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Windows Vista Locks Up, Freezes, or a Blue Screen Error Opens

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This document applies to HP and Compaq Desktop PCs with Windows Vista.
This document helps you find and troubleshoot problems that cause your computer to hang, freeze, or lock up.
Symptoms in Windows Vista include:
  • Vista stops responding and nothing moves on the computer display.
  • When using Vista a blue screen error opens and you cannot continue.
  • The computer does not respond to input from the mouse or keyboard.
  • An error message opens but does not go away and cannot be closed.

Before you begin

Before troubleshooting, check the following items to find additional help for more specific lockup symptoms:
  • If the computer locks up at random times or shortly after the computer is turned on, a hardware component might be failing. If Windows still opens, test for hardware failure. Click Start , click Help and Support, click Troubleshooting tools, and then use Hardware diagnostic tools. Failing memory, processor or graphics card are usually caused by damage caused by heat and dust. For more information, see Reducing Heat inside the PC .
  • Having more than one virus scanning software programs installed causes lock-ups. Use the steps in this document to unlock the computer so that you can keep the virus scanner you want and uninstall all others.
  • If locks-ups occur when changing display resolutions, or when opening or playing a 3D video game, or when connecting a new monitor, use the section Step 1: Unlocking your computer to regain control of your computer. Once the computer can be used again, download and install the latest video driver. Lock-ups can occur when graphic drivers and hardware cannot handle certain display situations.
  • If lock-ups occur when using an external device, such as when printing or using a USB drive, use Step 1: Unlocking your computer to regain control of your computer. In addition, you should fully power down the printer or external device and unplug it from its power source for about 10 seconds. Restart the computer. Once the computer can be used again, search the Internet or visit the device manufacturer's support site to see if any fixes are known. For general help with USB devices that lock up, see Troubleshooting USB Connections in Windows Vista .
  • If the computer locks-up when coming out of a sleep or suspend mode, use the section Step 1: Unlocking your computer to regain control of your computer. Once the computer can be used again, adjust the power settings and update the BIOS to fix this problem. For more information, see Resolving Problems with Sleep Mode in Windows Vista .
  • If an error message opens with the lock-up, write the error message down exactly as it appears. Use the section Step 1: Unlocking your computer to regain control of your computer. Once the computer can be used again, try searching the Internet using exact text from the error message to find a solution.
  • For all other lock-ups or blue screens, continue to Step 1: Unlocking your computer.

Step 1: Unlocking your computer

Use the steps in this section to try and close the blue screen error or frozen software program:
  1. Before continuing, unplug all network cables from the back of the computer.
  2. Remove any discs from the CD/DVD drives by pressing the eject button on the computer.
    What happens?
    • If Windows becomes active again, a disc needs to be repaired, cleaned or replaced. Troubleshooting is completed.
    • If the lock up or blue screen error persists, continue troubleshooting using these steps.
  3. While holding down the Alt key on the keyboard, press the F4 key. This should forcibly close the software program.
    What happens?
    • If Windows becomes active again, the problem is related to a software program. Save your work and restart the computer. Remember the name of the software program that stopped responding or caused the error. Update or uninstall software programs that continue to lock up. Troubleshooting is completed.
    • If the lock up or blue screen error persists, continue troubleshooting using these steps.
  4. Press the CTRL+SHIFT+ESC keys, to open Task Manager.
    What happens?
  5. From the Applications tab of Task Manager, write down the names of the software programs that have stopped responding.
    Figure 1: Windows Task Manager showing a software program (A Website) that has stopped responding
    Task Manager Applications window
  6. Select the program that has stopped responding and click End Task.
  7. Continue clicking End Task for software programs that have stopped responding until all unresponsive software programs have been removed from the list.
    Select a window outside of Task Manager. What happens?
    • If Windows becomes active again, the problem is related to software. Save your work and restart the computer. Remember the name of the software programs that stopped responding. Update or uninstall software programs that continue to lock up. Troubleshooting is completed.
    • If the lock up persists, continue troubleshooting using these steps.
  8. Select the Processes tab in the Task Manager window.
  9. Select Show processes from all users.
  10. Look through the numbers listed in the CPU column. If 99 is listed in the CPU column next to any Image name other than System Idle Process, write down the image name.
  11. Look through the numbers listed in the Memory column. Look for numbers that continue to get larger. If you find a number is getting larger, watch the number for 10 seconds or more to ensure it does not decrease. Once you have determined that the number is continuing to get larger, write down the image name.
  12. Select an Image name that you wrote down and click End Process. Continue ending process for each task that is associated with the lock up.
    Select a window outside of Task Manager. What happens?
    • If Windows becomes active again, the problem is related to software. Save your work and restart the computer. Remember the Image names that stopped responding. Update or uninstall software programs that are associated with the Image names if Windows continues to lock up. Troubleshooting is completed.
    • If the lock up persists, continue to the next section.

Step 2: Using the last known good configuration

Starting your computer using the last known good configuration might allow Windows to open using the most recent settings that worked.
  1. Remove all CDs and DVDs from your computer, and then restart the computer.
  2. At the first screen, press the F8 key repeatedly every half of a second until a Windows Advanced Options menu displays.
  3. Press the Down Arrow key until Last Known Good Configuration is highlighted, and then press Enter.
    Windows Vista starts the computer using the last previous restore point. If Windows does not open, please continue to the next section.

Step 3: Using System Restore in Safe Mode

Use the following steps to go back to time before the lock-ups started occurring:
  1. Press and hold the power button on the computer until the computer shuts down (about 5 seconds).
  2. Turn on the computer.
  3. Press the F8 key repeatedly when the first screen appears.
  4. From the Windows Advanced Options Menu, select Safe Mode, and press ENTER.
    When the Windows desktop appears, Safe Mode is displayed in the four corners of the screen.
  5. Click Start All Programs, Accessories, System Tools, and then System Restore.
  6. Select Choose a different restore point, and click Next.
  7. Select a date and time from the list of restore points that matches a date and time before the lock-ups started to occur.
  8. Click Next.
  9. Click Finish in the "Confirm your restore point" window.
  10. The computer restarts automatically after the restoration completes.
After completing System Restore, the lock-ups should no longer continue. If lock-ups persist, continue to the next section.
NOTE:Lock ups may occur again if the lock-up is being caused by an automatic software update, such as software delivered through Windows Update or HP Update. If lock-ups occur again, continue to the next section, step 3, to uninstall the most recently downloaded software update. Turn off the automatic software tool (Windows Update, HP Update, or other) and get the latest updates directly from the manufacturer's support Web site.

Step 4: Uninstalling software associated with lock-ups

Use the following steps to uninstall additional virus scanning software that you do not need, older versions of a software program, and software updates that were installed when Windows starting locking up:
  1. Press and hold the power button on the computer until the computer shuts down (about 5 seconds).
  2. Turn on the computer.
  3. Press the F8 key repeatedly when the first screen appears.
  4. From the Windows Advanced Options Menu, select Safe Mode, and press ENTER.
    When the Windows desktop appears, Safe Mode is displayed in the four corners of the screen.
  5. Click Start , and then Control Panel.
  6. Double-click Programs and Features.
    CAUTION:Make sure you have the installation discs and installation keys for software programs that you want to keep.
  7. Select the software program that is causing the lock-ups and click Uninstall. View the date the software program was installed to help find software involved in the lock-up. If a software program was installed the same day the lock-ups started to occur, the software program might be contributing to the lock-up.
  8. Follow the instructions that appear to uninstall the software program.
  9. Continue uninstalling software in this manner until you have removed all of the software associated with the lock-ups.
  10. Restart the computer normally into Windows Vista.
  11. The lock-ups should no longer occur. If the computer continues to lock up, even after uninstalling suspect software programs and updates, continue to the next step.

Step 5: Finding more detailed information about the software problem

If software you want use is having consistent lock-up problems, consult the software manufacturer Web site. Chances are other people have reported the same problem and the manufacturer may have found a solution.
  1. Connect any network cables that were disconnected earlier.
    CAUTION:If there is now no anti-virus software open, you should not connect to the Internet until an antivirus software solution is applied.
  2. Follow the software manufacturer instructions on the Web site. If the problem still occurs, try the information in the Related support section below.
  3. If the software manufacturer Web site does not offer a solution, search The HP Web site (in English) for information about the software being used when the lock-up occurred. You can also try searching Microsoft’s knowledgebase (in English).

Step 6: Updating the BIOS

If lockups still occur, update the BIOS. HP releases BIOS updates that can resolve problems related to lockups. Go to your HP Customer Care Software & Driver Download page and look for a BIOS update. If a BIOS update is available download and install the update according to the instructions on the download page.
If a BIOS update is not available or does not resolve the lockups, go to the next Step.

Step 7: Recovering the computer

If the other steps in this document failed to resolve the issue, recover all software on the computer back to its original configuration using HP System Recovery. For more information, see Performing an HP System Recovery in Windows Vista

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