Computing

Is Your PC Acting Up? Here’s How to Solve the Issue

Whether you own a cutting-edge desktop computer or an older PC, problems can arise. Freezes, crashes, overheating, or even the dreaded Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) are common issues that PC users encounter. When faced with these problems, you may feel unsure about what to do.

The good news is that not every malfunction requires professional repair services (although some do). If you’re dissatisfied with your PC’s performance, our comprehensive troubleshooting guide might be the solution you need. However, if your computer won’t turn on at all, we have a separate guide for you.

Troubleshooting PC Issues

The HP Omen 40L gaming desktop with a monitor, mouse, and keyboard.
Image by Digital Trends

There are a few general steps that can be helpful in most scenarios. Let’s start with them. Freezes and performance drops can be caused by a sluggish system, a background process that didn’t shut down correctly, or having too many programs open simultaneously. In these instances, there are a few strategies to try out.

Restart the PC

“Have you tried turning it off and on again?” Surprisingly, this simple action can solve many issues. When your PC misbehaves, make it a habit to restart it.

Has your microphone stopped working? Are your frames per second (fps) dropping? Is your Task Manager unresponsive? Give restarting a try and see if it helps.

If your PC is completely frozen and you can’t restart it in the usual way, press and hold the power button until it turns off. Keep in mind that doing this won’t save any unsaved work, so be cautious of potential data loss.

Update Your Drivers

Screenshot of Windows 10 driver updates.
Image by Monica J. White / Digital Trends

When was the last time you updated your drivers? It’s easy to forget, but it’s important to keep them up to date.

If you’re using a modern PC with Windows 10 or Windows 11, your computer should automatically check for driver updates. While this automated process makes life easier, sometimes a driver slips through the cracks and remains outdated.

Start by checking Windows Update -> Optional Updates. Windows will show you a list of possible driver updates. Additionally, you may need to manually search for drivers from the manufacturers of specific components, such as the graphics card, chipset (motherboard), and audio drivers.

Avoid programs that claim to update your drivers for you. Some may be decent, but more often than not, they cause problems, either through faulty updates or malware.

In some cases, you may need to roll back or uninstall a driver and then reinstall it. To do this, type “Device Manager” into the Windows search bar, select the hardware you want to address (for example, the display adapter or graphics card), navigate to the Drivers tab, and either roll back or uninstall the driver. Keep in mind that these actions can have adverse effects, so be prepared to perform a clean driver install immediately.

Utilize the Task Manager

The Task Manager in Windows provides valuable insights into your PC’s performance, such as CPU, GPU, and RAM usage, as well as the running processes and applications. Sometimes, fixing your PC is as simple as terminating resource-heavy processes.

Access the Task Manager by pressing Ctrl + Alt + Delete on your keyboard. In the Processes tab, review all running processes and identify any marked as “Not Responding.” These should be the first to close. You can also sort the processes by CPU or Memory usage to determine which ones are consuming the most resources. Select the processes you want to shut down, then click “End task” in the bottom-right corner.

Exercise caution, however. Some processes are necessary for your PC to function, and terminating them could render your PC unusable until you restart it. Moreover, closing programs in this manner may result in data loss. If you’re unsure about what to close, it’s better to leave everything as is.

Common culprits behind poor performance include browsers with numerous open tabs, games, and other resource-intensive programs. While it’s generally safe to close these, be aware that unsaved progress may be lost.

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If none of the above steps resolve your PC issues, don’t worry. It’s time to dive deeper into troubleshooting and address the specific problem.

System Restore

A screenshot of Windows System Restore.
Image by Monica J. White / Digital Trends

Perhaps your problems started after installing a new application. If that’s the case, using Windows System Restore can be an effective solution, provided you have restore points available. Keep in mind that reverting to an earlier restore point will also undo any changes made since that point, potentially resulting in file loss.

Here’s how to perform a system restore in Windows 10 and 11:

  1. Type “Control Panel” into the Windows Search bar.
  2. In the Control Panel, search for “Recovery” in the top-right search bar.
  3. Select “Recovery” and then open “System Restore.”
  4. In the pop-up window, click “Next” and choose a restore point to revert to. Click “Scan for affected programs.”
  5. Windows will inform you of any items or programs that will be removed if you use the selected restore point.
  6. If you still want to proceed, click “Close” -> “Next” -> “Finish” to restore your system.

Troubleshooting Freezes and Poor Performance

A PC gaming desktop setup with two monitors and a gaming chair.
Image by Digital Trends

Your PC may freeze or struggle with performance due to various factors, such as hardware issues, software conflicts, excessive program usage, or outdated drivers. Diagnosing the problem is the key to finding a solution, but you can start with some common troubleshooting methods.

If you’ve already restarted your PC, updated your drivers, and terminated resource-heavy processes without success, here’s what you can try.

When Running Certain Apps

If a specific program or game consistently leads to PC or app freezes or slows down your computer, follow these steps:

  1. Restart the program by closing it in the Task Manager (Ctrl + Alt + Delete) and reopening it.
  2. Consider reinstalling the program. Perform a clean install by removing all related files (typically found in C:Program Files or another drive) and then reinstalling the program from scratch.
  3. Verify that you have the correct version of the program. Windows users can type “System information” into the Search bar to check their operating system version and compare it to the program requirements.
  4. Close unnecessary background processes and apps to allow the program to run smoothly. Browsers with numerous open tabs are often the culprits.
  5. Confirm whether the program is compatible with your system. Older computers may use an outdated Microsoft .NET Framework, causing issues.

Random Freezes or Poor Performance

If your PC freezes or exhibits subpar performance seemingly without any clear cause, further investigation is required. However, you can try the previously mentioned steps and consider the following additional measures.

Reset This PC

Screenshot of Reset this PC in Windows 10.
Image by Monica J. White / Digital Trends

Windows 10 and 11 offer a functionality called “Reset this PC.” It allows you to start fresh without losing all your files or even perform a full format that erases everything. Resetting your PC may help resolve software-related issues.

If possible, back up your data to an external drive first. Be aware that some versions of “Reset this PC” will uninstall all your programs, potentially resulting in the loss of app settings and other files.

We recommend pursuing a full format only as a last resort. Explore the available options in Windows to determine the best approach for your situation.

Unplug External Drives and Peripherals

Something as simple as a conflict between your PC and an external drive or mouse can cause freezes. This can happen, especially when installing a new device that adds its own drivers. Try unplugging these devices one at a time to identify the cause. A good practice is to shut down your PC, disconnect any unnecessary external drives, and then restart.

Change Your Power Plan in Windows

Windows 10 power options.
Image by Monica J. White / Digital Trends

If you feel that your PC is underperforming despite adequate specifications, your power plan settings may be the culprit. If your PC is in power saver mode (common for laptops), it may prioritize energy and battery savings at the expense of performance.

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To access power settings easily, type “Power” into the Windows Search bar and navigate to “Power & Sleep Settings.” While adjusting sleep settings is straightforward, the more critical options are under “Additional power settings” on the right side of the window.

Here, you can select the power plan that suits your needs. If you’re currently using power saver mode, consider switching to the balanced plan. If you’re already on the balanced plan, attempting the high-performance plan is generally safe but may strain your PC and consume more energy.

You can further customize your power plan by clicking “Change plan settings” -> “Change advanced power settings.” If you have a hard disk drive (HDD), you can adjust settings to prevent it from turning off, potentially improving performance.

Dealing with Overheating

The Hyte Y60 case with an RTX 4090 installed.
Image by Jacob Roach / Digital Trends

Overheating poses a significant threat to your PC. Inadequate airflow can cause components to deteriorate, perform poorly, or even fail altogether. If you suspect that your PC is heating up excessively, it’s essential to verify your assumptions.

To monitor component temperatures, such as the GPU or CPU, consider using utility tools like HWiNFO or NZXT Cam. Both programs are user-friendly and provide valuable insights into temperature fluctuations during idle and resource-intensive activities.

Both high-end and budget CPUs and GPUs typically maintain safe idle temperatures between 30 and 50 degrees Celsius. Under heavy load, temperatures may reach 80 degrees Celsius or higher. However, surpassing these thresholds indicates a potential problem and can impact your PC’s performance.

If you believe your PC is running excessively hot and experiencing performance issues, follow our comprehensive guide to address overheating problems.

Addressing Storage and RAM Issues

The Samsung 990 Pro SSD being installed in a PC.
Image by Samsung

Your storage drives, particularly the SSD or HDD housing your operating system, can significantly affect PC performance if they encounter problems. To assess the health of your SSD/HDD, use diagnostic tools like CrystalDiskInfo. This software scans your PC for drive errors and warnings, providing insights into potential drive failures.

If issues are detected, consider replacing your SSD or seek professional assistance before making a decision. Regardless, regular backups are crucial in case of drive failure.

Additionally, utilize utilities like Chkdsk and SFC (System File Checker) to diagnose and repair drive and system file issues. Chkdsk allows you to scan and fix drive-related problems, while SFC scans Windows system files for errors and attempts to repair them.

Please note that running Chkdsk on a failing drive and attempting to fix it can result in data loss. Back up your data beforehand if you prefer to err on the side of caution. Instructions for using Chkdsk and SFC are available online and can assist in troubleshooting various PC problems.

Troubleshooting Gaming Issues

A gamer sits in front of the Evnia Philips gaming monitor.
Image by Philips

Gaming experiences depend on your PC’s performance. If you encounter frame rate drops, screen tearing, or crashes while gaming, it can diminish the overall experience. While specific game-related issues often require tailored solutions found on forums and communities, several general steps can be tried in most cases.

Tweak Game Settings

Game settings in Elden Ring.
Image by Monica J. White / Digital Trends

Some demanding games require powerful PCs to run smoothly. Adjusting in-game settings can often yield significant performance improvements, especially if you don’t own a high-end PC.

Consider reducing or disabling the following settings to boost the frame rate:

  • Texture Quality and Projected Textures
  • Water Effects
  • Lighting Effects
  • Anti-Aliasing
  • Shadows
  • Ambient Occlusion
  • View Distance

If you’re using ray tracing, disabling it can greatly enhance performance in most games.

Enabling V-Sync or Adaptive Sync can help prevent screen tearing, but they may impact overall performance and frame rates. Ensure your monitor’s refresh rates align with the game settings to minimize screen tearing.

Lowering the game resolution should be a last resort. Running a game at a resolution different from your monitor’s native resolution may exacerbate screen tearing. Lowering the resolution from 4K or 1440p to 1080p may improve performance but visibly downgrade the game’s visuals. If you already own a 4K monitor, upgrading hardware is likely a better solution.

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Update GPU Drivers

The games page in Nvidia GeForce Experience.
Image by Digital Trends

Keeping your GPU drivers up to date is crucial for optimal gaming performance. Downloading GeForce Experience (for Nvidia GPUs), AMD Software: Adrenalin Edition (for AMD cards), or Intel Arc Control (for Intel GPUs) makes driver management and performance monitoring more convenient.

Other Considerations

Most of the guidance covered above can also apply to gaming-related issues. However, several additional steps are worth mentioning:

  • Monitor CPU and GPU temperatures during gaming sessions to identify potential thermal throttling.
  • Perform a clean install of the problematic game.
  • Consider installing games on an SSD instead of an HDD for faster loading times.
  • Ensure your PC meets the game’s system requirements. Discrete graphics are necessary for running demanding AAA games on most computers.
  • Close unnecessary background processes and programs while gaming. Streaming videos or browsing the internet simultaneously taxes your PC’s resources.
  • Monitor RAM usage with the Task Manager during gaming sessions. If your PC experiences lag or performance issues, consider adding more memory.

Addressing Blue Screens (BSOD)

Windows 11 blue error crash screen.
Image by Microsoft

Encountering a Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) is a concerning experience. When faced with a BSOD, your operating system crashes, resulting in potential data loss since the last save. BSODs indicate underlying hardware or software issues, and proper investigation is essential.

Modern PCs running Windows 10 and 11 display a BSOD as a protective measure to prevent further damage. These screens include a stop code and, on newer PCs, a QR code that you can scan for immediate problem lookup.

To troubleshoot a BSOD:

  1. Write down the stop code displayed on the screen.
  2. Look up the stop code in Microsoft’s BSOD troubleshooting guide.
  3. Start by undoing recent changes, such as newly installed hardware or software. Determine if these changes are causing the issue.
  4. If the previous step doesn’t resolve the problem, use Windows Event Viewer. Access it by searching for “Event Viewer” in Windows. Check the critical errors and warnings for potential solutions. Utilize online resources for guidance on specific event sources and error codes.
  5. While some advanced solutions may involve altering the Windows registry, proceed with caution, as incorrect modifications can prevent your PC from booting properly.

Prevention

A WD Easystore external hard drive next to a MacBook Pro.
Image by WD

While PC issues are nearly inevitable, taking preventive measures can help you avoid common pitfalls and protect your data. Follow these practices regularly to keep your PC in good shape.

Scan for Viruses and Malware

Cybersecurity threats are prevalent, but modern PCs are equipped to handle many of them. Windows 10 and 11 include Windows Defender, a built-in security solution that offers decent protection. However, using additional antivirus software, such as Malwarebytes or Spybot Anti-Malware, can provide an extra layer of security.

Stay Up to Date

Keep your drivers and operating system up to date. Regularly run Windows Updates to benefit from new security features and fixes for known issues. Note that recent updates may affect performance, so check for updates if you experience unexplained slowdowns (background updates may be to blame).

Back Up Your Data

Backing up your data is paramount. Store your important files on an external hard drive or in the cloud. In case of worst-case scenarios, such as a full format or drive failure, having backups ensures minimal data loss. Additionally, set up system restore points to have a safe recovery option available.

By adopting these preventive measures, you can reduce the likelihood of encountering severe PC issues and minimize their impact when they do occur.

Conclusion

PC troubleshooting can be a daunting task, but armed with the right knowledge and solutions, you can address most common issues. Whether you’re dealing with freezes, poor performance, overheating, storage or RAM problems, gaming issues, or blue screens, we hope this guide has provided valuable insights and solutions to keep your PC running smoothly.

For more information and detailed guides on PC troubleshooting, visit OnSpec Electronic, Inc.

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