When customers find that Windows 7 is not without flaws, solutions providers need to be prepared to offer them quick and painless resolutions for a Windows 7 crash or freeze. Windows 7 expert Ed Tittel provides solutions to some of your customers' most persistent problems, including a Windows 7 freeze such as the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD). Find out how to avoid black-screen problems and how to prevent a Windows 7 crash by ensuring your drivers are up to date.
Read Ed Tittel's answers to other frequently asked questions on troubleshooting Windows 7 errors.
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• What's the best way to tackle a Windows 7 Blue Screen of Death and
• Many customers report a Windows 7 crash or freeze when it "wakes up" from sleep mode or hibernation. What's the fix?
• How can solutions providers fix a random Windows 7 freeze?
• More resources on a Windows 7 crash or freeze
• About the expert
When a Windows 7 crash occurs, solutions providers should check the crash dump, also called "minidump," files that Windows creates for debugging, located at %SystemRoot%MEMORY.DMP. This file usually points to the cause of any BSOD or black-screen issues, such as video adapter problems or application bugs. Use the BlueScreenView tool by NirSoft or debugging tools for Windows to dig into crash dumps.
Make sure the computer's motherboard has the most up-to-date BIOS and that the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) drivers are up to date. Next, check the ACPI-related BIOS settings. The settings should support multiple sleep modes. You may have to experiment with the settings to identify the ones that are least likely to cause a Windows 7 crash.
Disabling power-saving features usually works, too, but doing so means laptop users may need to run on AC power rather than battery -- unless the laptop has a fairly new battery that holds a charge for at least a few hours. If a PC has video problems coming out of sleep mode, you can also change the network driver's power management settings, which, surprisingly, can cause video-related problems. In the Network adapters category in Device Manager, right-click the network adapter entry and select Properties. On the Power Management tab, select the Allow this device to wake the computer option and click OK.
Also check the minidump files, because the Windows 7 crash could be related to a device. If the problem is related to a device, uninstall and reinstall the device, and then ensure those drivers are up to date.
A random Windows 7 freeze occurs when it locks up and stops responding, but doesn't display the BSOD or a memory dump. Random freezes can be particularly frustrating for customers and solutions providers, because they seem to occur out of the blue and are often time-consuming to resolve.
The first thing you should do is disable all unnecessary startup programs on the Startup tab in the System Configuration utility. To open System Configuration, type msconfig in the search box in the Start menu and select msconfig.exe from the results list.
Be conservative when disabling programs listed on the Startup tab. You should disable only one or two programs at a time, reboot the computer and ensure it runs properly without those programs before you hand the PC back to the customer. Solutions providers should also uninstall unneeded applications in the Control Panel's Programs and Features applet. It's always a good idea to clean the Windows 7 registry as well, especially on computers that have had a lot of software installed. You can use any of the proven and reliable registry cleaning utilities, such as CCleaner or nCleaner. If none of those methods resolve the problem, you probably need to increase the amount of RAM in the computer.
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Ed Tittel is a full-time freelancer who's written and contributed to more than 100 computing books, including Microsoft Windows 7 In Depth (Que, 2009), and he writes and blogs regularly for numerous websites. Tittel's most recent projects have focused on Windows 7 as the OS nears its general availability release date.
This was first published in February 2010