Having your computer freezing on startup is just about one of the worst possible scenarios you can deal with. This is because it dramatically reduces your ability to troubleshoot properly. Since the system will not finish loading, it cuts you off from the Windows environment and all the tools you can access from it.
Thankfully, not all is lost. There are many steps and techniques still available at your disposal. It takes time, patience and sometimes plenty of mental endurance, but if you persevere, you may just bring your system back to life.
The Recovery Disk
For obvious reasons, the first thing you should try is the restore disk for your operating system. When we have a Windows 7 computer freezing on startup, it can be due to corrupted registry files, load sequences or bad drivers.
The recovery disk is essentially an older backup you made of all the startup files Windows needs to boot up. It includes your drivers, load sequences, startup programs and settings. If you ask yourself, ‘why is my computer freezing on startup ’, chances are that it is due to one of these issues.
The only problem with a recovery disk is that you have to make one yourself, as a preventive measure, before your computer actually crashes. Consequently, not all computer users have one.
The Windows Installation Disk
If you don’t have a recovery disk, you can still try to troubleshoot the issue by trying your Windows setup CD. While not as targeted or efficient for this specific problem as the recovery disk, it will let you use commands and tools to resolve the issue.
However, you must make certain you tell this CD that you do not want to install or reinstall windows. Doing so may result in your hard drive getting formatted, and therefore, making you lose all of your data. You must make certain you cancel any attempts the CD makes at installing Windows, choosing instead to troubleshoot the system.
This will make the CD load a full-screen command prompt, where we can try a few commands to check for problems in your system. These are some of the main commands you need to know:
scandisk c: /autofix
In some cases, the reason your computer is freezing during startup can be attributed to errors in the file system. Maybe one of the main windows files has errors, or the hard drive is not properly reading the folder trees. This command is loading up the Scan Disk program, a way to check your drives for errors. In this particular command, we are telling it to scan the ‘c:’ drive, which is the main hard drive in your computer and the storage unit that Windows is installed in. The /autofix variable is telling the program to automatically try to resolve any problems it finds.
Optionally, if you suspect there may be damaged sectors in your hard drive, you can add the variable /surface to make Scan Disk also check for surface errors. But beware; this option usually takes a very long time to complete.
Sometimes hard drives get cluttered and files get fragmented. This means that there are bits and pieces of files split across several sectors of the hard drive, instead of all of them being together. This is akin to owning a 500 piece puzzle and having the pieces spread all over your house.
As you can imagine, this can cause serious issues, and this command will tell your computer to track down all fragmented files in your c: drive and attempt to stitch them together in neater packages. Additionally, if there are damaged sectors in your hard drive, it will also attempt to move your files to healthy ones.
backup c:*.* X:backup
Sometimes, things either don’t turn out the way you want them to, or you want to have a full backup of your system as a failsafe. If you own an external hard drive or some other massive storage device, getting a backup of you files should be your first priority, regardless of you eventually resolving the issue or not.
This command requests your computer to backup every file in the c: drive (the ‘*.*’ acts as a wild card), and copy it to another drive of your choice. For this example, we are using X:backup, where ‘X’ is the drive letter for your USB storage or DVD burner, and ‘backup’ means the program will try to make a new folder on your removable storage called ‘backup’.
Safe Mode Solutions For Computer Freezing On Startup
Sometimes, when we have a computer freezing during startup the problem does not lie with the hard drive or the core Windows files. In many cases it can also be due to additional drivers and components getting damaged or corrupted, and starting your system in safe mode can offer a way to troubleshoot and identify these issues.
To load Windows in safe mode, continuously press the F8 key on your keyboard as your computer turns on. Eventually, you will notice a screen prompting you for a mode to start Windows in. Use the arrow keys to highlight ‘Safe Mode’ and then hit Enter.
If Windows also fails to load under Safe Mode, unfortunately you will have to stick with the previous steps. But on the other hand, if it does successfully load and you can see the Safe Mode screen, congratulations! This means the core Windows files are working and the problem is indeed being caused by a driver or some other additional component.
In safe mode, we have several tools at our disposal:
System Configuration Utility
When we have a computer freezing at startup when it was working perfectly fine before, often the problem can be traced to a recently installed or updated program. This configuration utility can help us determine if any of them could be the culprit.
Click on Start > Run, or on Windows Vista and 7, click on the small text bar right above the Start button. On the box, type ‘msconfig’ and hit the enter key and this will load the System Configuration Utility.
On this screen, go to the tab labeled ‘Startup’. This is a long list of all the additional programs that are loaded unto the memory when Windows boots up normally. Anything checked is something that is enabled. Since we want to determine if any of these programs are causing issues, first write down all the ones that have checkmarks next to them, and then uncheck everything. Now that you disabled them all, click on OK and restart the computer.
If Windows can start under normal mode without freezing, it means one of those programs was indeed causing the problem. If that is the case, re-enable one of them and restart. Continue re-enabling startup programs one by one until you find the one causing issues, and once you do, you can either reinstall it or remove it permanently.
Virus and Spyware Check
It goes without saying that the problem can very well be caused by an infected system. If you suspect anything of the sort, then you can use Safe Mode to run system scans using whatever antivirus or anti spyware software you have installed.
If you need to update it or download a new one (some protection programs will not work properly under Safe Mode), you can also start Safe Mode in ‘Networking’ mode, which gives you the option of using your internet connection while you troubleshoot your computer.
On occasion, drivers either get corrupted or your system may mistakenly update them with the wrong version. For instance, if your graphics card gets updated with the wrong drivers, chances are you will only see a black screen when Windows tries to boot up. Fortunately, there is a quick an easy way to check for any driver-related issues.
Once in Safe Mode, click on Programs > Control Panel > System > Device Manager. Under older systems, the Device Manager link will be under the ‘Hardware’ tab in the System screen.
In the Device Manager screen, first go to the menu at the top and click on View > Show Hidden Devices. Then, look at the list of devices below. Anything with a yellow exclamation icon, or a red warning one, indicates a driver that is either not working properly or experiencing conflict issues.
If you spot any problems right-click the offending driver and select ‘Uninstall’; but first take note of what that driver is. Write down the name of the driver and what category it belongs to, and make sure you got your original manufacturer driver CD’s at hand. After uninstalling the driver, restart the computer on normal mode.
If Windows does load and prompts to install a missing driver (or automatically reinstalls it), then we can safely assume that was the problem all along.
Many other things can go wrong with your startup sequence, and a lot of it is located in your system registry. Sometimes, when Windows is unable to load it will automatically give you the option to restore a previous registry configuration, but when the problem is a computer freezing at startup, that message may not even show up at all.
When loading the system in Safe Mode, we can use many third party programs that will scan the system registry for any problems and issues. Scans can take quite a while, but registry cleaners are usually really good at fixing any issues they come across.
The Worst Case Scenario
Sad as it may be, sometimes your PC will not come back to life no matter what you do. In these cases, the problem is usually with the hardware itself. A computer freezing on startup may have a failing memory chipset, a busted hard drive, a dead processor or a burnt graphics card.
In these cases, your only recourse is to bring your computer to the manufacturer or a trained technician in order to replace the defective parts.
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