How to unfreeze a laptop computer

Written by david nield Google
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How to unfreeze a laptop computer
Use the Task Manager to shut down unresponsive apps. (Getty Thinkstock)

The best method for unfreezing a laptop computer depends on what has caused the freeze. If only one program or website is hanging, you may be able to close it down without affecting the operating system or your other applications; if the whole computer is frozen, a more drastic reset of the entire system may be required. Each laptop is built differently, so keep the user documentation supplied with the computer close at hand while you're trying to troubleshoot the problem.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Give the laptop ten minutes to make sure it really has frozen. If the computer is working through something that requires a lot of processing power -- such as video encoding or image processing -- the freeze may only be temporary, in which case the laptop will become responsive again after a few minutes.

  2. 2

    Press "Ctrl+Shift+Esc" on the keyboard of a Windows laptop -- or "Command+Option+Esc" on a Macbook -- to see if you can shut down the troublesome program without affecting the rest of your system. You'll see a list of running applications -- in Windows, right-click (or tap and hold) and choose "End Task" to shut down the frozen program. In Mac OS X, click on the application and choose "Force Quit." If no list of applications appears, the entire system is frozen and you'll need to reboot the laptop.

  3. 3

    Press and hold the power key on your laptop and keep it depressed until the machine switches off. This technique should work on the majority of laptops no matter what operating system is installed. You should only force a shutdown as a last resort, as you'll lose any unsaved work in the process. If the laptop still refuses to power down, unplug it from the mains adapter and remove the battery for a couple of seconds -- check the documentation supplied with the laptop if you are unsure of how to do this.

Tips and warnings

  • If you've lost the original manual you should be able to obtain a digital copy from the manufacturer's website.
  • If you find your laptop freezing persistently, there are a number of ways to tackle the problem. If it's the same application hanging every time, try uninstalling and reinstalling the program using the newest version of the software. If the freezing issue isn't related to one particular application, updating your operating system or running a full scan for malware and spyware may help to resolve the issue. A hardware problem -- such as an overheating CPU or a failing hard drive -- could also be to blame.

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