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Windows XP system just randomly freezes, what?s causing this?

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / November 21, 2008 5:59 AM PST

I have a question: Why does my laptop suddenly stop? I have a Dell Inspiron 1501 running Windows XP with 2GB ram memory and 80GB hard disc and 40 percent free space. Without notice, while running programs or simply surfing the Internet, it sometimes just stops, it doesn?t turn off, it just freezes and becomes motionless, and there is no way I can do any thing until I manually turn it off. I have McAfee virus scan installed and PC Tools, and they both tell me the computer is free of viruses. What can I do? Is my hard drive too small? Should I buy an external hard drive? What could it be? Please help me with down to earth English. Thank you in advance!

--Submitted by Jose A.

Here are some featured member answers to get you started, but
please read up on all the advice and suggestions that our
members have contributed to this member's question.

Windows XP randomly freezes or locks up --Submitted by waytron

Windows XP freezing --Submitted by darrenforster99

Chances are you have hardware failure --Submitted by caskater4

Dell has some online resources that might help --Submitted by rlessmue

When XP randomly freezes --Submitted by giaimo13

If you have any additional advice for Jose and some recommendation on things he can do to remedy this issue, please click on the reply link and submit your answer. Please be detailed as possible when submitting your answer. Thanks!
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Laptop Freeze up
by jconle / November 21, 2008 10:28 AM PST

I've had a similiar problem with Norton Internet Security and PCTools.
I found that PCTools has a slight problem working and playing
together with others.My symptom was the computer would reboot and then say Windows has recovered from a serious error.By disabling PCTools I avoided the problem and I've reported it to PCTools who have elevated it to the engineering level. In the meantime I suggest that you disable PCTools and launch it manually when you need it.

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PC reboots randomly
by stahu / December 8, 2008 3:38 AM PST
In reply to: Laptop Freeze up

I have an HP desktop PC that reboots randomly also, with the same message and I don't have EITHER of those programs on it! So I don't think it's the fault of those programs! It's got to be something else, but I don't know what.

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Laptop Freeze up
by Roger Panning / December 8, 2008 7:55 AM PST
In reply to: Laptop Freeze up

I have a HP Laptop Pavillion with WIN XP SVCPK3. It goes blue screen and dumps physical memory randomly. I reboot it, it works for a short time then goes blue again. I've emailed HP and Microsoft on this problem and their expedient reply is "go get it fixed by an authorized repair facility". In frustration, I was forced to re-load the operating system from scratch as I had no files or documents that I needed to save and the restore point didn't work. I couldn't do that either. HELP!

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it may help you
by shubhransu / December 8, 2008 9:25 PM PST
In reply to: Laptop Freeze up

try to restore your operating system yo the previous working day,This procedure may he;p you to fix this problem.

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It's windows
by awlbidnz / November 21, 2008 10:32 AM PST

Too may instructions, too few instructors. Windows knows no escape. It tries to process all things all the time but, it's not the ADHD software we all seem to need. It just can't do it all. Most times you have no idea all the things it's trying to do & I'm not certian it does either.

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ADHD software!
by darrenforster99 / November 22, 2008 8:09 AM PST
In reply to: It's windows

woah God help us if Windows had ADHD, we'd never get anything done. I have ADHD and I can just imagine what Windows would be like constantly switching from one task to the next, never starting or finishing anything properly. LOL!

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WIndows just freezes ... it might be a Windows process error
by ktomaras / December 6, 2008 1:39 PM PST
In reply to: It's windows

It could be that a process that Windows is running is causing the PC to hang untill the issue is resolved. That's the easy part, the hard part is finding which process is hanging the system. I had a similar problem on a desktop, by using task manager or Process Explorer ( I found my problem was inetinfo.exe. I killed the process and restarted it, for my problem this corrected the issue. To resolve your issue, some detective work will be required. Using the Processes tab on Task Manager gives you a simplified view of whats running, by using Process Explorer you get a much more detailed view. As mentioned before there could be some serious detective work involved(I've done this on an XP machine, never tried it on Vista...yet). Task Manager will NOT let you kill a process critical to Windows, where Process Explorer might, you can use both progs concurrently or Process Explorer can be set up to replace Task Manager(this switch IS reversible in Process Explorer). A basic understanding of Windows processes might be helpfull. If your unsure, check the Microsoft web site (kb pages, tech web, etc.) by doing a search to find out what the process does (copy the process name [usually ending in *.exe] into the MS site's search window. When the process is found, you can either kill it or restart it, depending on how critical it is to windows.

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Computer Freezes up/ utilities for the problem
by ptfitzy / December 7, 2008 1:06 AM PST

Also download these programs that are highly rated and are FREE.
They are "Advanced System Care" and "Glary Utilities".

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remove junk files and spyware
by generalgozz / November 21, 2008 10:40 AM PST

First try using a program called "C Cleaner" it helps by cleaning out junk files that are left behind by other applications and it helps clean up windows registry. Second, scan for spyware. Use a couple of different programs to do this. As some spyware removers are better in removing certain types of spyware. "Hijack This" is a very good program you can use to see what services and processes are running on your PC at any given time. Do a search to make sure you use it correctly. If you misuse "Hijack This" it can make your PC worse.

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could be an overheating problem
by scottl / November 21, 2008 10:41 AM PST

Check to make sure system fans are running hose the vents off with canned air the possible problem is bad ram down load mem test and run it on boot up it will exercise your memory and see if it throwing up under load

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by ReviewerScott / November 21, 2008 10:44 AM PST

It is Windows!!!
I am not being a smart a**.
OR it could be low memory resources.

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It very well is the McAffee program
by ReviewerScott / November 21, 2008 2:24 PM PST
In reply to: Because

I know for fact that the name brands or well known brands anti-virus programs are responsible for many a PC failures.
I took off symantec from my Powerbook (which doesn't need it anyway) and installed a free anti virus called ClamXav. This one you can set up to run lightly in the background per the folders you choose. I have been running it for over a two weeks and so far it's spot on. I only use it really to check my emails to make sure I don't pass it on to a PC recipient.
Could be driver issues.
How about sticking your Windows install disc into your tower and do a system restore ( be careful not to choose the reformat option) make sure to back up any important personal files at the very least since it sounds like you don't have any idea of when it freezes up.
Do all your necessary maintenance i.e. disk defrag, disk clean up etc.

Good luck.
Again like I said that is Windows for you. I am not an Apple fanboy but I just can't ignore 10+ years of PC nightmares versus 7 months trouble free Mac usage. Proprietary software and hardware has it's pros and cons.

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I knew it !!!
by JohnVand / December 6, 2008 3:30 AM PST

I figured if I read down far enough I'd find someone singing the praises of the "trouble-free" MAC !! Give us a break will you - if the MAC had to do half as much as the PC it would explode. You'd think a proprietary system would be perfect - NOT!!!

There's a reason why the MAC still hasn't broken the double digit mark in market share while the Windows PC holds a 90% share. The world plays on a MAC and works on a PC.

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by GEO2003 / December 9, 2008 5:35 AM PST
In reply to: I knew it !!!


The question posted to try and help Jose to solve his problem not for Mac fan boys to come here and tell that the Mac does not have problems.

Stick to the Question in helping.

Early adopters of Apple's latest MacBook Pros and MacBooks (shown here) are reporting glitches with the laptops.

(Credit: CNET)
Problems with Apple's newly redesigned MacBooks are being reported on Apple discussion boards and across the Internet.

The new notebooks, which have already run into problems with the trackpad, are said to have problems with video performance, third-party memory chips, and staying in sleep mode. It's always difficult to get a sense of how widespread such problems are from tracking message board posts--and every computer ever made has had problems--but the volume of such complaints regarding the new systems seems to be increasing.


And at the end what is it? Mac related issues with Hardware.

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freezing issues
by docqualizer / November 21, 2008 10:56 AM PST

You may want to consider purchasing a larger laptop hard drive. Once you start getting under 50% of capacity, you can have issues.
Also, I would go to or Dell's web site and make sure you have every current update for Windows and other products.

I would also download the following programs:

Hijack This
Spybot Search and Destroy

Once you download and install those programs, they should be able to tell you if you have spyware, malware, or other bad stuff on your PC.

McAfee is good for detecting viruses.

You should also consider purchasing Diskkeeper for your PC, It is a great product for keeping your PC and defragmented as possible.

The only product out of these 4 you would have to pay for is Diskeeper.

Good luck

Lou Lange
Manchester, CT

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Freezing issues
by btdeines / December 5, 2008 10:59 AM PST
In reply to: freezing issues

Why down load more program's. That's not alway a solition but a contributing factor to more headaches. The best thing I did was get rid of Mcfee and norton. Spybot never catches what you want it to. Panda internet security has been the best by far for catching all those nasty spyware, troj, and viruses for me. Spyware can really slow a system down and freeze it up. All the microsoft updates can cause alot of problems also. They want you to keep up to date but boy howdy some of them are NIGHTMARES!

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Free drive space
by tekyle2000 / December 6, 2008 8:16 AM PST
In reply to: freezing issues

So you're saying if my 1TB drive goes below 400GB free space I'll have problems? Rubbish...

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Under 50% free space causes problems???
by Alain Martel1 / December 9, 2008 2:49 AM PST
In reply to: freezing issues

...Get real!

For years, on several computers, I routinely have drives with less than 20% free space, sometimes as low as 5 to 2% free space and it never caused me any problem at all.
The only isue with filled up drives, is a slowdown when accessing SOME files, and the fact that some defragmenters can't work with less than 15% free space, like the one that comes with Windows.

Anytime you have more than 20% free space, disk clutter is NOT the cause of your problems.

In my experience, McAfee is not so great. I used to use it. Then, after some very serious performence degradation and false positives, not resolved by uninstalling, reinsytalling, I switched to another. I then found that it missed a few nasties. A friend had worst experience with Norton AV, that missed about 15 virus. I now use a free AV.

I don't recommend "hijack this" to a novice user. It's very powerfull, and usualy TO powerfull for a great many.

I agree that Diskkeeper is a marvelous application. I've been using it for the last 7 years. One of the best defragmenter you can get. It CAN defragment a drive with only 1% free space, it will only take more time for the job to finish. The only one that could beat it was Norton SpeedDisk for DOS of the late 80' end early 90's that only needed 1 free cluster...

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My computer just freezes
by Watzman / November 21, 2008 10:57 AM PST

This is a VERY difficult problem to diagnose because so many things can cause it. Usually, you do this by elimination, but it's even more difficult in a laptop because you can't substitute "known good" parts when dealing with a laptop.

First thing: Download Memtest or Memtest86 (memory diagnostics) and run them. This is easy to do and quick and is a good candidate for a possible cause. You want to run quite a few passes (may take hours or even overnight). You MUST get ZERO errors. If memtest freezes up, then you KNOW it's a hardware problem and not a software problem (that is not an insignificant point). Other than new memory, almost all other hardware problems will have to involve the manufacturer or MAJOR new parts (e.g. motherboard).

If that passes (or even if it fails) ... CPU overheating is a common problem in laptops. The cooling systems clog up with dust, hair, etc. These can be cleaned but the procedure varies by model (this happens on desktops also but it's more obvious and easier to deal with). Disassembly of the laptop may be required to do a complete cleaning, but a "good enough" job MAY be possible without disassembly. The primary tool is a can of compressed air.

On a desktop, the power supply would be my next suspect, but on a laptop the supply in question (which is NOT the AC adapter) is part of the motherboard.

At this point, especially on a laptop, the HARDWARE options begin to point to the motherboard. This is, however, usually impossible to deal with if the laptop is out of warranty (it will often cost as much as a new laptop).

That leaves the software causes, of which there are many. The only practical way to attack software causes is to wipe the hard drive and reinstall windows. That is an involved and difficult process, and I actually suggest that you do this on a different hard drive (if necessary, consider buying a small (possibly used) hard drive cheap to do this on). If the new installation doesn't freeze, you can presume that it's a software issue.

Barry Watzman

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An addition to my above post
by Watzman / November 21, 2008 11:03 AM PST

Two other comments:

1. Is the computer REALLY locked up? Does control-Alt-Delete work? Does the caps lock key LIGHT go on and off when you press the caps lock key? If either of these works, the computer is not REALLY locked up and it's almost certainly a software problem (fix: reinstall Windows). BUT ...

2. People are too quick to assume it's a software problem, when, often, it IS a hardware problem.

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computer freezes
by gopinathradhakrishnan / December 7, 2008 1:16 PM PST

click start, click run type prefetch, select all and then delete all the files,click start, click run type temp, select all and then delete all the files,click start, click run type % temp%, select all and then delete all the files,click start, click run type msconfig, under startup tab, select disable all and then restart the computer, that would do, if still is the problem, run the memory test, or else simply, reseat the hdd data and power cables, and reseat the memory, possible clean with a soft cloth, donot use canned air, or any liquid cleaner, click start->allprograms->accessories->system tools->system restore, and restore the computer to an earlier date,say to some date in the early november, with 2 gb ram and winxp, the computer would work fine, being a dell technician i would recommend these, also possible run ccleaner, note down which application mostly causes the system to freeze, note down when it actually happens and post the same, open task manager and under process tab find which application is taking up too much memory and then post the same, if you have doubts on how to do the above procedures, visit

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dell technician here to help
by gopinathradhakrishnan / December 7, 2008 1:26 PM PST
In reply to: computer freezes

sometimes this mightbe a hardware issue, so what i would suggest, turn off the computer and when you turn on your laptop press and hold the fn key on the keyboard and turn on the computer using the power button, you would see a diagnostics test menu, wherein you should run the quick test on the hardware, if any issues with the hard ware then you can easily identify which is causing this issue, ,, for desktop restart the computer and on dell logo, keep tappping the f12 key and get into boot to utility partition and then run the quick test to check your hardware functionality, if you guys find any error message post the same, help would come for sure!!!!

good luck

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Hard Drive test unsuccessful
by sales_guy / March 16, 2011 11:20 PM PDT

I realize you posted this a long time ago, but i found your suggestions and ran a diagnostic test on my laptop. It came back with Error Cod 0142, Hard Drive 0 test unsuccessful. Status 79. Any help and can give me?

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Re: error code
by Kees_B Forum moderator / March 16, 2011 11:36 PM PDT

The only place to lookup the meaning of that error code and status is the manual of the disk, the documentation of the test program or the help of the test program.
As we have none of the three at hand, we can't tell you.

But I would start with replacing the hard disk and see if that helps.


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Obvious answer not so obvious
by Dale E Marcum / November 21, 2008 11:01 AM PST

Try using a usb cooler under your 1501. I had a 1501 do the same thing and found it was getting too warm. Hope this helps.

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Check the vents
by papa_bear / November 21, 2008 11:03 AM PST

Often dust clogs up the tiny ventilation ports on computers overheating the system and causing it to freeze.

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Some possible solutions...
by PJWomble / November 21, 2008 11:04 AM PST

It may be a device driver problem: try starting your system in safe mode (press F8 while booting and choose "safe mode" from the boot menu), with just the minimal set of drivers loaded. If you can run the system for a decent length of time in safe mode, try rebooting back into normal mode and disabling your device drivers from "My Computer" properties, one by one, until you find any driver that's causing the problem. Don't forget to re-enable the drivers which *weren't* causing the problem, afterwards!

If this doesn't help, then check the Windows Task Manager (press CTRL-ALT-DEL together, once) and select the "Processes" tab to see if there's something running in the background which is using a lot of your processor power (more than [roughly] 80% of processor is usually a problem if it's doing it for a long time). If so, right-click on it and choose "end process" to kill the offending program.

Also, you can check the programs which are running at startup by choosing "Run" from the start menu and then typing "msconfig" in the box which appears. Go to the "startup" tab and then scroll through the list of programs which are loaded at startup. If there are any which you don't recognise, then try searching for them by Googling the name of the program file. If you find anything which isn't necessary, then disable it.

One more thing which may cause problems is conflicts between programs, eg having 2 lots of antivirus software running simultaneously, or a firewall that doesn't agree with your antivirus. You can try turning off your security software to see if this helps, but always make sure you have scanned your computer for viruses before switching the antivirus program off, AND *ALWAYS* MAKE SURE YOU ARE NOT CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET IF YOU HAVE YOUR FIREWALL OR ANTIVIRUS SOFTWARE SWITCHED OFF!!!

Hope this is of help.

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Dell laptop stps
by harry2494 / November 21, 2008 11:08 AM PST

You need to have yor laptop cleaned out It is over heating

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Freezes, Hangs, and Tilts on Your PC or Laptop
by galvang / November 21, 2008 11:15 AM PST

Depending on the industry you are in, different terminology can be used for the same phenomenon; Your screen freezes up. This is not an easy answer. Most of time it's poor quality from the PC manufacturer. I have dealt with these issues all of time. It could be from the following:

1. Hardware problem related to the CPU on how it executes certain instructions.
2. Software problem in the BIOS.
3. Heat related issue. Internals get too hot and the CPU begins to act flakey, system freezes.

For number 1 you can't really do anything about it. It's just poor quality from the chip manfacturer (Intel/AMD)that the PC manufacturer failed to Identify. Sometimes the CPU manufacturer ship substandard CPU chips to the PC manufacturer that contain errors where these freezes can occur.

For 2 check if your PC manufacturer has an update to the BIOS and see if you can reload the latest version. Most of the time it's just flashing the BIOS. Sometimes this can correct the problem.

For 3, heat. My Toshiba freezes when it doesn't get enough ventilation. So I purchased a little stand with a fan and my laptop not longer freezes. You can aquire these little built-in fan-stands at Best-Buy. Make sure your laptop gets plenty of ventiltion. Determine if there are any fans in the laptop and make sure they are not obstructed.

There could be other issues that could cause the freeze ups but the 3 above seems to be to be the most prevelant based on my experience. I have Windows Vista in my HP laptop and it never freezes. I don't think Vista is the cuprit unless you load it on to an old PC/laptop. Vista requires at leaast 2Gbytes of RAM memory.

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cheap computers freeze!
by LloydSchulz / December 5, 2008 3:44 PM PST

I totally agree!! I used to buy the cheap on sale computers, and they freeze. Since I now only buy high quality - no more freezes! An "off-lease" high quality PC is both cheaper and better than new "junk". I would decline an Inspiron as a gift...Dell's Lattitude line (designed for the 'business' user) is much better. I use mostly IBM, and only their higher end models, freezes are extremely rare. I have one running as ftp server that is over 10 years old. Replaced HD couple of years ago. I restart it every few months (if I remember) and it just runs. Lots of freezes when I used to buy clones etc, but none with good equip.

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