Generic Freeze -- Your PC becomes unresponsive for a period of time, and then becomes usable again without taking any action. You don't need to restart your PC for it to be usable again. This behavior seems to affect all apps.
  • Single-app Freeze -- Your PC exhibits the same behavior as a Generic Freeze, except that it only occurs when running a specific app, such as when playing a game or browsing websites.
Please review the appropriate steps below, according to the category that most closely describes the behavior your PC is experiencing.

Troubleshooting a Hang

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Please review the sub-category below that most closely matches when your PC experiences a hang. If the guidance below does not address the issue, please use the guidance under Radom Hang for further recommendations.

At Startup
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The most common causes for a hang at Startup are:
Connected Devices
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If you have external devices connected to the PC, try starting the PC with those devices disconnected. Device connection and driver issues can contribute to hangs. If the PC starts successfully without external devices connected, try repeating with more devices connected to identify the specific device or combination of devices that are contributing to the hang.

More information on a specific issue with USB storage devices is provided in the following Knowledge Base article:
2848572  (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2848572/ ) Windows may hang during boot if a USB storage device is attached immediately after EFI POST
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Fast Startup in Windows 8.1
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Older PCs may hang during startup when Windows 8.1 Fast Startup is enabled. The best first action is to update the PC firmware and drivers available from the PC manufacturer. These updates may resolve the issue.

If you are still having a problem after updating all drivers and firmware, you can disable Fast Startup to see if that may be contributing to the issue:
  1. Tap or click Search.
  2. In the Search box, type Power button. Then, in the search results, tap or click Change what the power buttons do.
  3. Tap or click Change settings that are currently unavailable.
  4. If the check box in front of Turn on Fast Start up (recommended) is selected, tap or click on the box to remove the check mark.
  5. Click Save changes.
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Recent hardware or software changes
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You may have recently made a change on the PC that may have caused the hang. If so, you can resolve the problem by returning the PC to a previous configuration using System Restore. To learn how to run System Restore, click on the link for your operating system:

Windows 7: What are the system recovery options in Windows? (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/what-are-system-recovery-options#what-are-system-recovery-options=windows-7)

Windows 8.1:Windows Startup Settings (including safe mode) (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/windows-startup-settings-safe-mode )
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At Shutdown
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Hangs during shutdown can result from faulty hardware, faulty drivers, or damaged Windows components. To resolve these issues:

  1. Check for updated firmware and drivers from your PC manufacturer. Install available updates.
  2. Install all recommended updates for Windows using Windows Update.
  3. Disconnect non-essential hardware, such as USB devices, to see if there is a change that could indicate a device issue.
  4. See if the issue also happens in Safe Mode. If not, the problem may be related to installed software. Uninstall software that you are no longer using.
  5. Scan for malware.
There are also times when you may see a message that something is preventing Windows from shutting down. For more information, see the article, Turn off a computer: frequently asked questions (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/turn-off-computer-faq#1TC=windows-7) .

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While installing Windows Updates
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Please see the following article for guidance if your computer hangs while installing Windows Updates:
2700567  (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2700567/ ) Windows Update freezes when you install updates in Windows 8, Windows 7, or Windows Vista

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Troubleshooting a Random Hang

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Random hangs are often due to damage to the Windows configuration, faulty hardware, or malware. However, because this behavior is random, it can be especially difficult to identify the proper cause. Please review the steps below to help identify the cause and determine the next course of action:
Due to problems with the Windows configuration
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If the system is hanging randomly, it could be caused by damaged system files, software compatibility, or damaged registry files. Try each of the following steps to check if the hang is caused by one of these possibilities.

Damaged system files
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Corrupt system files can cause Windows Explorer to stop responding. You can repair corrupted system files by running the System Update Readiness tool, the Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) tool, or the System File Checker (SFC).

For Windows 7, we recommend first running the System Update Readiness tool by following the steps listed in the Knowledge Base article:
947821  (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/947821/ ) Fix Windows corruption errors by using the DISM or System Update Readiness tool

For Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, we recommend first running the Dism.exe command by following the steps listed in the Knowledge Base article:
947821  (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/947821/ ) Fix Windows corruption errors by using the DISM or System Update Readiness tool

If those steps fail to resolve the problem, try running the System File Checker on Windows 7, Windows 8, or Windows 8.1 by following the steps in the Knowledge Base article:
929833  (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/929833/ ) Use the System File Checker tool to repair missing or corrupted system files

Even if damaged Windows system files are discovered using these procedures, you should also try the steps listed below under "Due to Hardware Issues". Faulty hardware could be the reason that Windows system files were improperly written to disk, or decayed over time.
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Application compatibility or other software problem
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If you have recently installed an app or driver and find that Windows is now hanging randomly, try removing the recently installed software. If you have a restore point saved before you installed the software, try running System Restore to return the system to a working state:

Windows 7:System Restore (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/products/features/system-restore)

Windows 8 or Windows 8.1: How to refresh, reset, or restore your PC (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/restore-refresh-reset-pc)

If you could not uninstall the program or driver via System Restore, you may be able to identify the faulty software by performing the clean boot troubleshooting steps listed in the following Knowledge Base article:
929135  (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/929135/ ) How to perform a clean boot in Windows
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Damaged Registry configuration
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Registry cleaning tools can damage the Windows registry and cause a range of symptoms include random system hangs. For more information, please see the following Knowledge Base:
2563254  (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2563254/ ) Microsoft support policy for the use of registry cleaning utilities

If the registry becomes damaged, it is recommended that you restore Windows to a working state using either System Restore, or Refresh. In the event that these tools do not resolve the issue, you may need to reinstall Windows.

Windows 7: System Restore (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/products/features/system-restore)

Windows 8 or Windows 8.1: How to refresh, reset, or restore your PC (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/restore-refresh-reset-pc)

To Reinstall Windows 8 or Windows 8.1: How to perform a clean installation of Windows (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-IN/windows-8/clean-install)

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Due to Hardware Issues
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If Chkdsk runs while starting Windows, it could be a sign of a hard disk failure. For more information, see the following Knowledge Base article:
2854570  (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2854570/ ) Check disk (Chkdsk) runs when you start Windows 8 or Windows 7

Please note that Chkdsk can take a very long time to run. On large hard drives, it can even take a day or more.

If Chkdsk finds and fixes a problem, this may be a sign that the drive is failing. If so, you may continue to experience problems in the future. If problems are repeatedly found or can't be fixed, consider replacing the hard drive. Contact your PC manufacturer for assistance, if needed.

Random hangs can also be caused by other faulty hardware. Consult with your PC manufacturer to run available hardware diagnostics. This could include:
  • PC diagnostics that test the integrity of the core PC devices, such as the processor fans and cooling system
  • Video and display diagnostics
  • Additional hard drive diagnostics
If any of these diagnostic tests show a problem, follow up with your PC manufacturer.
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Due to Malware or Antivirus Software
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Malicious software may also cause random hangs and other performance problems in Windows. See this article for information about finding and removing viruses: How do I find and remove a virus? (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/how-find-remove-virus)

It is also recommended that you run one or more online detection tools from reputable antivirus software providers if you suspect a malware infection. One such example is the Microsoft Safety Scanner (http://www.microsoft.com/security/scanner/en-us/default.aspx) .

Antivirus software can sometimes contribute to performance problems in Windows. This is particularly common if your antivirus software is out of date, or if you are running more than one antivirus software on your PC at the same time. If you have multiple antivirus solutions installed, uninstall all but one. Check for and install updates for your antivirus software. For more information, see these articles:
How do I uninstall antivirus or antispyware programs? (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/how-do-i-uninstall-antivirus-or-antispyware-programs)
What to do if your antivirus software stops working (http://www.microsoft.com/security/pc-security/antivirus-not-working.aspx)

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Troubleshooting a Generic Freeze

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A generic freeze is usually indicative of some type of performance problem due to bad hardware or problems with the way Windows is configured, including low memory or disk space. Please review the steps below to help identify the cause and determine the next course of action:
Due to problems with a hardware driver
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You may see Windows freezing periodically if there is an issue with an important driver on your system. Display drivers, Bluetooth drivers, network drivers, and motherboard drivers can all contribute to temporary freezing of the system.

Check the PC manufacturer site to be sure you have the latest firmware for your PC, and that you are running the latest available drivers for all the hardware on your system.

Install all recommended Windows Updates. This ensures that you are running the most improved version of Windows.
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Due to poor performance
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A freeze could be part of a general performance problem that is causing a slow or lagging computer. If so, you may be able to help the problem by optimizing Windows for better performance. While performance troubleshooting is not covered within in the scope of this article, here are some links that provide more information on basic optimization:

Windows 7:
Fix Windows system performance problems on slow Windows computers (http://support.microsoft.com/mats/slow_windows_performance)
Optimize Windows for better performance (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/optimize-windows-better-performance#optimize-windows-better-performance=windows-7 )
Open the performance troubleshooter (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/open-the-performance-troubleshooter)

Windows 8:
Get Help: Performance & maintenance (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/performance-maintenance-help#performance-maintenance-help=windows-8&v1h=win8tab2&v2h=win7tab1&v3h=winvistatab1)

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Troubleshooting a Single-App Freeze

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If your PC freezes temporarily when using a specific app, the cause is probably not with the underlying operating system, but rather there is a likely a conflict with the app that is freezing. You can try a variety of steps to resolve the issue, that vary depending on what kind of app is freezing:

Troubleshooting steps for all apps
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Start by making sure that you've tried the steps listed for resolving a generic freeze:

  • Check the PC manufacturer site to be sure you have the latest firmware for your PC, and that you are running the latest available drivers for all the hardware on your system.
  • Install all recommended Windows Updates.
  • Try optimizing Windows for better performance. (See the links provided in the section above for details.)

    If these steps do not resolve the problem, proceed with these additional steps, checking for resolution after each one:
  • Check for and install updates for the app.
  • See if the state of the Internet connection changes the behavior. If you can run the app without an Internet connection, try it while disconnected from the Internet. This will tell you if a slow Internet connection may be the cause.
  • Uninstall and reinstall the app to ensure the app files and configuration are not damaged.
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Troubleshooting steps for Windows Store apps
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If the freeze occurs with a Windows Store app, and none of the steps listed in "Troubleshooting steps for all apps" resolved your issue, try the guidance provided in this article: Troubleshoot problems with an app (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/what-troubleshoot-problems-app)
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Troubleshooting steps for desktop apps
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If the freeze occurs with a desktop app, and none of the steps listed in "Troubleshooting steps for all apps" resolved your issue, try these additional steps:

  • Check the app for compatibility with your version of Windows. If the app provider does not list your version of Windows as compatible with the app, you can try to enable compatibility settings for the app. For more information, see the following article: Make older programs run in this version of Windows (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/make-older-programs-run#1TC=windows-7 )
  • Some apps provide an option to repair the app within the Control Panel. Check if the problematic app offers such an option by opening the Control Panel, and then navigating to Programs, then Programs and Features. Tap or click on the problematic app from the list. If the app provides a Repair option, a Repair button will appear next to the Uninstall button. Click on Repair to repair to the app.
  • Try performing the clean boot troubleshooting steps listed in the following Knowledge Base article:
    929135  (http://support.microsoft.com/kb/929135/ ) How to perform a clean boot in Windows
  • Test the app while signed in as a different user. If the app does not exhibit any problems while in a second user account, your user account may have a damaged configuration. Try performing the steps listed in this article: Fix a corrupted user profile (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/fix-corrupted-user-profile#1TC=windows-7)
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Troubleshooting steps for Internet Explorer
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If the freeze occurs within Internet Explorer, and none of the steps listed in "Troubleshooting steps for all apps" resolved your issue, try these additional steps:

  1. Test if Internet Explorer freezes on different websites. If the issue is with a specific website, the website may be contributing the problem.
  2. Try the steps listed in the following article. (Be sure to select your version of Internet Explorer using the dropdown in the upper right corner of the page): What to do when Internet Explorer isn't working (http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/internet-explorer/ie-crashes-stops-working#ie=ie-11)
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Applies to
  • Windows 8.1
  • Windows 8.1 Enterprise
  • Windows 8.1 Pro
  • Windows 8
  • Windows 8 Enterprise
  • Windows 8 Pro
  • Windows RT
  • Windows 7 Enterprise
  • Windows 7 Home Basic
  • Windows 7 Home Premium
  • Windows 7 Professional
  • Windows 7 Starter
  • Windows 7 Ultimate
Keywords: 
KB2681286
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