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Dealing with your frozen computer

We have all seen it, the cursor will move, but clicking doesn’t do a thing. Progress bars just stay where they are, nothing will let you get out of the frozen box on your screen. It’s where our patience wears thin.

My laptop froze recently when I opened an attachment containing an animated musical Christmas card. My frantic clicking to turn off the music and the show didn’t help matters.

Software conflicts are the usual cause of a lock-up. Less frequently, failing hardware can lead to frozen applications. Many times, to get beyond a frozen screen, a “hard shut-down” must be performed by holding down the power button until the machine powers down. This is a bad practice, and you will usually see a warning screen at the next power-up. Hard shut-down can cause damage to the hard drive by interrupting its mechanical operation. Most times you will not see evidence of damage, but the cumulative effect could be detrimental.

Both old and new computers can freeze up. If your computer is not more than four years old and begins to lock up, possible causes could be viruses, excessive processes running simultaneously, or hardware issues.

In order to resolve these issues, technical assistance may be required. A tech would most likely check for hard drive or memory problems. A memory upgrade is a cost-effective and simple improvement that may help. In regard to software, it may be helpful to remove viruses and unneeded applications. A more comprehensive option would be an operating system reload.

These tasks should be performed by a technician or very knowledgeable user. Some things a home user can do include allowing the computer to process one request before starting another, avoid starting a new process when the progress bar or hourglass symbol appears, and keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs updated and run regular scans.

The final analysis may show that it is time to replace an aging computer. A computer more than five years old cannot always keep up with today’s demands. Fortunately, prices have dropped in the past several years; you might be pleasantly surprised.

Patty Harshbarger, the owner of Computer Renaissance in Bradenton, can be reached at