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PC Crashes: a beginners guide

by Don Penlington

PC Crashes
A Beginner's Guide


by Don Penlington


There are varying degrees of crash---anything from a simple screen freeze or "lockup" to a complete inability to open Windows.  Carry out the following procedures strictly in this order. If no effect from each stage, go to the next stage.

Close the current application from the Taskbar at foot of screen.

Hold down Alt+Ctrl and press Delete. From the resulting window (if it appears) press "End Task". If nothing happens, pray and try it again, several times. You may get a "Not responding" message. Press "End Task" again. If no luck, or if everything then locks solid, go to Step 3.

Now it's a little more serious--if you have a "Reset" button (near the power button) press it.  The computer should close down and then restart. If it does, have your finger ready on p or F8 (you'll have to see which one works best for your computer). Press p or F8 immediately you see the "Windows Starting" message. This will pause the startup menu. Select "Safe Mode". It will take the computer a few minutes to arrive at Safe Mode. The same start menu may reappear and stop for a few seconds as if asking you to select Safe Mode again. 


Resist the temptation to hurry it up. It should soon move off of its own accord. At this stage it is trying to rectify whatever caused the crash. It may go thru this cycle 2 or 3 times. (If it keeps on recycling, you are in deeper trouble--see 4). You will then see a box asking you if you want to do any repairs. Ignore this and click OK. Your desktop will then come up, but may look very odd. This is normal, because Safe Mode operates at the lowest resolution and with the minimum number of colors. 

 THEN YOU MUST WAIT FOR THE HARD DRIVE TO STOP CLACKING and the red light to stop flickering. When it has all gone quiet, and not before, select "Shut Down." If all is well, the computer will reset everything, properly close down the offending program, and you will eventually get the message "It is now safe to close down ". You may now restart the computer by pressing Alt+Ctrl+Delete again. Windows should then open in the normal way.

If it keeps on going back to the start menu, ("looping") you may have a more serious problem---call for expert advice at this stage. Leave the computer running if practical, otherwise power off. You may need to reboot from an emergency boot-up disk or reinstall Windows.

If "Reset" fails to do anything, or if you don't have a reset button, push the Power button to switch completely off, leave it for a few seconds, then try restarting. Go into Safe Mode as outlined above.

If, on restart, Windows won't start and nothing comes up on the screen at all, close down, insert your emergency startup floppy disk, and restart.  This should restart the computer in Dos, from which you may be able to manually restart or restore Windows. Try typing win at the C-Prompt and press Enter, this will normally open Windows. Check for a boot virus.

That's about as far as you can go without being fairly technically proficient.


  1. Windows should not ever be allowed to reload after a serious crash without first having been through "Safe Mode". Otherwise the cause of your crash may remain in the system and may cause future instabilities. This is one of the commonest causes of general computer instability.
  2. Practice shutting down and restarting in Safe Mode so that, if an emergency ever arises, you will be confident with this procedure. Don't wait for an emergency.
  3. After running in Safe Mode and restarting, your desktop icons will usually be in a mess.  This is normal, because Safe Mode runs in the lowest possible resolution, and unfortunately it leaves your desktop in a bit of a mess.  You'll just have to restore it all by hand, or by selecting "Line up icons" when you right click in the Desktop, or get a utility such as Ezdesk that will restore the icons as they were.


Don Penlington




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