WHAT  TO  DO  WHEN  A  COMPUTER  CRASHES  OR  FREEZES

One of the most frustrating things that can happen when using a computer is that an application suddenly Crashes, or Freezes, on you for no apparent reason. In this section I will teach you how to stop (shutdown/kill), if it is possible, an application (and its processes and services, if it has any) so that you can try and release its resources (i.e. used memory). This is regardless if it has crashed/frozen or not.

I say if it is possible and try because some crashed/frozen applications/processes/services might not release their resources even when they have been stopped simply because those resources might of become locked (unusable) when the crash/freeze happened. That is what a crash/freeze tends to do - Lock resources.


Service - A Service is basically a sub-program/sub-task in its own right that can be used by many different applications. For example: If an application such as Microsoft Word 2016 uses the Spooler (Printer) service it means that application has the ability to print - It will use the Spooler service to take care of the files it wants printing. However, if the Spooler service is not available, due to a Crash/Freeze, the application will not have the ability to print.

Freeze - If an application (or service) Freezes it usually means it has become unresponsive to keyboard and/or mouse input. This is normally due to a badly written piece of code that has wandered off in the wrong direction or simply down to the fact that you have given the application (or service) too much work to do.

Crash - If an application (or service) Crashes it means it has stopped executing instructions. This could be permanent or temporary, depending on whether or not the application (or service) has lost the plot or is just waiting upon the actions of another application (and/or service) before it allows itself to continue.

An application and/or service will normally crash or freeze when the computer has been given to much work to do - Either by you, other applications, other services or all three - and/or when the computer is lacking resources. For example: It might not have enough memory to do everything at once and/or its hardware might be too slow for certain types of job. The best way to diagnose this is to know what your computer is capable of. Give it five jobs to do for example and see how it copes. If all is well give it ten jobs to do next time. If it cannot do those ten jobs properly, or to your liking, you know your computer is only good at doing five jobs well.

SHUTDOWN  AN  APPLICATION

The normal thing to do when an application (or service) crashes is to try and stop it (shut it down/kill it), by executing (running/launching) TASK MANAGER, before it goes on to cause serious trouble (i.e. freeze the computer and/or crash other applications/services).

Task Manager is a program specifically designed for the monitoring and killing of Applications, Processes (an application's Start-Up Process and Third-Party Processes) and Services. You launch it by first pressing (holding down) the CTRL and SHIFT keyboard keys together (or one at a time if you prefer). Then, with the CTRL and SHIFT keyboard keys still held down, you press the ESC keyboard key. As you do this TASK MANAGER's window will appear (Fig 1.1).

                        

Fig 1.0 - Hold down the CTRL, (left or right) SHIFT and ESC keyboard keys to bring up TASK MANAGER

When the Task Manager window appears (below) it will be in 'application mode'. Meaning, it will only be listing the currently opened applications (programs) because it assumes you just want to close an application down, but not necessarily its related process(es). If this is the case you would simply select the name of the application (i.e. Skype) from the list and then click on the END TASK button. END TASK ends the application straight away, if it can, without bringing up the usual "Are you sure you want to.....?" confirmation window.

Fig 1.1 - Click on the application you want to close down and then click on the END TASK button

END TASK means end (shutdown/kill) the application and/or its associated process(es). This includes disassociating the application from any Third-Party processes it may be using, as well as any services and resources (i.e. memory) it may be using, before END TASK stops that application completely. So if the Microsoft Word 2016 application is using the Spooler (Printer) service and you use END TASK on Microsoft Word 2016, END TASK tells the Spooler service to disassociate itself from the Microsft Word 2016 application.

Once that is done, the Spooler (print) service remains open/running so that other applications can still use it (can still print). In some circumstances a service may be forced to shutdown in order for the application to be shutdown whereas in other circumstances the service will prevent the application from shutting down. In that case you might receive an error message: "Could not shutdown application because xyz service is still running". The same applies to a process.

If you need to go a little deeper into Task Manager in order to close down a specific process of an application (i.e. close down an audio process because you are having problems with Skype audio for example) and/or need to close down a specific service that relates to an application (such as the Spooler service, because you are having problems printing a document for example), you need to click on the MORE DETAILS button/link. You do NOT need to select an application first.

Fig 1.2 - Click on the MORE DETAILS button to go deeper in Task Manager

Process - A process is simply a function (routine piece of code) that is used over and over again by many applications. Rather than 10 applications writing (coding) the same Print_This() function inside their own code, for example, they all call the Print_This() function from within a third-party piece of code (.exe file or .dll file) instead - Why reinvent the wheel? Therefore, only one Print_This() function is written (coded) and called (used).

DLL (Dynamically Linked Library) - A DLL is simply a library (small program/file) containing many functions inside it. An application links up with (connects to) a DLL in order to use one or more of its functions. Hence why you get a .dll error when a function has not been called (used/linked to) correctly or when the .dll has not been registered with Windows 10 properly. A Service operates more or less the same as a Process, but is a sub-application as opposed to a separate function called from a library of functions (a dll) for example.

SHUTDOWN  A  PROCESS

As said above, sometimes an application cannot be shutdown because something else is preventing END TASK from doing so. For example: The application might still be associated with a process, in which case you need to shutdown the process in order to shutdown the application. Shutting a process down means shutting it down completely - Any other application using that process will be asked by END TASK (END PROCESS) in order to disassociate itself from the process, otherwise it may be forced to shutdown.

Ending a process is as easy as ending an application. Click on the Processes TAB (window) to make it active, if it is not the active tab (window) already, select the process you want to end (shutdown/kill) before clicking on the END TASK button. In Fig 2.0 below I am ending the Cortana (voice recognition/navigation) process.

Fig 2.0 - Select the process you want to end (shutdown/kill) and then click on the END TASK button

In some cases you cannot end certain system processes, such as an Anti-Virus process and the Cortana process, because the system (i.e. the Windows 10 operating system) needs them. You can end them with END TASK, but they will reopen themselves. These, of course, are either for your own protection or because some other applications rely on them.

Although Windows 10 may give you a description about a certain process, at the end of the day you are going to have to research that process to get a better idea of what it does and/or what it is associated with before you try and END TASK it. Otherwise you could damage Windows 10 indirectly. For example: Ending an Anti-Virus process might leave Windows 10 open to virus attacks. A good website that explains processes in more detail is the Process Library website.

Below is a small list of some common Windows 10 processes, as well as for some common Third-Party processes, to give you general guidance on whether or not you should END TASK a certain process. If a process is marked YES - IF YOU DO NOT NEED IT it means you can END TASK that process in order to free up its resources for example. One thing to note here is that END TASK only ends a process for now - If you restart your computer for example that process will be launched (run/executed) again when the computer has restarted.

Manufacturer   Process Name Purpose END TASK?
Logitech communications_helper   Logitech - Webcam YES - If you do not need it
Microsoft csrss Client/Server Runtime Server Subsystem NO - It is part of Windows 10
Microsoft ctfmon MS Office - Language Bar YES - If you do not need it
Microsoft dwm Windows 10 - Desktop Effects Manager NEVER under normal circumstances
Microsoft explorer The backbone of the Start Menu, Desktop, Etc YES - If Crashes or Asked to by Engineer
Intel hkcmd Hotkey Command YES - If you do not need it
Apple itunes ITunes / Ipod software YES - If you do not need it
Microsoft lsass Local Security Authority Service NEVER under normal circumstances
Microsoft lvcomsx Logitech - Multimedia Enhancements YES - If you do not need it
Microsoft services Manages (Starts and Stops) Services NEVER under normal circumstances
Microsoft svchost Handles Processes from a DLL NEVER under normal circumstances
Microsoft taskmgr Windows Task Manager N/A
Microsoft winlogon Windows 10 - Log-In/Log-Out manager NEVER under normal circumstances


SHUTDOWN  A  SERVICE

To stop, start or restart a service you could use the Services TAB (window) from task manager, by clicking on the Services TAB (window) and selecting a service to operate on (stop, start or restart), but it is better to launch Services from the Control Panel. So close task manager, if you have it open, and then follow these instructions to launch Services.


With the Control Panel window already open, click on the ADMINISTRATIVE TOOLS icon (Fig 3.0) to open the Administrative Tools window and from that window double click on the SERVICES icon (Fig 3.1) to open the Services window (Fig 3.2).

Fig 3.0 - Click on the ADMINISTRATIVE TOOLS button to continue

Fig 3.1 - Double click on the SERVICES button to continue

When the Services window appears (below) it displays a list of services, many of which are generic and can therefore be used by Windows 10 and Third-Party software in general. Most of the 100+ services enable/manage something (such as Security, Encryption and/or the Internet) while the others take care of the basic running of Windows 10 - Printer, Audio, Parental Controls, Installation and so on.

Fig 3.2 - The Services window  -  An example of stopping a service.

In the above example I have scrolled down the list and right clicked over the Print Spooler (Printer) Service where I will then left click on the STOP menu/item to stop the printer. Alternatively, I could click on the STOP link, located in the top-left corner of the window, to stop the printer. Or to be more precise, stop the Print (Job) Manager. Upon doing this the following message requester will appear, informing me it is attempting to close down the Print Spooler service.

Fig 3.3 - Attempting to STOP the Print Spooler service

ATTEMPTING TO STOP..... This is absolutely correct because, as said above, it is not always the case that a process or service can be stopped - due to the nature of a Crash or Freeze for example or due to other applications using that service as well.

KNOW  WHAT  YOU  ARE  STOPPING  /  RESTARTING

As you can see: It is very easy to, attempt, to STOP (or RESTART) a service just as it is to end a process (END TASK). And just the same as a process, it is not the easy stopping of a service you need to worry about but knowing what service can be stopped. You will probably find the name of a service, and its description, (Fig 3.2 above) means nothing to you, because of it having a technical description, which is the case for many beginners and advanced users alike. Luckily there are websites out there that attempt to break down the technicals of Services into something a little more understandable, such as Black Viper. It covers Windows 10 services that also relate to Windows 8 descriptions. Scroll down that web page and then click on the name of a service to get more details about it. There is also this very nice forum post that details Windows 10 services that can be disabled (CAUTION: FOR ADVANCED USERS ONLY).

Below I have explained some of the more common services for you. If you do want to STOP (or RESTART) any of them, remember to read up about them first (from Black Viper for example), as stopping/restarting any them might cause unwanted problems for Windows 10.

Service Name   Status   Startup Type Description
Application Information Running Manual (Trigger Start) Allows a User to RUN AS ADMINISTRATOR an application
Background Intelligence Transfer Service Running Automatic (Delayed Start) Continue a Broken Download (due to a Logoff/Shutdown)
Computer Browser Running Manual (Trigger Start) Maintains An Updated List Of Computers On The Network
Cryptographic Services Running Automatic Confirms Signatures And Manages Root Certificates
Diagnostic Policy Service Running Automatic Verifies That Applications Are Installed Correctly
Diagnostic Service Host Running Manual Tools To Detect Problems With Windows
Human Interface Device Service Running Manual (Trigger Start) Manages HID (i.e. TouchPad And HotKeys)
Plug And Play Running Manual Enables Hardware To Be Automatically Recognized/Setup  
Print Spooler Running Automatic Print Queue/Print Job Management
Problems Reports And Solutions Control Panel Support     Manual Allows You To Send Problem-Reports To Microsoft
Security Center Running Automatic (Delayed Start) Monitors Windows Security Settings And Configurations
Server Running Automatic Used For File Sharing And Print Sharing
Task Scheduler Running Automatic Enables A User To Schedule A Task
Themes Running Automatic Windows Themes Manager
Windows Audio Running Automatic Windows Audio Manager
Windows Defender Service   Manual Windows Anti-Malware Protection
Windows Firewall Running Automatic Windows Firewall Service
Windows Image Acquisition (WIA)   Manual Scanner/Camera Services
Windows Installer   Manual Manages Installation Of Software (.msi files)
Windows Search Running Automatic (Delayed Start) Manages The Indexing/Searching Of Files/E-Mails/Etc
Windows Update Running Manual (Trigger Start)  Manages (Downloads And Installs) Windows Updates

After SERVICE NAME is STATUS - Running means the service is currently running (working) and BLANK (Empty) means the service is not running yet. STATUS TYPE can be one of five states:

AUTOMATIC - The service starts automatically when the computer is switched on. When the service is no longer needed it will be stopped automatically but its STATUS will remain as Automatic.

AUTOMATIC (Delayed Start) - The same as Automatic but the service might not start immediately. It may have a short delay in starting to help the other services cope. In other words, this service will be classed as not-so-urgent.

MANUAL - The service can be run/stopped manually, when necessary, either by a process or by a user.

MANUAL (Trigger Start) - The same as Manual but the service needs to be triggered (activated/launched) by an application, process or user. So you might have to open an application before it triggers (runs) a service or you might have to plug in a device (i.e. a usb flash drive) before a service (i.e. anti/virus service) is triggered into action.

DISABLED - The service is never run, regardless if it is needed or not.

The above information is needed when you want to set the STARTUP TYPE of a service. Simply stopping a service as described in Fig 3.2 above for example will only STOP that service temporarily. Once you restart the computer all services that were stopped only will have their original STARTUP TYPE reset. So if you stopped the Print Spooler service only it will be reRunning (switched on again) after a computer restart. This is because its STARTUP TYPE will remain set to Automatic.

To change the STARTUP TYPE for a service (such as the Print Spooler service) first right click on its name, in the list of services, to bring up the Options menu (Fig 3.4 below) and then left click on the PROPERTIES menu-item to bring up the Properties window (Fig 3.5). The Properties window will be configured to show the current settings, including STARTUP TYPE, of that service. From there, left click on the STARTUP TYPE drop-down menu and then select (left click on) the startup type you want to use. In this example I have chosen to disable the Print Spooler (Printer) service by selecting DISABLED.

Fig 3.4 - Right click on a service's name and then left click on the PROPERTIES menu-item to continue

Fig 3.5 - Select a STARTUP TYPE and then click on the OK button to continue

After selecting DISABLED in the above example the APPLY button became active to allow me to apply the DISABLED setting straight away, but as I knew this was the only setting I wanted to change I clicked on the OK button instead. If you want to change other settings simply make your changes and then click on the OK button as well - Clicking on the APPLY button is only useful if you want to test settings (i.e. change a setting, APPLY it, don't like it so change it again, APPLY again, etc). In this example though there is no use for APPLY.

Changing the STARTUP TYPE only changes the state of the service for the next time you restart the computer. In this example the Print Spooler service is still active (Running) and will only be disabled when I switch off my computer. The next time I switch on my computer the Print Spooler service will be off (not Running) and completely disabled. Therefore, if I want to STOP the service now I will have to stop it using the STOP menu/item or link as described in Fig 3.2 above and even then the service will only be stopped but not disabled - I could easily restart the Print Spooler service again by clicking on the RESTART link (top-left corner). In the case of the Print Spooler service being DISABLED the next time I start my computer; I would need to un-disable it first, by resetting the STARTUP TYPE to Automatic for example, before I could start it up again (by clicking on the START link).

So to re-cap. If an application (program) crashes on you you should first try and end its current task (job), by selecting the application and then clicking on Task Manager's END TASK button (Fig 1.1 above). If that does not close the application, see if the application has a process associated with it. If it does, end that process by selecting it and then clicking on Task Manager's END TASK button (Fig 2.0 above). If that does not close the application, as a last result, see if the application can be stopped by shutting down an associated service. An example of having to carry out this scenario is not just limited to a crashed application. A computer engineer, from your broadband provider for example, might ask you to shutdown your Anti-Virus application in order to solve an internet connection problem for example - This is because an anti-virus application normally has a Process and a Service too.