Do you keep experiencing computer crashes that are seemingly out of nowhere? If your computer is running a Windows or Mac operating system, you can do a few things to try and fix the problem. This article will discuss some common causes of computer crashes and what you can do to remedy them. Many of the following steps can also help prevent your computer from crashing in the future.
Common causes of Windows computer crashes:
There are many reasons why your Windows computer might be crashing, but some of the most common causes include:
- Software conflicts, misbehaving programs
- Virus or malware infections
- Outdated operating system or drivers
- Failing hard drive
- Faulty RAM, or not enough RAM
- Overheating or loose internal parts
- Overclocking your CPU or GPU
Windows Reliability Monitor
If you’re running Windows, the first thing you can do when you start having crashes is to check the Reliability Monitor. To do this, go to Start > Control Panel > System and Maintenance > Administrative Tools > Reliability Monitor. The reliability monitor will show you a list of hardware and software problems that may have been causing crashes on your system. This is a great way to start troubleshooting because it can give you specific information on what’s causing your computer to crash.
Software conflicts, misbehaving programs
A conflict between two programs can sometimes cause a Windows computer to crash. If you have recently installed a new program and your computer has started crashing, that program might be the culprit. The best way to fix this problem is to uninstall the new program and see if that fixes the issue.
Likewise, if a particular program does not “play nice,” it can cause your computer to crash. If the crashes started around the time you installed or updated a program, that program might be the cause. In this case, you can try uninstalling the program or finding an updated version that is known to work well with your computer.
Virus or malware infections
If your computer is crashing due to a virus or malware infection, you will need to remove the infection to fix the problem. This can be done using an antivirus program, but you might also need to use a separate malware removal tool. It should go without saying that your computer needs to be continuously protected with antivirus software, but if you need to download and install antivirus, popular Windows solutions include Avast, Kaspersky, and AVG.
Outdated operating system or drivers
If your computer is crashing because it is running an outdated version of Windows or its drivers, you might need to update your software or hardware. You can check for updates by going to the Windows Update website or using the built-in updater in Windows. If you suspect that a specific driver is causing the crash, you can try just updating or removing/reinstalling that particular driver.
Failing hard drive
If your computer’s hard drive starts to fail, it can cause your system to crash. To investigate this, use Windows’ built-in tools for assessing hard drive health. If the results indicate that the drive is failing, you should replace it. Several third-party utilities allow you to clone your existing drive contents to a new drive, including Macrium Reflect and Aomei Backupper.
Faulty RAM, or not enough RAM
Faulty or failing RAM (memory modules) can cause computer crashes. If your computer is crashing because of faulty RAM, you will need to replace the defective RAM modules. Start by using a program like Memtest86 to test your computer’s memory. If you use a Mac computer, you can use Apple Diagnostics to test your RAM.
In some situations, a computer can crash during a memory-intensive operation if not enough RAM is available. Computer games are probably the most common applications that can experience this issue. If you are trying to run a memory-intensive program and your computer keeps crashing, try adding more RAM to see if that fixes the problem. In Windows, you can use the Task Manager or RAMMap to see how much memory is being used on your system (and what processes are using the most RAM). In macOS, you can use the Activity Monitor to examine memory usage.
Overheating or loose internal parts
Over time, computers can suck a lot of dust into their case via their cooling fans. Dust coating internal components and clogging vents can lead to excessive heat build-up. If your computer is crashing because it is overheating, you will need to clean the dust out of its internals. You will need to open up your computer’s case and use a can of compressed air to blow the dust out of its internals. You should also check to ensure that all of your computer’s parts are correctly seated and that there are no loose cables or other components.
If you have recently added any new components to your computer, such as a new hard drive or video card, you will need to make sure that they are properly installed and that all cables are securely connected.
Overclocking your CPU or GPU
If you have overclocked your CPU or GPU, that could cause your computer crashes. Overclocking means running your hardware at a faster than its rated speed to improve performance. While this can sometimes work without issue, it can also lead to instability and crashing. If you think that overclocking might be the source of your computer crashes, you will need to reset your CPU or GPU to its default clock speed to see if that resolves the issue.
Corrupted Windows Registry
The Windows Registry is a database that stores all of the settings and options for Windows. If this database becomes corrupted, it can cause your computer to crash. You can use the Windows Registry Checker Tool to scan your registry from problems. You can also use a program like CCleaner to check for and fix registry errors, though be advised that Microsoft will neither recommend nor support the use of third-party registry cleaning tools.
Common causes of Mac computer crashes:
Like with Windows computers, many things can cause your Mac to crash. Some of the most common causes include:
- Software conflicts or application incompatibility
- System not up to date
- Heavy CPU usage
- Lack of system memory
- Hardware problems or incompatibilities
- Virus or malware infections
- Issues with a preferences file
- System cache needs to be cleaned
- Startup disk storage is low
The macOS console app
macOS users can utilize the Console app to view log messages collected by your computer and other connected devices. This can help diagnose the cause of a crash. Launch Finder and then go to Applications > Utilities > Console to open the Console app. This is a great way to start troubleshooting because it can give you specific information on what’s causing your computer to crash.
Software conflicts or application incompatibility
Software conflicts or incompatibilities can cause your Mac to crash. One way to troubleshoot this is to run the Activity Monitor and see if any processes are showing unusually high CPU or memory usage. If you see any suspicious processes, try quitting them or uninstalling the associated software to see if that fixes the problem.
If an application is not fully compatible with your computer, that can also cause a crash. You can use System Information in macOS to get information about the software installed on your computer. Any applications that are not of kind “Apple” may not be fully compatible with your system.
MacOS system software is not up to date
If you are running an older version of macOS, that could contribute to your system’s instability. Apple releases updates to macOS regularly that include bug fixes and performance improvements. Open the App Store or System Preferences and click on the Updates tab to check for updates. If there are any available updates, install them and restart your computer.
Heavy CPU usage
If your Mac is crashing because of heavy CPU usage, you will need to find the process or application causing the issue and close it. To do this, open the Activity Monitor and look for any processes taking up an unusually high amount of CPU or memory usage. If you see any suspicious processes, try quitting them or uninstalling the associated software to see if that fixes the problem.
Lack of system memory
If your Mac is crashing because it doesn’t have enough system memory, you will need to add more RAM to your computer. Once again, the macOS Activity Monitor allows you to see which applications are using the most memory and total system memory usage. If you decide that you need to increase your system RAM, purchase a RAM upgrade kit from a computer store or online retailer, or take your computer to an authorized service center. More information about mac RAM upgrades can be found online.
Hardware problems or incompatibilities
If you suspect hardware issues with your Mac computer, you can use Apple Diagnostics to check your system for problems. If you determine that your Mac is crashing because of hardware problems or incompatibilities, then you will probably need to take it to an Apple Store or authorized service provider for diagnosis and repair.
Virus or malware infections
Virus infections are considered far less likely on MacOS than on Windows – but it’s still possible that your system could be infected. If that’s the case, unstable behavior could result. If you think that your Mac might be infected with a virus or malware, you will need to run a virus scan using antivirus software. If you don’t have any antivirus software installed on your Mac, several free options are available for download – Avast and Malwarebytes are two popular options. Things should improve once you have scanned your system and removed any viruses or malware.
Issues with a preferences file
If your system crash occurs whenever you try to run a particular application, there could be a problem with the preferences file for that application. Try resetting the application’s preferences to the defaults and see if that fixes the issue. Open the Library on your Mac, then locate the Preferences folder and open it. Drag the preferences file for the program in question to your desktop or other location, then log out of your Mac. Finally, log back in and open a Terminal window, enter the command:
…and hit Return. Try rerunning the application.
System cache needs to be cleaned
macOS stores all types of information in the system cache, which can fill up over time and potentially causes errors. If you think your computer might be crashing because the system cache needs to be cleaned, you can use System Preferences to manage or reset the cache. Alternatively, you can use a third-party utility like CleanMyMac X to clear the cache. In some cases, the process can be automated, so you don’t have to do it manually every time your computer starts getting slow.
Startup disk storage is low
If your available boot disk storage becomes very low, issues can result, including the potential for a crash. You can check your available disk space using About This Mac – if it’s more than 90% filled, the possibility for problems exists. If you’re getting crashes because your startup disk is full, you will need to free up some space on your hard drive. The easiest way to do this is to click the “Manage” button on the Storage tab in About This Mac and use the tools there to clean up your system and remove any unnecessary files.
There are some other potential causes of computer crashes, but these are the most common. If you suspect that your computer is crashing because of hardware failure or some other issue that you have not been able to diagnose, then you should take it to a qualified technician for further diagnosis. In most other cases, following the solutions listed above should help you fix your crashing problem.