How to Fix a Crashing Computer

| | | Share

We've come to accept it as a fact of modern life: a computer will eventually crash. PCs crash for a variety of reasons, from faulty drivers to conflicting software, from memory problems to dust clogging up the machine. Try as we might to avoid a crash, sometimes it's just as important to know what to do after the crash occurs.

Need More PC Speed? Try PerfectSpeed

PerfectSpeed® gets the clutter and waste off your computer, helping you recover valuable disk space so your computer will run faster. And you can try it free for 30 days*, after which it's only $4.99 per month.

• Optimizes your disk drive to run more efficiently
• Fixes broken, cluttered registries
• Helps protect your privacy
• Works with Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2000

By clicking "Try it now," you agree to our Terms and Conditions and Payment Terms. Scroll down or click here for details.
If you're an AOL member, we will bill you using the method of payment we have on file for your account. If not, it's easy to sign up with any email address.

Crashes come in all shapes and sizes. There's the freeze, of course, where everything just stops. And then there's everyone's favorite, the infamous "Blue Screen of Death," where the screen goes blue and displays all sorts of mysterious instructions. Once you see that, you know you're cooked.

The first and most obvious response to a crash is to restart the computer. If your machine manages to reboot successfully, that's a positive sign. However, the crash may have left behind errors with the PC's registry.

The registry provides directions for every program on a Windows computer, telling your PC what to do next. If there's an error in your registry, your computer might not know what to do. It's probably not a great idea to try fixing the registry on your own. There is software that can do it for you; either search for a free registry cleaner, or we recommend either System Mechanic or PerfectSpeed, both of which include tools to fix a corrupted registry.

If your computer won't restart, your next move is to try restarting it in Safe Mode. Sometimes faulty drivers are the root cause of a crash -- rebooting the computer in Safe Mode disables most of those drivers in the hopes of getting the machine restarted, and perhaps recovering any lost data.

To reboot in Safe Mode, press the F8 key while restarting -- the Windows Advanced Options menu appears, providing choices in the Boot menu. Newer versions of Windows provide several Safe Mode options to choose from -- use the arrow keys (not the mouse) to make a selection, and press Enter.

Bear in mind that when the computer restarts in Safe Mode, it will look, feel and function differently than you're used to -- for example, it will display using fewer colors in a smaller screen resolution, and certain components won't work. In other words, you won't want to use the computer in Safe Mode for very long. Once you've successfully restarted in Safe Mode, work quickly to restore and back up any lost data, make any changes to your system setup and then reboot again normally.

While in Safe Mode, you can attempt to determine the cause of the crash to either disable or uninstall the culprit and avoid future trouble. Windows keeps track of the programs you're using in the Event Viewer -- this is a good place to look for the cause of a crash. Click Start, go to the Control Panel, and click on Administrative Tools. From there, double-click on the Event Viewer and choose the System section. Error symbols will be marked with a red exclamation point, suggesting which program(s) may have caused the crash.

Another guilty party could be the drivers that tell your computer's devices how to operate. To check your drivers for errors, click Start and then Control Panel. Click System and then the Hardware tab. Select the Device Manager to bring up a full list of your drivers; right-click on any one and select Properties. Errors will appear with a yellow "X" or an exclamation point, helping identify the cause of the crash.

If crashes continue to occur, your computer may have problems that require more than a do-it-yourself diagnosis and repair. In that case, we recommend provided by AOL, which provides expert PC repair service remotely, over the phone.

(By the way, to print this article so you have it in the event of a future crash, click the printer icon at the top of the page.)

Downloads From AOL Provided by AOL's PC Support plan offers 24/7 live tech support for problems big and small, giving you immediate access to experts through phone, remote-control desktop support, and chat.

System Mechanic

This award-winning utility suite is trusted by millions worldwide to secure, optimize, repair and tune up their systems. Most often, PC sluggishness and problems are caused by faulty settings and fragmentation due to normal use. System Mechanic repairs these errors so your computer operates smoothly, reliably and up to 300% faster.

McAfee® Internet Security

McAfee's powerful safety tools provide comprehensive protection that's automatically on guard and up-to-date. This easy-to-use security bundle helps keep your family and your PCs safe from viruses, spyware, hackers, online scammers, identity thieves and other cybercriminals.

Search and Recover™

If you've suffered a crash, you may be able to rescue important files such as photos, MP3s and more, helping you recover critical work and cherished memories you thought were gone forever.

Also See...

Easy Steps to Improve Your PC's Performance

Unless your computer is fresh out of the box, it's probably not running as fast as it used to. Get easy, do-it-yourself tips to help speed it up.

Extending Your Computer's Lifespan

The average lifespan of a desktop computer is only 2-5 years. How do you make it last longer? Easy tips like clearing dust and watching its temperature can help a lot.

How to Speed Up Windows

Is your computer running very slooooow? Here are some simple tweaks you may not have tried that can make your system more efficient and faster.

Browser Tricks to Improve Performance

Get four fast tips to help your Internet browser run more quickly, letting you surf the web faster and more easily.

The Prescription for Your PC Problems

Like health insurance for your body, purchasing a long-term support plan for your computer instead of taking it in for repair each time might make financial sense.

How to Clear Your Cache (And Why You'd Want to)

Clearing away temporary Internet files, otherwise known as a "cache," is a good tip for speeding up your browser and protecting your privacy.

*To avoid being charged the recurring subscription fee, simply cancel before the free-trial period ends.

By clicking "try it now", you are agreeing as follows:

• You agree to our Terms and Conditions. Also, each product may be subject to additional terms required by the product's vendor, which you can review on this page.

Payment Terms: You agree that we may charge your payment method for the fee(s) stated above, plus any taxes and fees, until you revoke this consent or cancel your subscriptions(s). Subscription fees are charged at the beginning of each subscription period. Price does not include taxes or fees (if any). If your offer includes a free trial, there is one free trial per customer per product, and the free trial begins immediately. To avoid the recurring subscription fee, simply cancel before the free trial period ends.

• We may provide you with important information online or by e-mail.

Discover AOL provides information about AOL's many products and services, including computer tech support (AOL TechGuru), free software (AOL Desktop 9.7, AOL Desktop for Mac, AIM), Safety and Security tools (McAfee® VirusScan® Plus -- Special edition from AOL) and free services like Video, Radio, Email, Instant Messaging and Parental Controls. Check out AOL A-Z for a full, alphabetical directory of everything on AOL.