Windows can get overwhelmed from time to time. Sometimes it just stops functioning and you can't seem to do anything.
What people don't realize is just how much is going on in the background at any given time. Every part of the computer, from the keyboard to the mouse to the monitor, has a little program running in the background that is in charge of how that particular part functions and they all have to run together harmoniously.
And I'm not talking about a few little programs or drivers, there are literally hundreds of things going on in the background at any given second and sometimes Windows can get overwhelmed.
Frankly, after looking at what is going on in the background at any given moment, I'm surprised that computers even run at all without crashing after five minutes of up time. It's astounding.
I always have to smile inside when ever I hear anyone say "I wasn't even doing anything and it just locked up!" OK, sure, you weren't doing anything, that's fine, but understand that even if you are not moving the mouse or typing anything, the computer is still as busy as a one-armed paper hanger.
Consider this: even if you are just sitting there, hands completely off the mouse and keyboard, the computer is constantly looking at the keyboard and mouse for any change. It's also re-painting whatever's on the screen 60 to 70 times per second, checking to see if it's time to start the screen saver, listening to network or modems connections for incoming calls and more. And that's not even considering the hundreds of other things it has to do just to keep the desktop alive and stable. That's why Windows can sometimes become overwhelmed and freeze up. The question is what to do about it when it happens.
Let's say you are surfing the Internet and you click a link, the page loads and you start reading. You get to the bottom of the page and go to click somewhere else but the pointer is just an hourglass and you can't click anything. What do you do then? Well, the first thing is don't panic! It's most likely not the end of the world and usually doesn't mean that your computer is messed up. It usually means that Windows got bogged down somewhere and needs a "little nudge" to get it back on track.
I usually try to get the computer's attention back by trying a couple different keyboard commands; I'll hit the "ESC" key to try to divert the machine's attention from whatever it's stuck on. Sometimes this is all it takes and sometimes not. If hitting the escape key doesn't get a response, then I usually try the "three finger salute."
With one finger, press and hold the "CTRL" button, then with another finger press and hold "ALT" and with a third, press "DELETE."
It's important to be pressing all three buttons at once, as pressing them and letting go will do nothing. Once you press ctrl, alt, delete, a Windows security window should pop up that gives you the options to lock computer, log off, shutdown, change the password, open the task manager or cancel. Click the task manager button and make sure the applications tab is highlighted and in front.
On the applications page you should see your web browser listed (or whatever program you were running when you lost control) often with a comment of "not responding." Click it so it becomes highlighted and then click "end task." After a moment a message should pop up asking if you want to wait for the program or end the task. Click the end task button and your browser should close and give control back to your mouse.
But what if that doesn't work? What if hitting escape and control + alt + delete do nothing? Well, that happens from time to time and about the only way to get around it is to reboot the machine. Just press and hold the power button until the computer shuts down, wait 10 to 20y seconds and turn it back on. After the machine restarts things should be back to normal and you should have control of your mouse again.
Now I know simply powering off the computer is not the "proper" way to shut it down but sometimes it's the only way. I mean if you can't click anything, how are you going to initiate a proper shutdown? Killing power to the machine is sometimes the only way.
Sean McCarthy fixes computers. He can be reached at (888) 752-9049 or help@ComputeThisOnline.com (no hyphens).