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A computer that freezes usually has to be restarted, but the cause of the freeze is not always immediately obvious. One of the most common reasons why a computer freezes is hardware, meaning the video card, random access memory (RAM), or another component may be underperforming. Software also can lead to a frozen computer, as can issues with drivers, the operating system, and malware; all these things can stop a computer from working properly. In some cases, the freeze is only temporary, a sign that the system is being overworked, whether from too many processes or too many components being plugged in at once.
Defective or insufficient hardware is a common cause of computer freezes. For example, some computers do not have enough RAM, which means there is not enough memory for it to run smoothly, leading to random freezes that require hard restarts. In some cases, the hardware overheats, and even running several computer fans cannot cool it down. For instance, most video cards come with their own fans, but if they are overworked or the computer is in a particularly hot area, this type of hardware can overheat and freeze operations completely. Hardware also may become defective with age or lack of upkeep, or it might not be compatible with other types of hardware on the computer, leading to computer freezes.
Software is another common cause of a frozen computer, with brand new versions of an operating system and incorrectly installed software being two of the main culprits. In some cases, the hardware drivers are to blame for a frozen computer. Drivers allow the operating system to communicate with the hardware, and a sudden operating system update can stop their ability to relay requests properly, causing random computer freezes. While software that means well can cause issues, the problem sometimes is malware or viruses, which are malicious software that users may accidentally install on their computer. While some malicious software is meant to destroy the user's computer, it is more likely that it just takes up a large portion of memory while gathering information from the computer for advertising purposes.
Computers can become overworked in various ways, which can lead to freezes. For example, having several tabs open while online, or using many software programs at once, can slow the computer down so much that it completely stops. Plugging in various peripheral devices, such as printers, cameras and headphones, also can overwhelm the computer. This is especially true of computers that are older or have little memory available. To avoid computer freezes, users are advised to use only a few programs or components at one time.
Computer freezes used to be common for systems running anything from DOS 4.0 through Windows 98ME. Microsoft was once notorious for making operating systems that simply froze without warning.
I well remember the first time a computer froze. I had been running DOS since version 1.1 came out and was running a game under DOS 4.0. Everything locked up and I honestly thought I had broken my computer -- I'd never seen one just hang up like that before. Sadly, system freezes and crashes become common..
That all changed with Windows XP because Microsoft seemed to have put in considerable (and commendable) effort in releasing an operating system that actually worked well. Windows XP improved even more with the release of Service Pack 3 and Windows has been very reliable since then. I'll put it this way -- I'm back to the point where I'd assume something had gone terribly wrong if my Windows 8 machine froze.
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