What to do if your computer is stuck

It feels like your computer only freezes in the middle of the most important tasks, doesn’t it? If your computer has slowed to a near-crawl—or become unresponsive entirely—here’s how to recover from the problem, and prevent it from happening in the future.

Give It a Minute to Catch Up

If you’re performing a particularly CPU-intensive task, sometimes things will hang for a moment, making you think your laptop is permanently frozen even if it’s not. If it seems like your computer has completely locked up, give it a few minutes to catch up and finish what it’s doing.

You’d be surprised how many times this actually works, especially if it’s a random occurrence (and not a chronic problem). Similarly, make sure your mouse is working properly—it could be that your mouse just got disconnected or ran out of batteries, which can give the illusion of your computer freezing.

Kill the Offending Program

windows task manager

If Windows doesn’t recover (or it starts freezing again after it recovers), it’s time to break out old faithful: Ctrl + Alt + Delete. Strike this combo on your keyboard and choose the Task Manager option from the resulting screen to see a list of running programs. Mac users can use Command + Option + Escape to open a similar menu.

If any of them are not responding, select them and click the End Task button. If you’re dealing with an isolated incident, that should be all you need. Your OS should snap back to attention as soon as you’ve closed the program, and you can restart it to continue your work.

If your computer always seems to freeze when that program is running, though, you may need to uninstall it and find an alternative. If the program is so intensive that it’s running out of resources, you may even need to upgrade your hardware.

Check Your Browser’s Task Manager

chrome task manager

Sometimes, your computer is running fine, but your browser gets stuck on a certain page. And when so much of what we do on computers is confined to the browser, this feels like your whole computer is freezing, when it might just be the page you’re on. In those scenarios, Windows’ Task Manager might tell you your browser isn’t responding, but if you want more info on why, you have to dig deeper. 

In Chrome and Edge, press Shift + Esc to see the browser’s Task Manager. In Firefox, you can click the menu button and go to More Tools > Task Manager. This will show you the different processes running within your browser, potentially giving you some information on what page or extension might be frozen, or using lots of CPU and memory. 

You may also have a run-of-the-mill conflict with an extension—for example, I recently had issues with the Grammarly extension freezing Google Docs all the time—so try disabling any browser extensions to see if that solves the problem. Hopefully, the developers will issue a fix, as Grammarly seems to have done.

Reboot and Try Again

If you can’t even open the Task Manager, then your computer is truly locked up and the only way to get it moving again is a hard reset. Press and hold down on the power button until your computer turns off, then press the power button again to boot back up from scratch.

If you were working on something important when the freeze happened, you may be able to recover it, depending on the program and how it handles unsaved documents. For example, Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint auto-save backups as you work, and you can often recover them the next time you open the program. You can also navigate to File > Info > Manage Document(s) > Recover Unsaved Document.

Computer Programs Running Slow

It could be that the computer is infected by a virus or maybe, malware is running in the background slowing down the computer. Scan for malware and virus and if found, remove them immediately. Make sure you always have an updated antivirus on your computer.

Your computer could be running low on Hard Drive space. Try to delete unwanted files or programs which are not used anymore. Utilize the Disk cleanup option in the control panel for the same result.