The Top 8 Reasons Why a Computer Crashes

man rubbing his eyes while he works on a laptop

Man rubbing his eyes while he works on a laptop | Source: iStock

Computer problems got you down? Like the reasons why your computer might be running slow, there are a few common reasons why computers crash, and knowing these common pain points for your PC might also help your prevent it from crashing in the first place.

We’ve assembled eight of what we think are the most common reasons why your computer will run lousy and crash. Try addressing our suggested issues first before taking on a potentially costly PC repair bill. In all cases, if you have crashing issues, we recommend you boot your computer into Windows Safe Mode and investigate whether any of the below issues might fix your problem.

1. There’s a hardware conflict

Programmer World says the top reason why computers crash is due to a hardware conflict. In simple terms, think of it as two cars assigned to the same parking spot. Only one of those cars is able to park, while the other is out of luck. If it’s something important, it might cause your PC to become very unstable. If you’ve recently added hardware, try uninstalling it and see if the problem persists, this will help you potentially diagnose the issue.

2. Your computer’s too hot

PC World brings up another issue, and that has a lot to do with heat. As your computer runs, it generates heat and must vent it to keep the computer running. If you have a PC in a place where there are swings in temperature you may have already noticed that, on hot days, it runs slower in an attempt to limit heat buildup. It will shut down as a failsafe measure if the computer gets too hot, the site says. Make sure your computer is positioned so it can circulate air. If it’s a laptop with vents on the sides of bottom, keep it off soft surfaces that will cover those vents. Also keep in mind that old computers can get dusty, which may slow down fans and reduce cooling airflow.

3. Your hard drive is going bad

Scientific American points to failing hard drives as another possible reason for a crash. Most hard drives write data to magnetic plates, but from multiple rewrites these plates can wear out. Data will corrupt as these plates go bad and will cause programs to behave erratically, if they even load at all. If you suspect this, back up your files to a different drive quickly.

4. Failing or not enough memory

Also mentioned by Scientific American are memory issues, which could be the result of either of two problems. First — possibly due to overheating or age — memory can fail, resulting in not enough memory to run the computer. On the other hand, your memory might be fine but there’s not enough free space to run your programs. If it’s the latter issue, you can open Task Manager to see your RAM (“Physical Memory”) usage; if it’s close to 100% when the problem is occurring, you may try adding more RAM to resolve the issue.

5. Malware

Computer expert Leo Notenboom argues that malware causes crashes, too. If you don’t run antivirus and anti-malware (yes, both) software, malware and viruses could be building up on your PC without you even knowing it. This malicious software can change settings in your computer and cause programs to crash or freeze. To check for these malware and viruses, there are plenty of softwares available — AVG and Malwarebytes are two free options to get you up and running.

Incorrect device drivers

The Huffington Post warns that if you don’t pay attention to installing the correct drivers, you could end up with a computer that gives you the infamous “Blue Screen of Death.” It argues that most of the time this appears, it’s due to some type of device driver conflict.

Corrupt Windows Registry

Throttlenet points to Windows Registry issues as another possible place to investigate. Think of the Registry as a phone book of sorts, where your PC goes to find information on the location of certain core files and settings. If something has been corrupted or, worse yet, deleted, there’s going to be problems.

Power issues

If you just can’t figure out why your computer is on the fritz, and have tried to see if it was one of the previous seven, try inspecting your power supply. MakeUseOf says that a faulty power supply might not be delivering sufficient power to your PC — perhaps you added a few extra hard drives without considering the additional power requirements. Of course, there should be some other signs if it’s this problem, such as random shutdowns or times where the computer sounds like it might be struggling to keep up.

As we said at the beginning, this list is by no means a comprehensive list of every possible reason your computer may crash. It’s also possible that multiple issues could be the cause your PC problems, so even after you find one issue, keep checking to make sure that you’ve caught every one.

Follow Ed on Twitter @edoswald

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