4 steps to fix a laptop that’s freezing up

A computer does freeze every once in a while, and can be a minor software problem that can resolve itself. But when you’re noticing frequent freezes occurring on your laptop computer, it might be a sign that there is a much bigger problem that you need to fix.

Here’s how to unfreeze and resolve computer issues. It begins with understanding your laptop and finding out where the problem is coming from. We’ll also be looking at the common causes of frequent computer freezes, and how you can fix them.

A bit about your laptop

Parts on your laptop work together as a whole to process whatever you’re working on. Whether you’re watching a movie, working on a presentation, or playing a game, the different parts of your laptop interact and work with each other to deliver a seamless experience.

Let’s go through how a laptop works. While you’re using your laptop, the CPU sends out instructions to other components via the motherboard. This is where everything else is connected together, on the motherboard. The operating system that is located on the hard drive then works accordingly, launching apps or software as needed. For quick access, the RAM temporarily stores data that you’re using. It usually works faster than a hard drive does and makes it easier for you to multitask.

At the same time, the video card works to generate a constant visual feed that is sent through the screen cable. This shows an almost instant image of what you’re working on, whether it’s typing up a report or playing a video game. Other things like external devices also work with the aid of other components across the laptop.

Now that we understand how a laptop requires almost every part to work, we can get a better idea of why the laptop is freezing up. It usually comes from the failure of a critical part on the laptop. This can cause problems with the laptop’s normal functioning, or even stop it from booting up properly.

Why is my laptop freezing up?

As laptops require most of its parts to work properly, a part failure can become pretty obvious, even during its early stages of failure. Naturally the earlier you notice and tend to a problem, the easier you can avoid further damage or a complete computer crash.

When your laptop starts freezing up, the causes can be put into three categories: display issues, system overload, or a faulty hard drive. Or in rarer cases, you could just have a faulty keyboard or mouse.

To really single out a possible hardware issue, we should first identify what kind of freeze your laptop is going through. Computer freezes may seem all the same, but the way that your device behaves can point to different errors.

Different kinds of computer freezes

Partial freeze

A partial freeze can be identified by how much is affected. You might be able to still hear music coming from your music player or browser, but the screen seems completely frozen. It might go back to normal after a few moments, or not at all. It may also need a quick restart.

This may come from a single app, or a procedure that you’re doing. It could be a sign of a hard drive or RAM failure.

Generic freeze

When your laptop is unresponsive to any action, we call this a “generic freeze”. It usually goes back to normal after a while.

Random hang

Unlike a generic freeze, a random hang can make your computer completely unresponsive. It will only be resolved after you restart the computer.

What to do when your laptop is freezing up

Before we get into repairing a possible hardware failure, there are a few things we recommend doing. These include, restarting your laptop, checking on your mouse and keyboard, backing up your data, and diagnosing hardware issues.

1. Restart your laptop

A computer restart is often quite a handy solution to small errors and software faults. For convenience, laptops users often “turn off” their laptops by simply shutting down the lid. Without shutting down the laptop completely, the cached data stored in the RAM doesn’t completely refresh and stays there until it is reset. This could clog up your laptop’s memory.

Restarting your laptop may also be able to solve your freezing problem, if it is only a small problem. It can help refresh and reset your laptop so everything runs smoothly again.

2. Back up your data

Computer restarts and data backups are the two things we recommend doing first in almost every computer issue. By backing up your data to a secure spot, you’ll be able to know that your data is safe if anything happens to your laptop. You won’t have to waste time or money on data recovery.

Offline storage on an external drive or an online cloud based storage service are both great options to back up your data. In fact, the more backups the better. That way, you can access files from anywhere.

3. Check on your keyboard and trackpad

A faulty keyboard or mouse can also make it look like your laptop is not responding. Keys can get jammed or rusted from liquid damage, and that can cause a keyboard failure. Dust or food crumbs can get inside the gaps between keys and damage connective parts of the keyboard. Same goes for a broken computer mouse and laptop trackpad.

So before you test out other parts of your laptop, use an external keyboard and mouse to check your laptop keyboard and trackpad. If the laptop is still frozen, then you’ll know that neither the keyboard or trackpad is the problem. We’ll have to move on to other diagnostic options to fix the issue.

4. Diagnose possible hardware issues

A faulty hard drive, overloaded RAM, or a malfunctioning video card can be the reason that your laptop is freezing up. So you might want to run some tests to see whether it’s malfunctioning. Then you can solve the problem by replacing the faulty part.

After restarting your laptop, you should be able to work on it as usual to run tests. You can run software utilities and built-in tools as initial tests. If your laptop is freezing up so badly that you can’t get it to work properly, then you can try using pre-boot diagnostics or take the parts out to test on a desktop computer.

Pre-boot diagnostics

Every computer usually has a built-in tool to run basic tests on components across the system. This is known as “pre-boot diagnostics” or “boot diagnostics”. On Apple Mac computers, it is known as “Apple Diagnostics”. With this diagnostic tool, you can find possible faults on parts like the hard drive, battery, video card, and RAM.

Each brand has a specific key to enter boot diagnostics, so you’ll have to use the right one. This may be “F12” for Dell, “D” for Apple, “Esc” for HP computers. Just press the corresponding key when the laptop reaches the logo splash screen at boot up, and it’ll run tests on its own. Now we can move on to the different part failures that may be freezing up your laptop.

Diagnosing a hard drive failure

2.5 hard drive HDD

Hard drive failure is a very common computer error that can affect the laptop’s performance. It can make the laptop run slower than usual, cause start up errors, and also freeze up the laptop.

The computer’s operating system and installed software and apps are all stored and run on the hard drive, so when a hard drive fails, a drop in performance can be pretty noticeable. Files may be corrupted or lost completely, and the system may have trouble running things properly. Ultimately it could cause your laptop to freeze up.

Hard drives can technically last quite long, but its performance does not. So we recommend fixing the drive by replacing it completely. Thoroughly test your hard drive for issues and repair it if you need to. While disk repair utilities can repair certain software related issues on the drive, the hard drive will still break eventually. Learn more about the different kinds of hard drive errors that you may come across in “Top 8 hard drive issues and how to fix them yourself”.

Diagnosing RAM issues

RAM memory chips on motherboard

RAM is responsible for a smooth multitasking experience. The use of volatile memory for quick storage of data from the hard drive makes things easier for you to fire up apps at the same time. The RAM usually runs faster than a hard drive does, so data temporarily there helps you bring up windows quicker without having to read multiple times from the hard drive.

So a RAM failure could chop up the processes and freeze up the laptop. While you’re using your laptop, you may want to pay attention to the background or unused processes that you’re running. This could overload the RAM usage and slow things down.

To diagnose a RAM failure, you can use boot diagnostics, RAM analysis software, or use a spare stick of RAM to test it out. Most newer laptop models have embedded RAM on its motherboard, so you cannot take the chips out for testing. You’ll have to use boot diagnostics or RAM analysis software like Memtest. While RAM errors are quite rare, they can still be the root to your laptop freezing problem.

Diagnosing video card issues

A Nvidia video card on a motherboard

The video card, or GPU is what makes things move around the screen, essentially. So a frozen laptop caused by a faulty GPU is not necessarily stuck in its processes, the screen is just not receiving an accurate visual feed from the GPU. The screen may appear unresponsive to any keys or mouse movement, and may even show colour distortion.

The main causes of a GPU failure is from overheating or natural wear and tear. The video card is a processor like a CPU is, just smaller. It can get overworked and warped from heat, if the heat is not properly dispersed within the laptop. A faulty GPU can be identified by a distorted screen image with blocks of different colours, or just simply a completely blank screen.

Test your screen and GPU by hooking up your laptop to an external monitor. If you do have a GPU failure, the external monitor should show the same issue as the laptop does. This is because the visual feed is already inaccurate, so it should show the same image on any other screen.

Like most laptop RAM, the video card is also usually embedded on the motherboard and cannot be taken out on its own. So you’ll need a motherboard replacement if you do turn out to have a busted GPU. This could be a bit tricky, as motherboard repairs are known to be complicated and difficult. Learn more about other laptop screen issues here.

With a bit of sleuthing, you should be able to find out what’s wrong with your laptop. It might be a small issue, or could be a hardware failure. It’s still a good idea to catch these things before it gets too serious.

Professional computer repairs in Sydney

computer repair

Thinking about how you can’t fit all this in your busy schedule? Not confident in your technical chops? Then a professional repair might be what you’re thinking of.

If you can’t get your laptop serviced at a brand-authorised service centre, that’s where you’ll look to a third-party repair service. Consider us, at Safemode Computer Service. Step into our Inner West Sydney store with your laptop, and we can help you diagnose your computer issues in no time. We are known for our highly-rated and expert service, and can definitely offer the right repair solution for you. Our experienced technicians are always happy to help! Come by our Enmore store today or make an appointment here.