Random freezes are the just worst. Windows freezing up is truly a shocking feeling. Not knowing what the actual cause of their PC freezing is enough to drive even anyone nuts.
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The symptoms are simple enough. The mouse lags for a few seconds every once in a while, leading to slower PC performance. But the solution is anything but simple. It really depends on effectively troubleshooting via trial and error what actually is causing these hangs in the first place.
Let’s put this problem under the microscope, and see what fixes we have on the table.
The random freezing problem
A Windows PC, or just any PC in general, can freeze at any time. It may happen at boot, after login, after waking up from sleep, even when playing demanding games.
This problem is haphazard in the sense it either the whole system locks up, or certain elements like the Taskbar stop responding — seemingly without any load on the computer. Unfortunately, these freezes occur almost randomly, without much useful feedback. Not only does this make these issues extremely frustrating, but it also makes troubleshooting them a lot harder.
Microsoft has made a metric ton of improvements in Windows 10, but it almost seems that users have been experiencing these freezes a lot more than usual. In particular, those that have upgraded from previous versions of the OS.
What causes Windows 10 random freezes?
A voluminous thesis can be written on what causes these issues on Windows 10. The most obvious ones are the incompatibility of hardware and drivers. Video and graphics drivers, in particular. Both NVIDIA and AMD have been guilty of these, the former more so.
Microsoft offered its newest OS as a free upgrade to folks running Windows 7 and 8, and as a result firmware that was designed to run on these older variants of Windows transitioned to Windows 10. Meaning, some of your programs and drivers may work without any issues on the new OS, but others may not play as nicely.
And then there is also the case of corrupt system files causing these problems.
Some Windows settings themselves may lead to freezes, most notably power management and fast startups. Unwanted applications, mismatched software, and failing hard drives can also cause these random freezes that may lead you to pull your hair out.
The good thing is that so many users have reported these freezes that we now have a bit of a codex of fixes that can help iron out these issues. We have broken the diagnosis into two separate sections, one for quick fixes that you can try right away, and the other for more detailed solutions.
Quick fixes for Windows 10 freezes
There are some things that you can try right off the bat to see if your freezing issues are resolved. Common things like turning off a switch here, or changing the values in a setting there. If these don’t take care of the problem, then you will have to resort to a more through fix.
Let’s list all the quick fixes below:
Free up disk space
Low disk space on your system disk not only slows down your system, but it can also make Windows jitter, leading to the freezing issue on your Windows 10 machine. Make sure that you have enough free space on your C drive. If not, then clean up junk files and free some up.
Another option would be to extend the system drive by using partitioning software.
Disconnect all devices
Disconnect all your devices, then boot up again to check if they are the cause of the problem. Try and remove not only the external USB devices but also mouse and keyboard that you have connected to your system.
Uninstall incompatible programs
If the freezing issue just recently popped up, then there is a chance that it has got to do with a new program that you may have installed. Find out all the software that you installed on your PC before it started acting up, and then remove them to see if it helps.
If networking is what causing these random hiccups, you can try and reset the Winsock Catalog and see if that fixes the problem. Winsock is short for Windows Sockets API, which are the technical specifications that define how the operating system accesses network services.
To do so, open a Command Prompt terminal with administrator access, type the following commands and hit Enter after each one.
netsh winsock reset
netsh int ip reset reset.log hit
You should get a message saying that the Winsock Catalog has been successfully reset. Reboot your PC to see if this solves the random freezing issue on Windows 10.
Clean up temporary files
Windows, like other operating systems, likes to accumulate temporary files as it hums along. These can range from data that program installers leave behind or bits for the updates that you deploy on your system. Long story short, these temp files could be the reason behind the slowdown of your system.
No better way to confirm than by deleting them.
Press the Win + R keys at the same time to open up the Run dialog box, and type temp and hit Enter. This will invoke Windows Explorer with your Temp folder open, showing you all the temporary files that are residing on your computer.
Select all the files here and hit the Delete key to delete them.
This is no guarantee, but well worth a try.
If your Windows 10 random freezing issue persists, then you can also try out other fixes to see if the problem is resolved. But it is, nevertheless, a good idea to regularly clean up this temporary folder in the OS of the junk that accumulates here during regular use.
Update graphics and video drivers
Windows 10 is an absolute beast when it comes to playing nicely with old hardware. Drivers written for devices and peripherals made decades back still work on the operating system. While this is excellent, it definitely has the potential to cause problems.
That said, if you have upgraded and your old drivers were carried over from the previous install of the OS, then they may start giving you trouble down the road.
In fact, old and outdated drivers are one of the leading causes of freezing and stuttering issues in Windows 10. If you are rocking old firmware, it truly is time to update. You can do so via Device Manager, or install a driver manager, or visit and update directly from the manufacturer’s site.
Pay special attention to the drivers for your display adapters. There have been widespread reports of issues with these on several versions of Windows 10 — no matter whether your GPU has an NVIDIA, AMD or Intel logo on it.
Advanced solutions for Windows 10 freezes
If these general methods and basic fixes are not helping, then it is time to try a few of the advanced solutions listed here in this part. Some of the fixes listed below may be a bit on the complicated side for some users, so proceed with caution if you are an absolute novice.
Here are some advanced solutions you can try:
Increase your virtual memory
The first thing to try. If you are using an older computer from a few years back, then chances are that its hardware is struggling to keep up with modern software demands. It so often happens that high CPU usage results in a system freezing randomly, and this is the first thing that you should try.
Virtual memory is basically an extension of the physical memory that is available on your PC. Think of this as a combination of your RAM and a portion of your hard drive. Windows will dip into virtual memory when it performs an intensive task and your computer runs out of RAM. The only difference is that virtual memory is much slower than regular RAM, and this may be the reason for freezes.
Increasing the virtual memory of your system is simple, just a few steps involved.
Open Control Panel by searching for it in the search box, go to System, and then choose Advanced system settings from the links on the left. Once the System Properties panel opens up, go to the Advanced tab.
Here, in the Performance section click on the Settings button. Go to Advanced again, and you will see the Virtual memory section that lists the total paging size for all drives.
Click on Change, uncheck the Automatically manage paging file size for all drives and manually enter a custom size in the boxes below. It is a good idea to increase it to a big enough capacity, depending on how much storage space you have available on your system.
Values here vary, depending on the hardware configuration of your computer. But don’t go too low or too high when specifying the value. A good upper limit is twice the size of your RAM, though some suggest only going as high as 1.5.
In other words, if your system RAM is 4GB, you should have no more than 6GB of virtual memory.
Experiment a bit here by going with a large number and seeing how things work. Restart your system to see whether things are back to normal or not.
Check your memory
Although not very common, your memory modules may develop faults that may be interfering with the stability of your system. There are third-party programs that can help you scan and test your memory, but Windows itself includes a fairly powerful memory diagnostic tool.
Search for Windows Memory Diagnostic in Windows, and then let the utility do its routine.
Windows will restart to check for possible RAM errors, and if found it will display the possible reasons for your freezing issues. If you pass all the tests, then you can be safe in knowing that your memory is working correctly. If it finds corruption, then it means Windows 10 is freezing because of bad memory.
You will need to replace your RAM if bad memory sectors are discovered.
Check system files
System files sure did drive people crazy, back in the old days of DOS. Windows, luckily, keeps proper tabs on these required files. It even comes with a checker that confirms the integrity of the system files on your computer.
Windows 10 random freezing issues are sometimes attributed to corrupt or missing system files. If that is the case, you can resolve them by recovering the original system files with the included scanner.
To get started, open Command Prompt by typing cmd in the Run dialog.
Then type the
sfc /scannow command in the terminal window and hit the Enter key.
Windows will now scan your computer for any corrupt files and fix them automatically. This process may take a little time, so leave this window open until the operation finishes. You will be shown the results of the scan at the end.
If the scan finds no problems, you know that your system files are not the cause. If you see some trouble, and the scanner has fixed it, then restart your PC and confirm whether the random freezing issue is gone.
Run a disk check
If you have come this far, why not check your hard drive for any errors and confirm whether or not it is at fault. Don’t worry, you don’t need to download and install any fancy programs here, as Windows has a tool built-in for this job.
First, close all your programs and open files.
Then fire up File Explorer, and locate the hard drive you want to check.
Right-click on it and then choose Properties. Go to the Tools tab, and click on the Check button, the one with the fancy little shield icon. The process will take a few minutes to complete, depending on the make and model of your hard drive, and whether it is a traditional one or an SSD.
If your hard drive is free of problems, you will see a message confirming it. This suggests that your hard disk is not the problem, and you can move onto the next fix.
On the other hand, if you do see errors, then it is very much a possibility that they are causing Windows to freeze and shut down. In this case, considering upgrading your hard disk as soon as possible. It may have developed bad sectors or other hardware problems. Plus, you also definitely run the risk of losing your data that is stored on it, anytime, without any warning.
Do a clean boot
Not to be confused with safe mode, a clean boot is a neat way to find out where the freezing problem lies. It essentially stops and disables all non-Microsoft services and programs that may interfere with the routine operations of your computer.
It so happens that third-party software can conflict with your system, and your PC may not shut down completely. A clean boot lets you diagnose what the issue is, step-by-step. Windows is started with a minimal set of drivers and programs, and you can then much more easily target the problem.
There are a couple of steps involved to perform a clean boot in Windows 10.
Open the Run dialog, enter msconfig, and click OK.
Under the General tab of the System Configuration panel, make sure that the Selective startup option is checked. Also, uncheck the Load startup items here.
Now select the Service tab up top, and check the Hide all Microsoft services option below. Next step is to click the Disable all button to disable all the unnecessary services that may be causing the conflict on your system.
Finally, on the Startup tab, click the Open Task Manager option. Inside the Startup tab of the Task Manager disable all the startup items that are enabled.
Click OK, and then restart your system.
Proceed with the troubleshooting after your PC does a clean boot, and find out what is causing the compatibility issues. When you have determined which startup item or service is the culprit, contact the program manufacturer or pay a visit to their forum and look for a solution.
To boot your computer again with normal startup, simply select Normal startup in the System Configuration panel, like before.
Disable C-States in BIOS
Time for something a tad more advanced. C-States is short for the CPU States. Without getting too technical, think of them basically as power saving options built into your processor to turn down system voltage and multipliers. This is what allows your computer to use as little power as possible when it is idle.
And these may be the culprits here.
Disabling C-States is essentially turning off the power saving options on a hardware level. This makes your computer more stable and diminishes the chances of unexpected problems and unforeseen issues like random freeze-ups or regular restarts.
This process may be a little technical for some, as you will need to take a trip to your BIOS to tinker with these settings. BIOS is, of course, the Basic Input/Output System — firmware that performs the hardware initialization when your system powers on. It has been replaced by UEFI on newer computers, which stands for Unified Extensible Firmware Interface, so how you approach this depends on what you actually have.
For systems that use a BIOS, you will have to restart your computer and press the Setup key that is defined by your manufacturer. It is almost always listed on the logo screen, and different PC makers use different keys. Usually, it is F1, F2, F8, F12, Esc, Del, or a combination of these.
The press which you see listed, but be quick!
If you are not fast enough, then the logo will disappear before you are able to hit the Setup key. In that case, wait for Windows to load up, then restart your computer to try again.
Once you are in the BIOS, use the arrow keys on your keyboard to navigate around. The main menu usually lists a tab that goes by the name of Advanced, which houses the CPU Configuration option. Go there, and then look for C1E Function and Intel(R) C-STATE Tech.
Both these options should be disabled, so use up and down, or left or right, on your keyboard to change the values. After changing these settings, save and exit the BIOS as per the instructions on your screen. Then restart your computer again.
Users with UEFI will have to take a different route.
Search for Settings, then go to Update & Security, and finally Recovery.
Here, find the Advanced startup option and click the Restart now button to initiate proceedings. You will see a menu that prompts you to choose an option. Pick Troubleshoot, then Advanced options, and then select the UEFI Firmware Settings tile to get into BIOS.
When all else fails
If none of these steps outlined above helps fix the issue, and you are sure hardware is not the cause, then the nuclear option is the only one that remains on the table. Save all your files, data and settings, and then do a clean install, using the newest version of Windows 10.
Once installed, deploy the latest drivers and firmware, and then hope for the best. Your system will be fresh as new, and hopefully, free of this pesky problem.
Fixing the random freezing issue on Windows 10 is, more or less, a case of trial and error. There is no one fix that fits all scenarios. You just have to tick one box after another until you isolate the problem, then look for a solution.
There are so many variables involved that finding a fix may take a better part of your day. But it will be worth it, as long as you fix it.
Shawn is a WindowsChimp Staff writer, who is a fan of making lists and does the same on this site. He has a Contemporary Writing degree and been in technology niche since last 3 years.