How to Troubleshoot a Crashing Computer

Category: Tech

During World War II they were called "gremlins"--tiny demons responsible for seemingly inexplicable aircraft problems. Today, gremlins prefer personal computers, which often seem to crash if you so much as give them a funny look. Although a crash-proof computer has yet to be built (just ask NASA), you can rid yours of most gremlins with a little patient troubleshooting.

Things You'll Need

  • Can Of Compressed Air
  • Patience
  • Virus-protection Software
  • Screwdriver

Check for a software conflict

  • If an older program suddenly stops working properly after you install a new program, try reinstalling the older program, which may have had some of its files overwritten by the new one.

  • If your computer crashes after you install a new program, when both it and an older program are running, check with the publishers of the programs to see if there are updates that address the conflict.

  • If you've installed a new program and start getting crashes that don't seem to be related to running any other program, try uninstalling the new program. (SeeHow to Remove a Windows Program.) If crashes continue, reinstall the operating system.

  • Check for a hardware conflict

  • If your computer starts crashing after you add a new piece of hardware, remove the hardware and uninstall whatever software you installed with it. (SeeHow to Remove a Windows Program.)

  • If removing the hardware solves the problem, contact the manufacturer or visit its Web site to see if there's a later driver version that fixes the problem.

  • If removing the hardware doesn't solve the problem, it's possible that some Windows files were changed when you installed the drivers, which are the files that enable a particular piece of hardware. You'll need to reinstall Windows.

  • Check for overheating

  • Take note of seemingly random computer crashes. If they tend to occur after the computer has been running for a while, they could be the result of overheating. As computers get faster, they have a tendency to run hotter.

  • Check to make sure the vents in the computer case aren't blocked and there's good air circulation around the computer.

  • If your computer has a fan, remove the computer case with a screwdriver, then turn on the computer briefly to see if the fan is turning. If it isn't, you'll need to replace it or the power supply.

  • If the inside of the computer case looks like Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl, clean things up by turning off the computer and using a can of compressed air (available at electronics stores) to blow dust off of circuit boards, chips, the fan and anything else that looks dirty. Vacuums and dust rags are a bad idea, however, because they can build up static charges and zap your chips.

  • Check for a virus

  • If you have virus-protection software, make sure it has been updated recently. New viruses appear daily.

  • If you don't have virus-protection software, invest in a program that can scan and clean your hard drive.

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