How to Exit Frozen Programs

Tips and tricks on how to exit frozen programs, reboot Windows and prevent lock-ups.
Published: Jan 14, 2006
Author: Michael E, Callahan

This question submitted by Don Voss, Adam Foxgrove, Diana Howes, Sue Brown, Joseph Watson and numerous others

In the course of using a computer there will be times when a program will lock up. Some will say a program is "frozen" and that's a good way to put it because the program isn't moving. Often one frozen program will cause others to freeze up until your entire PC is frozen.

It's been my observation that program freeze-ups were more frequent, at least for me, under earlier versions of Windows. In evaluating over 200 programs a week I'm installing, running and uninstalling many programs every day. I found that under Windows 98 I was generally having to reboot about 12 times a day. Under Windows XP Professional, by comparison, I sometimes don't have to reboot at all in any given day. Windows has become more stable. Even so, every now and then you're going to have a program lock up on you.

The first thing to do is to press the key sequence:


Hold down the CONTROL key while holding down the ALT key, and then press the DELETE key. What you should see is the Windows Task Manager. Under Windows XP the Task Manager has several tabs, but it defaults to the Applications tab. You'll see a list of running programs there. The program that's locked up will probably have "Not Responding" next to it. Click on the End Task button and a window will come up asking you to confirm that you want to end this task. If the frozen program closes you should be good to go about your business.

There are times when you will not be able to unfreeze your computer. It will be totally and hopelessly locked up. If you cannot shut down Windows correctly, then sometimes the only thing you can do is shut down the computer. Most newer computers are set up so that if you hold the power button for 5 seconds the computer will shut down. If you have to do this, remember to leave the computer off for at least 10 to 20 seconds. Then turn it back on.

In working with computers for over 25 years, I've come to notice patterns in how they work. What causes problems and what resolves problems. I've come up with a rule that I preach to my entire family. Now, I'll share that rule with you. If your computer is acting strangely, if your printer is failing to print, if your programs seem sluggish, if your Palm device won't hotsync, here is the rule to remember:

"When in doubt, REBOOT!"

It's been my experience that in about 90% of common computer software problems that if you reboot the computer the problem will be resolved. Why? Because your computer is an electronic device. You're loading and unloading things from memory, writing things to disk, transmitting things by modem and lots more. It's my opinion that the reason that rebooting works so much of the time is simply because the computer need a fresh start.

A few things that can help you to have fewer frozen programs and some helpful hints to remember:

  • Have more RAM in your computer
  • Defragment your hard drive regularly
  • Run anti-virus software
  • Run software that checks for spyware and adware
  • Reboot your computer once a day, even if you don't have to
  • Don't try running more programs if one is frozen, clear the problem first
  • Whenever possible, shutdown Windows correctly
  • When absolutely necessary power off the computer
  • If you power off the computer, leave it off for at least 10 seconds
  • And, if your computer is acting strangely and you don't know what's wrong, remember the rule - "When in doubt, Reboot!"

Having programs freeze or lock up is just a natural part of the computing experience. You can, however, minimize lock-ups by taking care of your computer, having more RAM and exiting correctly when you can.

I'd like to thank Don Voss, Adam Foxgrove, Diana Howes, Sue Brown, Joseph Watson and numerous others for asking this question.

If you have a question on how to do something on the computer you can submit it via e-mail by clicking HERE. You will not receive a reply, but all topics will be considered.

About Michael E, Callahan

Michael E. Callahan, known around the world by the trademarked name Dr. File Finder, is regarded as the world's leading expert on shareware. Dr. File Finder works with software programs and developers full-time, and in the average year he evaluates 10,000 programs. Since 1982 he has evaluated over 250,000 software and hardware products. Mr. Callahan began evaluating software online in 1982 and no one has been at it longer. He currently works doing online PR and marketing for software companies, and is the Senior Content Producer for Butterscotch.Com.

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