This is one of the most common issues for Windows users, and at the same time one of the most aggravating. Depending on how you phrase it, whether your computer freezes on startup, locks on startup or just plain doesn’t work it nets the same result: pressing the power button and getting angry. I have been going around on Twitter @TailorMyPC helping strangers with their computer problems; one girl I met was having her computer freeze after 2-3 minutes of turning on her computer. If this isn’t occurring to you now, I would recommend bookmarking this page as it will probably occur at some point in the future.
**The first thing you should try is a system restore, if this does not work, then go down this list until your computer runs**
I have taken the time to research different reasons for a computer locking up after it boots. Usually when a computer freezes on startup it is the result of a system file not being where Windows expects it to be. This could mean that a registry entry is missing or corrupt, the file system is corrupted by a virus, or the data itself on your hard drive has been written to a bad sector.
Bad Sectors – A section of your hard disk drive that has started to fail, causing inaccurate data to be read and/or written from your drive.
Registry Entry – Various settings, configurations, and other data behind the scenes that help instruct the operating system as to what files to open, programs to execute, etc.
Safe Mode – A limited version of Windows that opens the minimum amount of background processes to increase chances that you can boot into it. To get into Safe Mode, hit F8 while the computer starts and select “Safe Mode”, do not select the “with networking” or “with command prompt” options.
Each of these three root causes can be fixed; I will address each one individually starting from the easiest fix to the most difficult.
Once you start to develop bad sectors it means that your hard disk is probably starting to go, so the following is a fix but I would still recommend you replace the disk when you get a chance. To fix bad sectors boot your computer into safe mode (see above). Now you will run a Windows utility called chkdsk which scans for bad sectors and corrects for them. To run chkdsk do the following:
- Open up Run, type cmd and hit enter. A black and white command prompt will open, in this type chkdsk C:/r and hit enter. It will ask if you want to schedule on next restart (Y/N), type Y and hit enter.
- Chkdsk won’t take effect until you have restart your computer. Restart it and it will do a quick scan, once it is done wait until you get into Windows and then restat a second time and it will do a full repair.
If this worked, you will want to get a different hard drive because your current one is likely to fail again if it has failed once. Luckily hard drives are cheap, and very easy to install.
Hard Drives on Newegg.com
If this did not work, then continue on to the next section on registry entries.
The next major issue is either missing registry entries, registry errors, or malicious entries. All of these can cause your computer to freeze after startup. Many times a registry error will actually prevent your computer from starting up at all, but depending on background processes it can make it freeze up after starting.
- To fix registry errors you will need your windows startup disk, put it in your computer and press F12 and select the CD/DVD drive option. Click on repair, and you might be able repair your installation.
- If this doesn’t work I would try one of the registry repair programs out there. Boot into safe mode (F8), then open up your registry cleaner and let it scan/fix the errors.
To prevent registry corruption in the future I would highly recommend you get a registry cleaner such as Registry Mechanic or RegZooka. Both of my computers have registry software on them, each has one of those running but they have the same effect in the end. I would recommend either of these programs.
Malware – Viruses
The reason why I put viruses as the least likely culprit of your computer freezing after restart is that most viruses are designed to do one of the following:
- Lurk until they get a chance to steal personal information such as credit card numbers
- Use your computer as part of a botnet, essentially controlling your computer
- Completely destroy your file system
In the first two scenarios your computer needs to function in order to achieve their goals, and in the last scenario your computer wouldn’t even make it to Windows. On the other hand, I have seen viruses that cause your computer to lock up after startup. This is probably a result of viruses that are attempting to access resources that for whatever reason they cannot get to, causing Windows explorer to freeze.
To get rid of viruses boot your computer into Safe Mode (F8 during startup) and run your anti-virus program. Try to delete the detected files outright, if it doesn’t let you then at least quarantine them.
If this solved the problem, then you should try to figure out why your anti-virus didn’t protect you to begin with (I woud call up the company and complain). If you don’t have any anti-virus software then you can try one of the following:
- AVG – Free anti-virus software, the protection is not as good as you would get with a paid product but the price is definitely right. If this were a car, it would be a smart car, good for getting around but a real serious accident won’t end well.
- Nod32 – This anti-virus has the best balance between performance and protection that I know of. Your computer will still run nice and fast while keeping you protected, this is what I would put on my computer. If this were a car it would be an Escalade, good protection while still fast and sleek.
- Norton 360 v3.0 – This is what I had on my father’s computer, this offers the highest level of protection. If you get viruses often or if you download a lot of things from the internet (music, videos, and games especially) then this is what I would recommend. It provides up to minute virus protection, privacy protection, seals up browser exploits, and includes online backups. This wouldn’t be a car, it would be an M1 Abrahms tank. Not at fast as Nod32 but as far as tanks go, it is fast.
If all of these steps have still not fixed your problem, try the following:
- Try running System Restore again (who knows, maybe it will work), go back as far as possible.
- Run a Memtest (burn the following to a disc: Memtest), this will check if your RAM is functioning properly.
- Re-install drivers while in Safe Mode, you can usually get the drivers from the computer manufacturer on their website by entering your service number.
- If everything listed has not worked, back up your documents, pictures, etc. and reinstall Windows, make sure to do a full reformat first. If you reinstall your OS and you still have problems, it is definitely time to go out and buy a new computer.
Feel free to check out my Custom Computer Configuration page or my Computer Optimization Tips page.
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