computer freezes

March 31, 2009 at 14:10:20
Specs: Windows XP

Help! My dell dimension 2350 with xp randomly freezes. I've tried everything - Registry First Aid (worked for a day then started freezing again) - freeing up disk space, removing unused programs. I'd rather not buy a new computer, but I can't seem to fix problem. Could it be software? CA antivirus (free version)? Firefox? I don't use anything else unusual...

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March 31, 2009 at 19:23:30

Does Windows freeze entirely, or do just some programs freeze, such as Internet Explorer?

Lots of things can cause freezes. Usually it's caused by software problems but malware usually has nothing to do with that. Registry cleanup or repair programs are usually useless regarding freezes, and so is "freeing up disk space, removing unused programs", if you already have more than enough free space, and if the unused programs are not running they have no effect on whether the computer freezes or not.

Not having enough free space on the partition Windows is on can certainly cause problems. What's the size of the partition Windows is on - that's usually C - and how much free space is on that partition?

The cpu overheating can cause freezes.
Have you looked at the current temperatures in your bios Setup to see if the cpu temp is okay? The best time to check is right after the computer freezes.

If the hard drive is failing that can cause all sorts of problems including freezes.
Check your hard drive with the manufacturer's diagnostics.
See the latter part of response 1 in this:

(thanks to Dan Penny for this link:)
Hard Drive Diagnostics Tools and Utilities

If you don't have a floppy drive, you can get a CD image diagnostic utility from most hard drive manufacturer's web sites, but obviously you would need to make a burned CD, preferably a CD-R for best compatibilty, on another computer if you need to.

If the hard drive itself tests okay, any data problems found can be fixed, one way or another.

See response 2 in this - try cleaning the contacts on the ram modules, and making sure the modules are properly seated:

For a laptop, you must remove both its main battery and AC adapter before you do that.

If this is a desktop computer...

Failing power supplies are common and can cause your symptoms.
Check your PS.
See response 4 in this:

In rare cases, freezes or black screen rebooting may caused by your mboard having the bad capacitor problem.

Open up your case and examine the mboard to see if you have bad capacitors, and/or other findable signs of mboard damage .

This was the original bad capacitor problem - has some example pictures.
History of why the exploding capacitors and which mboard makers were affected:

What to look for, mboard symptoms, example pictures:
Home page that site
- what the problem is caused by
- he says there are STILL bad capacitors on more recent mboards.

Pictures of blown capacitors, other components, power supplies, Athlon cpu's, etc.:

Even if you can't figure out what the problem is, if it isn't caused by a major hardware problem you certainly do not have to get another computer. You can always re-load Windows, or if you have a brand name computer, re-load the original brand name software installation if you're still using the Windows version in it.

If you have a regular full version Windows XP CD, or can borrow one, of the same version, Home or Pro, that is on your computer, you can try a "Repair install" of Windows which will not delete the data on the Windows partition that you have added since you first got the computer, or since you last re-loaded Windows or the original brand name software.

If you have a brand name system and want to still use the original brand name software installation, you can use a Recovery CD for your Dell model if the second partition's (that is always on the original hard drive on a brand name system) data is intact and un-altered to re-load C with the original software, or use a Recovery CD set to reload the entire hard drive. Your model may or may not have come with a single Recovery CD. If you haven't already done so, the Recovery CD set you have to make yourself by using a Dell supplied pgrogram already there in All Programs to make the set.

If you load Windows from a regular CD from scratch, or use the Dell Recovery CD or CD set, you need to copy or back up the data you don't want to lose that you can't re-install again elsewhere BEFORE you re-load the software.

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April 1, 2009 at 04:55:46

Thanks for the detailed response. It's not a power issue - the computer could stay on for hours. It freezes during random programs, no pattern. It simply becomes unresponsive - just stays at whatever screen is open and you can't use CaltDel or shut it down using the main button. I have to turn off power.

How do I check the size of the partition that windows is on?
How do I check the temp of the bios setup (I can't do it after the computer freezes...)


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April 1, 2009 at 12:22:48

"It's not a power issue - the computer could stay on for hours."

The power supply puts out three major voltages - 3.3, 5, and 12v -and two minor ones - -5v and -12v .
If any of those are out of whack you can experience random problems.

"It simply becomes unresponsive - just stays at whatever screen is open and you can't use CaltDel or shut it down using the main button. I have to turn off power."

If Alt-Crtl-Del doesn't work that indicates Windows is completely frozen - when that doesn't work, neither does the Reset button if your case has one (lots of brand name system cases don't have a Reset button despite the fact almost all mboards have the pins to connect one).

However, in most cases you don't have to switch off the power to the case when the computer freezes like that. Usually default mboard bios settings are set such that if you hold the power button in for about 4 seconds, the mboard will shut off.

"How do I check the size of the partition that windows is on?"

How long have you been using a computer? How come you don't already know that?

Sometimes if you simply hold the mouse cursor over the C drive letter in My Computer, a yellow box pops up that says Free Space:xxxgb. Total Size:xxxgb, but that doesn't always work. If you RIGHT click on the C drive letter in My Computer or Windows Explorer, choose Properties, it shows you the figures and a graphical picture.

If you're not familiar with Windows Explorer, you can do things with Windows Explorer you can't do with My Computer, and visa versa.
- If you click on a CD drive that has a CD in it that has an autorun.ini file on it in My Computer, it always starts up the CD.
If you click on the same CD in WindowsExplorer, it shows you the files and folders on the CD.
- there are some things you can RIGHT click on in My Computer and you see the option to Create a shortcut, that you don't see that option for in Windows Explorer.

I always have a shortcut to Windows Explorer on my desktop, and I prefer using it rather than My Computer. Windows Explorer is found in Start - All Programs - Accessories - RIGHT click on it to make a shortcut to it, then drag the shortcut to your desktop screen.

"How do I check the temp of the bios setup (I can't do it after the computer freezes...)"

You would shut down and reboot the computer, then check the temperatures, of course.

Dell™ Dimension™ 2350 Series

Dell™ Dimension™ 2350 Series

Info there about how to open the case, install and remove the ram, etc. etc.

Bios Setup info

"Entering the System Setup Program
Turn on (or restart) your computer.
When the blue DELL™ logo appears, press F2.

If you wait too long and the operating system begins to load into memory, let the computer complete the load operation. Then shut down "

It usually works better to repeatedly press the key, rather than holding it down.

Note that a USB connected keyboard may not work to get you into the bios Setup, depending on settings in the bios Setup, but a PS/2 connected keyboard always will.
A setting in the bios Setup Legacy USB or USB Keyboard or similar must be enabled in order for a USB keyboard to be able to get you into the bios Setup - your mboard is recent enough that is probably enabled by default.

However, I looked at that bios Setup info, and I see nothing in it about current temps (and fan rpms, and voltages).
It might be Dell forgot to include the info online, or it could be some dummy forgot to include it in the Dell bios version on the computer. Your mboard is recent enough it does have the sensors and the capability to provide current temp, rpm, and voltage readings.

What you're looking for is Hardware monitor, or current hardware information, or similar.

If you don't see that in the bios Setup, or if you would rather be able to see the info in Windows at any time, go here, download this program, and install it in Windows:
Intel Active Monitor

A cpu temp of over 50 C or so is too hot.
Over 60 C or so will cause problems, such as freezes and random black screen rebooting.
Over 70 C or so will damage the cpu.

The rpm of the cpu fan should not change much as you watch.

The +3.3v, +5v, and the +12v readings should be within 10% of the nominal value.

If the cpu temp is too hot, or in any case if you have never opened up the computer case, the cpu fan and heatsink, and probably the inside of the power supply, probably have mung on them (dust, lint, etc.).

Unplug the case/power supply.
Power off your monitor.
Open up the case by removing the left panel as seen when you're looking at the front of the case.
Check all the connections of the wiring to make sure they are all the way onto their pins and into their sockets, especially the main connector from the power supply. The wires close to the mboard going into the main connector/socket should be more or less perpendicular to the mboard surface rather than at an angle. Make sure all cards in slots are all the way down in their slots.

Some Dell cases have a latch you must push one way rather than screws you must remove at the back of the case.


While you're in there, if the cpu fan/heatsink has mung (dust, lint, etc.) on it, clean it off, but DO NOT use a vaccuum cleaner to do that (they produce a tremendous amount of static electricity when running, and anything connected to them can discharge that to your components) - use canned air, or an air nozzle if you have access to an air compressor, or an artist's brush that can be used in small spaces, etc. It may be difficult to clean the top of the heatsink under the cpu fan - the most likely place to have mung on it - and the bottom side of the cpu fan blades unless you remove the fan. If you have a case fan, clean that too if it needs it.

If the cpu fan and heatsink are dirty, the inside of the power supply is likely to be dirty too. Take a look at the holes or slots on the power supply inside the case, and where the power supply fan blows out of the back of the case.

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April 1, 2009 at 19:07:53

free space 10.3 GB
total size 28.9

I've tried holding down the power button to turn off - it also doesn't work when the computer freezes. Thanks for all of your suggestions. I'll give them a try.

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April 1, 2009 at 20:10:10

You have plenty of free space - if it were less than about 3gb in your case then that would cause problems.

"I've tried holding down the power button to turn off - it also doesn't work when the computer freezes."

According to the bios Setup info I pointed to above, it appears you don't have the option of doing that. On the other hand the info I pointed to above may be generic and not have all the things you can actually see in your bios. If that IS the same as in your bios, that's stupid of Dell to do that, because bioses on mboards a lot older than yours have that option.

The setting is usually under Power, or Power Mangement, or APM (Advanced Power Management) configuration -
Soft-off by power button - Instant off, or Delay 4 seconds
PWR button - 4 seconds, or Instant off

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