Forum Thread

PC occasionally flakes out, where to even begin to diagnose and attempt to fix?

4,120 462 January 12, 2021 at 08:08 PM
For the past few weeks to month my just over 2 year old Windows 10 PC has occasionally "frozen". By which I mean the screen suddenly goes blank, the keyboard is unresponsive, and I have to do a hard reboot to get it back. For a while this happened every few minutes but now it's every day or two, sometimes even longer. I thought it was either a bad video card or overheating CPU, but who knows. It could be anything, video card, CPU, MB, RAM, M.2 drive, PSU, overheating, drivers, attached devices, etc.

To get detailed advice I'd have to describe my PC in great detail, but I'm not asking for that here as this isn't the right site for that sort of advice. What I'm asking is, what tend to be the most common reasons this happens with relatively late model PCs? I know it could be due to any of dozens of reasons, but I'm guessing that most of the time there are only a relative handful of causes for such PC behavior, and I'd like to look at those first. I'm just asking where to start out with my diagnosis.

I will say that my PC, which I built myself, has only top-quality name brand parts, e.g. ASUS MB, AMD Ryzen CPU, Samsung SSD, G.Skill RAM, Seasonic Gold PSU, decent cooling (it's not overclocked), etc. And I'm not doing anything special with it or pushing it to its limits with high-end games, renderinig, editing, etc. It's also run off a decent consumer grade Cyberpower UPS. I wonder if recent Windows updates messed up drivers enough to cause this? Or could not having optimized BIOS settings cause this?

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#2
Highly unlikely it's the PSU, but I guess anything is on the table until you know.

- You could run memtest86 to see if your ram is the culprit.
- Try a disc scanner to check the drives for bad sectors.
- Remove the GPU and see if the problem still occurs in its absence.
- Check the reliability monitor in windows control panel to see if some software hiccup is causing the freeze.

Honestly, it's going to be a bit of trial and error before you can figure out what is going on. It's also possible that the motherboard may have a defect, but if it's intermittent i suspect software malfunction. Not going to suggest a clean install of windows, but that might be a solution if everything else seems to be working.

Good luck!
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#3
Symptoms match what I've experienced with a failing graphics card. Same computer had it's PSU die violently a few years later.

One thing I try to check with a black screen that's unresponsive is whether or not the caps lock key works. A few computers ago, I had a machine that would serve up files on the network and work for RDP when the screen wouldn't work. That computer (Asus mb) also had bios issues that meant if it ever went to sleep it couldn't wake up (had to disable sleep).

Good suggestions above. I'd probably try pulling the graphics card and switching to integrated first.
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#4
Good thoughts above. I'll add that I have had software/hardware installs and windows updates do that to me before...

1) Have you installed any new software or hardware? I've seen new installs/drivers cause issues before.
2) See if you can 'roll back' your most recent windows update - though it may be too late for that.
3) do you have an older 'image backup' you could revert to if you needed to?
4) If you have an extra hard drive - swap out the old (don't wipe it or anything, just disconnect it) for the extra hard drive and do a quick clean install - that would help determine if it's a software issue.

Finding the problem can be a huge pain sometimes. That's why I always do an 'image backup' of all my computers after I have my software working the way it's intended.
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#5
Thanks all. I'll look into all of these. I've been building and maintaining my own PCs for 25 years and have a CS and IT background, but it's been a while since I've done troubleshooting, and the older I get the more I find myself loathing it. It used to be kind of fun to figure out and fix such issues, but now it's just something I dread. That's a big part of why I only buy high-quality parts from well-regarded brands. Also, I just spent the past 6 months restoring an old car so I'm kind of pooped on fixing anything more complex than a broken shoelace right now.

Cool
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#6
Have you tried opening it up and blowing everything out? Be careful using a vacuum, I would suggest an air compressor.

I have an older PC that I have to do this to a couple of times a year. It isn't in what I would call a particularly dusty area, but somehow it seems to accumulate a lot of gunk.
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#7
if the screen goes blank i'd assume an issue with the video card. thermals usually just cause the system to hang and become unresponsive.

if you have onboard video, i'd say pull the GPU and hook up to the onboard video. it will help you identify or eliminate a source.
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#8
I would check to see if there are any firmware updates for any of your system components, and if so, get the latest of the latest.

It's possible that a recent Windows update is the cause and due to older firmware, the hardware is not responding to what Windows is expecting.
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#9
would do a clean boot/safe mode to see if it is software also clean computer and leave case off
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