Tech Tips #1: Recovering From a Crashed/Frozen System
In case you didn’t know, writing is actually something I do in my spare time (you know, the 6-7 minutes per day) and what actually pays my bills is training people how to fix enterprise (read: large & expensive) computer equipment. I’ve been working with enterprise IT hardware and software for the better part of 16 years and in that time I have learned a few tricks (just a few). Some of these tricks even translate to laptops & phones!
Very often a friend of family member complains of experiencing a crash or freeze and I felt it was high time I wrote down what do in these cases when I have them. The primary piece of advice I can give – regardless of which device you are using – is: MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A BACKUP!!!!
This applies to everything – email, documents, contacts – you name it. It doesn’t really matter whether you back up to the cloud or to a USB hard drive, as long as the backup is verified to exist and to have the right data, you have a way to recover your valuable info!
NOTE: Most of the steps listed below will close your apps and/or shutdown your device and lose any unsaved work, so if you haven’t saved your work, you may want to just wait a bit longer before trying any of this (remember – sometimes the easiest way to recover from IT issues is to wait a bit longer).
Apps on Your Smartphone or Tablet (yes, this includes iPhone)
Just when you need it most, one of the smartphone apps has stopped responding. This is standard operating procedure for technology – you’re late for work and the bus timetable app crashes; you need to buy tickets for a concert before they sell out and the ticketing app crashes**; you just paid for a movie and before it seems to complete, the movie app crashes. This seems to happen more often because we always remember it; when things work perfectly, we seem to take it for granted.
Once an app has crashed, it will no longer respond to screen touches. If your app is still responding to screen touches, then it has not fully crashed, but this does not mean these steps won’t help recover it.
- Assuming you have tried to close the app using the Back button (Android) or the exit option (if there is one) in the app itself (iPhone), continue with Step 2
- Return to your home screen using the home button
- This will determine if the whole smartphone has gone down or just the app
- Close the app using the OS:
- iPhone: Double-tap your home button
- Android: touch the change window button
- Android: Swipe app icon across
- iOS 6: Touch and hold app icon until it starts wobbling & you see the little “x”, then touch the “x”
- iOS 7: Swipe app icon up
- Hold the power button until the phone prompts you to reboot or power off, then power off and power back on (or reboot – it’s up to you)
Steps for other smartphones:
- Blackberry: http://docs.blackberry.com/en/smartphone_users/deliverables/32608/Close_an_app_so_that_it_is_not_running_61_1585093_11.jsp
- Windows Phone 8: https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/apps/dn148258%28v=vs.105%29.aspx
So your smartphone has suddenly stopped working entirely. It’s not responding to tapping the screen, so what can you do?
- Press the home button (if your phone has one)
- Ensure you phone is unlocked, then press & hold the power button for 10-15 seconds
- If this works, reboot the phone; if not – continue with Step 3
- Android: Press & hold the sleep/wake button + the volume down button simultaneously until the phone vibrates
- iPhone: Press & hold the sleep/wake button + the home button simultaneously until you see the Apple symbol
An App on Your Windows PC
So an application has crashed and is not responding to any input (mouse or keyboard) on your Windows PC.
- Click the “X” button in the top right-hand corner of the application. If this doesn’t work, continue with Step 2
- Hold down (at the same time) the following keys: Ctrl+Shift+Esc
- The Task Manager dialogue^ will appear with a number of tabs at the top. Select Applications
- Find the application which has crashed. It will probably report that the application is “Not Responding”. Click the application’s name in the list to highlight it.
- Click the End Task button
- If this does not work, save your other work & reboot the computer
Your Windows PC
Over the years, Windows has gone through ebbs and flows of stability. Since Windows 7, the stability of the OS has been quite consistent, so I’m not going to talk about Windows for Workgroups or Windows NT, I’m only really covering Windows 7/8 here. If you follow this list, your machine has stopped responding to all input (including Ctrl+Alt+Del). If your mouse is still working, your CPU or memory is just overloaded and you MAY be able to come out of it by waiting a while.
- Hold down Ctrl+Shift+Esc – if there is any spare memory or CPU left, this should bring up the Task Manager
- If the above works, try to use the arrow keys & TAB (if the mouse isn’t working) to select any applications “Not Responding” and End Task on them
- If the Task Manager does NOT come up, continue with Step 2
An App on your Mac
“What?” I hear you say – “Mac’s don’t CRASH!”. It is a common claim of the Apple enthusiast, but ultimately false. Everything crashes.
- Click on the “X” in the top right-hand corner of the app window. If this does not work, continue with Step 2
- Open the Apple menu (either press & hold Command+Option+Esc on the keyboard or select Force Quit from the Apple menu in the menu bar)
- A new window will open entitled “Force Quit”. Select the app which will not close from the list, then click “Force Quit”
- If the app still does not close, save your other work & reboot the computer
Many of you may know that OSX (the Mac OS) is, for better or worse, is a little different from Windows. If you are attempting these steps, your Mac should not be responding at all, as in no Apple Menu, no keyboard shortcuts working and (probably) the mouse not responding either. These steps should work with a Macbook, Powerbook or Mac desktop.
- Hold the Control key down, then press the system power button once. This will bring up the shutdown menu dialogue. If this does not work, continue with Step 3
- Choose Shut Down or Restart
- Press and hold your system power button for 5 or more seconds. This should force the system to shut down. If this step does not work and you are NOT using a Macbook or Powerbook, continue with step 4
- Only perform this step if the above does not work. This step will only work on a desktop machine. Turn off the power point which powers your Mac. Wait for 10 seconds, then turn it back on.
- If these steps do not resolve the problem, it may be time to take the machine to the repair shop
* The Operating System (OS) is the software which runs your device. Windows is the most common home computer OS, iOS is the iPhone OS and Android is the name of Google’s smartphone OS.
** Actually it’s usually larger-scale crashes (like the ticketing company’s servers or data bandwidth) which cause ticketing purchase headaches, but let’s just run with it.
^ In an IT application or operating system, a “dialogue” is basically a small window which lets you control, configure or change something