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Anatomy of a PC crash: 7 scenarios, and how to avoid them

Alex Cocilova | Jan. 23, 2013
First there's a little stutter. Next a program hangs, and a funny noise creeps from your machine. Then that familiar blue screen slaps you in the face. Your computer just crashed, and all you can do is sit in the awkward silence of a restart, and hope it wasn't fatal.

Fragmented hard drive

Your hard drive can become a bit more fragmentedand unstableevery time you save a file, install a program, or delete something. Not only does this slow down the hard drive, it can also give your OS trouble when trying to find necessary files to function. So your system will eventually give up and try againwith a crash.

Run the Disk Defragmenter in your System Tools every week or so to keep your files straightened out. The process is a pain in the butt while using the PC (you can't save data to the disk while it defragments) and it can take upwards of an entire day to complete. So set it and forget it before going to bed or work.

One very important note, however: Defragmenting isn't necessary for solid state drives. SSDs already store data in a sequential order (as opposed to random order) and can be susceptible to damage if defragmented.

A cluttered registry

Your PC's registry is a vast library of system settingssettings that can sometimes lead to blue screens and other instabilities. Indeed, even when programs are uninstalled, their registry settings can stay behind. The settings are useless to the daily operation of your PC, but can nonetheless lead to system bloat, conflict and errors. Your computer continues to scan these error-ridden registry entries, slowing everything down. Too much of this, and you can kiss stability goodbye.

A good registry cleaner, such as Free Wise, is the perfect tool for clearing away the clutter. Free Wise will scan your registry, find the problems and exterminate them, leaving your registry obstruction free.

The dreaded virus

Yes, malware is a significant cause of blue screens. But, luckily, the solution is simple. Start up your trusted antivirus program, make sure it's up to date, and give your system the most robust scan available.

If the virus has disabled your ability to start up your antivirus software, mutter angrily to yourself while you restart in safe mode by pressing F8 before the Windows logo appears. Safe mode will disable any extraneous programs and drivers from launching, and allows just the core operating system to load. Once in safe mode, you should be able to run your antivirus program, and complete a thorough scan from there.

Gather clues to fix the problem

Any information you can pull off a BSOD can provide a problem-solving clue. So when you get a blue screen like the one below, write down as much as you can, and search online for information on the error it's throwing at you. Diagnose the problem and get it solved, because ignoring the problem will make everything worse in the long run.

That's right: Every time the computer crashes and you don't fix it, you make Windows sad.


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