Hassle-Free PC: Ten Sure-Fire Fixes for a Problem PC

Is your PC troubled? Maybe it has the blues (it wants to be a Mac). More likely, it's suffering from any of a dozen things, such as a corrupt file, a bad app, or even a moribund CMOS battery. Read on for PC therapy.

The Hassle: My PC freezes periodically. How do I unfreeze it without losing my work or having to reboot?

The Fix: In Task Manager, select the Processes tab, choose Explorer.exe
, and click End Process
. (Just ignore the scary message.) Select File, New Task (Run...)
, type explorer, and click OK

The Hassle: Your advice helped me unfreeze my system--but it keeps happening, and I can't go on like this. What now?

The Fixes: Start with the usual suspects: Scrub your Temp and Internet cache folders. First, use CleanCache 3.0 (see Tool of the Month on the next page of this article). Then run Windows' Check Disk utility with Automatically fix file system errors
and Scan for and attempt recovery of bad sectors
checked. (Open My Computer, right-click the drive, select Properties
, choose the Tools
tab, and click the Check Now
button under 'Error-checking'.) Also, send your antispyware and antivirus tools into action.

No luck? Try getting rid of damaged ActiveX programs. From Control Panel, choose Internet Options
, the General
tab, Settings
, and View Objects
Right-click to delete any items marked 'Damaged' in the Status column. You might have a corrupted file, so run System File Checker to verify (and, if necessary, reinstall) those files on your system: Click Start, Run
, and then type CMD. In the command window, type sfc /scannow and wait awhile; the scan seems to take forever to complete.

If your PC is still having problems, they may be more deep-rooted. You'll have to try a few techniques to figure out which program or process is causing the freezing. Sysinternals has three superb free diagnostic tools. FileMon gives you a real-time view of every running program and lets you know what it's doing, recording and time-stamping each action an app takes; watch for a specific program's behavior just before a freeze. RegMon does the same for the Registry, while Process Explorer does the dirty work on Windows processes.

The Hassle: Periodically, my PC boots to a black screen with a message saying that my hard drive doesn't exist. When I reboot, Windows loads and everything's fine. Well, almost--the clock is always wrong. Help!

The Fix: You have a dying CMOS battery on your motherboard. You'll first need to record the system's existing CMOS settings, which you can find in the PC Setup program. When you boot up the machine, you should see on-screen PC Setup access instructions before Windows starts. Use a digital camera to snap an image of each page, or record the details with pencil and paper.

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