Troubleshoot Windows 8.1, Windows 8 or Windows 7 hangs or freezes

Applies to: Windows 8.1Windows 8.1 EnterpriseWindows 8.1 Pro More

Summary


At times you may find that your PC has become unresponsive. This article provides recommendations to help identify the potential causes for this behavior, and to help resolve this problem. If the methods in this article do not resolve the issue, perform a search to get more help from Microsoft Support or the Microsoft Community using a more specific description of your problem.

Resolution


The first step is to identify the category of issue you are facing. For the purposes of this article, we will define four categories of behavior for PCs that become unresponsive, as follows:

  • Hang -- Your PC becomes unresponsive whenever you do a specific set of steps, and you must restart to recover the PC.
  • Random Hang -- Your PC becomes unresponsive seemingly at random, and you must restart to recover the PC.
  • Generic Freeze -- Your PC becomes unresponsive for a period of time, and then becomes usable again without taking any action. You don't need to restart your PC for it to be usable again. This behavior seems to affect all apps.
  • Single-app Freeze -- Your PC exhibits the same behavior as a Generic Freeze, except that it only occurs when running a specific app, such as when playing a game or browsing websites.

Troubleshooting a Hang


Please review the sub-category below that most closely matches when your PC experiences a hang. If the guidance below does not address the issue, please use the guidance under Radom Hang for further recommendations.

At Startup

The most common causes for a hang at Startup are:

At Shutdown

Hangs during shutdown can result from faulty hardware, faulty drivers, or damaged Windows components. To resolve these issues:

  1. Check for updated firmware and drivers from your PC manufacturer. Install available updates.
  2. Install all recommended updates for Windows using Windows Update.
  3. Disconnect non-essential hardware, such as USB devices, to see if there is a change that could indicate a device issue.
  4. See if the issue also happens in Safe Mode. If not, the problem may be related to installed software. Uninstall software that you are no longer using.
  5. Scan for malware.

There are also times when you may see a message that something is preventing Windows from shutting down. For more information, see Turn off a computer: frequently asked questions

While installing Windows Updates

Please see the following article for guidance if your computer hangs while installing Windows Updates: 

2700567 Windows Update freezes when you install updates in Windows 8, Windows 7, or Windows Vista

Troubleshooting a Random Hang


Random hangs are often due to damage to the Windows configuration, faulty hardware, or malware. However, because this behavior is random, it can be especially difficult to identify the proper cause. Please review the steps below to help identify the cause and determine the next course of action:

Problems with the Windows configuration

If the system is hanging randomly, it could be caused by damaged system files, software compatibility, or damaged registry files. Try each of the following steps to check if the hang is caused by one of these possibilities.

Hardware Issues

If Chkdsk runs while starting Windows, it could be a sign of a hard disk failure. For more information, see the following Knowledge Base article:
2854570 Check disk (Chkdsk) runs when you start Windows 8 or Windows 7

Please note that Chkdsk can take a very long time to run. On large hard drives, it can even take a day or more.

If Chkdsk finds and fixes a problem, this may be a sign that the drive is failing. If so, you may continue to experience problems in the future. If problems are repeatedly found or can't be fixed, consider replacing the hard drive. Contact your PC manufacturer for assistance, if needed.

Random hangs can also be caused by other faulty hardware. Consult with your PC manufacturer to run available hardware diagnostics. This could include:

  • PC diagnostics that test the integrity of the core PC devices, such as the processor fans and cooling system
  • Video and display diagnostics
  • Additional hard drive diagnostics

If any of these diagnostic tests show a problem, follow up with your PC manufacturer.

Malware or Antivirus Software

Malicious software may also cause random hangs and other performance problems in Windows. See this article for information about finding and removing viruses: How do I find and remove a virus?

It is also recommended that you run one or more online detection tools from reputable antivirus software providers if you suspect a malware infection. One such example is the Microsoft Safety Scanner.

Antivirus software can sometimes contribute to performance problems in Windows. This is particularly common if your antivirus software is out of date, or if you are running more than one antivirus software on your PC at the same time. If you have multiple antivirus solutions installed, uninstall all but one. Check for and install updates for your antivirus software. For more information, see these articles:
How do I uninstall antivirus or antispyware programs?
What to do if your antivirus software stops working

Troubleshooting a Generic Freeze


A generic freeze is usually indicative of some type of performance problem due to bad hardware or problems with the way Windows is configured, including low memory or disk space. Please review the steps below to help identify the cause and determine the next course of action:

Problems with a hardware driver

You may see Windows freezing periodically if there is an issue with an important driver on your system. Display drivers, Bluetooth drivers, network drivers, and motherboard drivers can all contribute to temporary freezing of the system. 

Check the PC manufacturer site to be sure you have the latest firmware for your PC, and that you are running the latest available drivers for all the hardware on your system.

Install all recommended Windows Updates. This ensures that you are running the most improved version of Windows.  

Poor performance

A freeze could be part of a general performance problem that is causing a slow or lagging computer. If so, you may be able to help the problem by optimizing Windows for better performance. While performance troubleshooting is not covered within in the scope of this article, here are some links that provide more information on basic optimization:

Windows 7:
Fix Windows system performance problems on slow Windows computers
Optimize Windows for better performance
Open the performance troubleshooter

Windows 8:
Get Help: Performance & maintenance

Troubleshooting a Single-App Freeze


If your PC freezes temporarily when using a specific app, the cause is probably not with the underlying operating system, but rather there is a likely a conflict with the app that is freezing. You can try a variety of steps to resolve the issue, that vary depending on what kind of app is freezing:

Steps for all apps

Start by making sure that you've tried the steps listed for resolving a generic freeze: 

  • Check the PC manufacturer site to be sure you have the latest firmware for your PC, and that you are running the latest available drivers for all the hardware on your system.
  • Install all recommended Windows Updates.
  • Try optimizing Windows for better performance. (See the links provided in the section above for details.)

    If these steps do not resolve the problem, proceed with these additional steps, checking for resolution after each one:
  • Check for and install updates for the app.
  • See if the state of the Internet connection changes the behavior. If you can run the app without an Internet connection, try it while disconnected from the Internet. This will tell you if a slow Internet connection may be the cause.
  • Uninstall and reinstall the app to ensure the app files and configuration are not damaged.

Steps for Microsoft Store apps

If the freeze occurs with a Microsoft Store app, and none of the steps listed in "Troubleshooting steps for all apps" resolved your issue, try the guidance provided in this article: Troubleshoot problems with an app

Steps for desktop apps

If the freeze occurs with a desktop app, and none of the steps listed in "Troubleshooting steps for all apps" resolved your issue, try these additional steps: 

  • Check the app for compatibility with your version of Windows. If the app provider does not list your version of Windows as compatible with the app, you can try to enable compatibility settings for the app. For more information, see the following article: Make older programs run in this version of Windows
  • Some apps provide an option to repair the app within the Control Panel. Check if the problematic app offers such an option by opening the Control Panel, and then navigating to Programs, then Programs and Features. Tap or click on the problematic app from the list. If the app provides a Repair option, a Repair button will appear next to the Uninstall button. Click on Repair to repair to the app.
  • Try performing the clean boot troubleshooting steps listed in the following Knowledge Base article:
    929135 How to perform a clean boot in Windows
  • Test the app while signed in as a different user. If the app does not exhibit any problems while in a second user account, your user account may have a damaged configuration. Try performing the steps listed in this article: Fix a corrupted user profile 

Steps for Internet Explorer

If the freeze occurs within Internet Explorer, and none of the steps listed in "Troubleshooting steps for all apps" resolved your issue, try these additional steps:

  1. Test if Internet Explorer freezes on different websites. If the issue is with a specific website, the website may be contributing the problem.
  2. Try the steps listed in the following article. (Be sure to select your version of Internet Explorer using the dropdown in the upper right corner of the page): What to do when Internet Explorer isn't working