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  How do i narrow down the cause of my PC freezing up and becoming unresponsive? 
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Nas Nas Mar 19, 2011, 11:28pm EDT Report Abuse
It happens occasionally, after a few days of use I have several windows and folders open and all of a sudden the pc freezes for a period with everything except the mouse pointer being unresponsive. After a short time, i hover the mouse over the little minimize and close buttons on the top right corners and they light but when i click the mouse, it takes ages for the folders to actually minimize or close. Sometimes I get impatient and keep clicking the mouse and there is a momentary freeze up accompanied by a beep coming from the computer. Sometimes I wait around 3-10 mins and it goes back to normal, I've never waited more than 10 mins, I usually just manually turn it off, another thing that takes ages to do because sometimes when it is in this state, the power button does not always respond the first time and i have to keep my finger on it for a while.

Some other times when this happens, there is a tapping sound (not clicking), from the HD like a rhythmic tap2x, tap2x, tap2x, tap2x and then it goes away but the unresponsiveness still remains.

I originally thought this had something to do with my old gpu since that old geforce 8400 ran hot even with the fan on would idle at 69c and go up to 76 under load, sometimes up to the mid 80's but I replaced it recently and I still get the same problems.

Some background info:

I usually keep my pc on 24/7, leave folders and sites on until I am done with them. I have lots of tabs open on chrome when i am doing research on various things, cars, fishkeeping, amazon, computer forums etc... I also watch a lot of live streaming sports and sometimes movies, I notice when i start some streaming sports my computer fan seems to increase in speed.

Dell dimension e521, amd athlon 64 x2 3800 2ghx 2 gigs ram (1x gb, 2x 512mb ddr2) radeon 5450gpu

I have added an extra hard drive, gpu and wireless router from the original set up, other than that everything else is stock.

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micro Mar 20, 2011, 12:34am EDT Report Abuse
>> Re: How do i narrow down the cause of my PC freezing up and becoming unresponsive?
I assume win 7 64?

What hard drive and what age is it? Newer hdd's should not make any clicking noises, or any that are audible any way. This may be your problem.

My friend had a very similar problem.
It turned out to his pc tools/pc doctor. It would freeze when ever it auto or manual updated.
Except without the hdd noise.

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Nas Nas Mar 20, 2011, 01:04am EDT Report Abuse
>> Re: How do i narrow down the cause of my PC freezing up and becoming unresponsive?
Actually it's vista home edition sp1. The hdd is the original 250gig that came with it, i've also added an internal 1tb seagate barracuda from last year. sometimes when it freezes up and I have folders open from my additional seagate or my external 320gb, i do notice that they are more responsive when I minimize and maximize them.

I've had hdd's fail on me before, the tapping sound I hear from this isn't the same...

I recently did a memory test and it was all fine. I also do checkdisk after restarting from these errors. One thing I have noticed is that these checks usually take around ten minutes or more, i leave the room watch some tv for a while and it's just finishing. Recently however I leave for about five minutes and the pc has fully restarted. One time a few weeks ago I stayed in the room while it was doing the chkdsk and it just stopped in the middle of it and did the normal startup thing.

john albrich Mar 20, 2011, 01:23am EDT Report Abuse
>> Re: How do i narrow down the cause of my PC freezing up and becoming unresponsive?

Some things to consider:

How much space is free/unused on your system disk? If it's really low on free space the system can spend a lot of time trying to find/create space on the system disk, or while managing the swap/page file. Such activity could result in repetitive disk sounds. This can be a real problem when you use a lot of memory intensive programs, keep lots of tabs, documents, videos, etc. open and so on.

You also might use a program like PassMark's DiskCheckup to see if there is any detectable problem with your drive(s) as reported by SMART.

Run a program that monitors CPU activity and can display it on a place on the screen where you can ALWAYS see it. If the problem occurs WITHOUT high CPU activity and you still hear the drive doing 'something' in what seems to be a repetitive manner, then I'd tend to suspect a drive problem.

Similarly, you can use a program like Process Explorer that might help you ID if a specific process (like a video player) is repeatedly associated with the problem.

You can also use a program like Filemon and keep a log of disk activity (but keep it to a relatively small log size). After the problem occurs and you have control back, examine the Filemon output and see if there's a pattern.

Might also look at these things ONE at a time...
I've also seen similar issues with browser versions. You also might try a different browser for awhile and see if things change (e.g. try Firefox for a couple days). Also, try changing which default programs you and/or your browser use for watching videos. If you have a different display output capability, try using it instead of the 5xxx card and see if the problem continues.

In addition, you can use self-booting freeware UBCD to run CPU/memory/system diagnostics to see if you have a hardware problem. Be careful if you decide to run any disk diagnostics (from any source) as some disk tests MAY be data-destructive.

Also, EVERY time you manually terminate the machine (as you have been doing) without a controlled shutdown, you run the risk of corrupting data and your filesystem. I strongly advise you make appropriate backups.

Nas Nas Mar 20, 2011, 09:49am EDT Report Abuse
>> Re: How do i narrow down the cause of my PC freezing up and becoming unresponsive?
I usually have about 2 gigs to 10gigs free space on my main 250gb hdd. I do download a lot of torrents and files from filesonic, hotfile, rapidshare etc and sometimes I have multiple downloads at the same time and I do notice my hdd makes a lot of noise (not clicking noises), especially when I download several torrents at the same time. However, most of the time i noticed the freezing, I have not been using the download sites or torrents.

I tried the geforce 6150 from my motherboard for about four days when i fried my 8400gs and then cooked it in the oven and melted the plastic bits trying to fix it using the oven method. I didn't use my pc too much for downloading that time because i was unsure if it was a gpu problem or some other thing but when i did use it for browsing and live streaming everything seemed fine.

Thanks for the other tips, hopefully i'll have time tomorrow or later in the week to try them.

Jon Bailey Mar 20, 2011, 03:01pm EDT Report Abuse
>> Re: How do i narrow down the cause of my PC freezing up and becoming unresponsive?
Vista always used to freeze and crash with me too, havent had a single problem since I went on to win7

"The world is a temple to the self, and these days, there's alot of believers"
Nas Nas Mar 21, 2011, 06:52am EDT Report Abuse
>> Re: How do i narrow down the cause of my PC freezing up and becoming unresponsive?
Ok, the tapping noise just happened again as I was typing up a reply on another forum, adding a link to my text when i heard it, then everything froze but the mouse. I tried clicking windows on the taskbar but none would open, then there was a beep and the mouse froze as well. After about three minutes the windows opened, some noise from the hdd and then everything is back to normal...

I tried disck checkup earlier real quick, i still don't understand what it does and why it can only detect my external hd.

EDIT: I also tried process explorer, i have no idea what does. I'll be looking into it more later...

john albrich Mar 21, 2011, 08:13am EDT Report Abuse
>> Re: How do i narrow down the cause of my PC freezing up and becoming unresponsive?

Disk Checkup analyzes the SMART data provided by the HDDs over time (you can set the interval). It not only provides real-time assessment (e.g. an "OK" or not for each parameter), it also monitors each parameter and determines if they are degrading, and attempts to provide an indication as to whether the drive is likely to fail in the near future...the "TEC" date. It's the "SMART info" column in the window.

If Disk Checkup isn't "seeing" the SMART attributes of some of your drives, it's possible those attributes need to be BIOS and/or using an drive-appropriate drive tool like Seatools (I think Seatools has that option). Drives usually come with SMART enabled although something could happen to disable it. BIOS may or may not default to enable SMART.

Process Explorer shows you all the running processes (~programs) on your system, and it shows you how much CPU time each process is taking. If a process "hogs" the CPU, it will slow EVERYTHING else down. It can be hogging the CPU during normal operation or because there is a problem. This helps you identify such processes (e.g. Firefox, WMP, Word, etc).

edit to add:
You might also try a program like HD Tune (current ver is 2.5.5 I think).
It will look at your drive's performance and can give you an idea if a drive is having problems. Run as few other programs as possible while testing each drive.
HD Tune is a NON-destructive test program. It does NOT write to the drive.
The "performance" graph should look GENERALLY smooth, but will look a LITTLE "raggedy". There will be some variation (e.g. 5MB/sec), but if you see more than 3 or 4 huge spikes (each more than 20MB/sec difference) while it is running, the disk likely has problems. A few spikes could indicate a possible problem or degradation of the drive but if the overall performance isn't affected, then it's something to just keep an eye on (e.g. using Disk Checkup). The "access" plots should be in a GENERALLY narrow to medium width (and obvious) band of data. Kind of like looking at the Milky Way. If the plot points show up all over the screen, or a lot of them are outside the obvious band, then the disk likely has problems. At the very least, major deviations show your disk's performance isn't what it should be.

Again, strongly suggest backing up your disk(s) before doing ANY testing or continuing with your system in this state. If you can't back them up on your system because of problems, then disconnect them and back them up using a separate computer using a freeware program like Macrium Reflect Free Edition or DriveImageXML (both also at majorgeeks and other places. Both have decent compression capability (use medium, no real benefit using the maximum compression setting) which can save a lot of space on your archive disk(s) when making a backup.

Nas Nas Mar 23, 2011, 09:48am EDT Report Abuse
>> Re: How do i narrow down the cause of my PC freezing up and becoming unresponsive?
Thanks. I deleted disk checkup and I'm going to try HDtune next. It happened again, I was watching a mkv. file of a rugby match and I had the game minimized as I checked to see if there were new emails in my inbox (as usual I had multiple folders open on the taskbar) and all of a sudden everything including the mouse pointer froze. I couldn't hear if there was that tapping noise since the audio from the game stayed on the whole time. It was about four minutes before the mouse pointer started moving again and another two or three minutes before the windows started opening and closing again accompanied by a really loud processing/thinking noise from the hd.

john albrich Mar 23, 2011, 10:24am EDT Report Abuse
>> Re: How do i narrow down the cause of my PC freezing up and becoming unresponsive?
A bit more...

HDtune also has a "quick" error scan tab. Try the quick test first.

IF you are letting your HDD timeout and spin-down via power management, another issue is that your drive may have trouble spinning back up. That can cause unpredictable issues.

Spin-up time is a SMART parameter you can monitor. It can also cause a drive to not be recognized during some boots, and recognized during others.

Some other SMART parms of focus in your particular case would be:

read error rate

seek error rate

reallocated sector count

high fly writes

For more info on SMART parms, see
You can use the search bar in that webpage to find good understandable explanations and consequences of the other SMART parms. Although you may still need an SMART parameter interpreting program like DiskCheckup, HDtune, Speedfan (SMART tab), etc to make sense of raw data.

I like getting a second consult with Speedfan, because using the SMART tab, you can opt to compare your drive's reported SMART parameters with what can be a quite large on-line database of hard drives reported SMART parameters, and see how your drive "stacks-up" to what's happening in the real world with other users. For example, what DiskCheckup says is "OK", might get a "Watch" rating in Speedfan.

edit to add:
Corrected an item on Speedfan HDD comparisons database.
On comparisons to other user's hard drives, there are 3001 hard drives currently in Speedfan's online database.

Nas Nas Mar 23, 2011, 11:37am EDT Report Abuse
>> Re: How do i narrow down the cause of my PC freezing up and becoming unresponsive?
Yeah, i'm going to run it in a bit when i go to sleep. Something is definitely up, I restarted my pc after that last post and now when i try to right click anything on the desktop or on a webpage, it either does not respond or only responds after several clicks....

I'm now doing my research on which external 1tb or larger HDD to get so I can backup all my stuff. Any suggestions? I'm looking at the seagate expansion 1tb right now cos it's the cheapest.

EDIT: I just read some reviews, maybe i'll go for something else...

john albrich Mar 23, 2011, 02:02pm EDT Report Abuse
>> Re: How do i narrow down the cause of my PC freezing up and becoming unresponsive?

Lately I've been pleased with Samsung drives. If you're concerned about performance, be sure to get a 7200rpm drive. Some of the "deal" drives are 5400rpm and performance is considerably slower...even with a large cache (like 32mb). I advise using Western Digital "Black" and definitely against "Green" and generally don't prefer "Blue" drives.

But you will find that drives from all the major manufacturers have problems and bad reviews from time to time.

Many folks advise stay away from Seagate 7200.11 drives of ANY capacity. They are still being sold. Just search the net for 7200.11 and you'll see info on the problems. I haven't had a problem with them myself, but just may be the exception. I've only got 2 of them. One I've had for about a year, the other for just a couple months. Although the older drive started out with slightly less than perfect SMART values, it stabilized and shows no sign of degradation.

But as long as I've used computers I've always rigorously kept timely backups regardless of the cost/quality of the HDDs I use. It's generally more probable that a user error, or a system, power, or software failure will corrupt your data than an HDD failure.

Nas Nas Mar 23, 2011, 09:36pm EDT Report Abuse
>> Re: How do i narrow down the cause of my PC freezing up and becoming unresponsive?
7200.11, I think that's what I have. lol. Mine seems to be fine so far but it's the next one i'm checking with the program.

Anyway the results from the error scan on my main 250gb drive showed one bad sector, i took a screenshot of the benchmark test as well but i don't know how to put it up on here.

As with the other program, the external drive is the only one that shows temperature readings and values under the HEALTH tab but i've not yet done the error scan on it, i'll get to it now and try to put up links of the screenshots of the results.




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