It could happen at any time, seemingly for any reason. One minute you’re playing a game on your gaming PC, talking to your friends online and then nothing but a blue screen. Chances are this has happened to you a few times and usually, restarting your computer resolves the issue. When a reboot cannot solve the problem and your PC continues to suffer from debilitating crashes and slowdowns, refer to this guide to figure out some steps you can take to fix it.

While it may seem like crashes come out of nowhere, more often than not these crashes are due to your computer running slower than usual. For more info on this and how to fix it, check out our guide on 5 Cheap Ways to Speed Up Your Gaming PC.

Tip #1: Check running processes

If a game or other program freezes up on you, your first instinct should be to open your Task Manager using Ctrl+Alt+Delete. Opening this window will usually free up your cursor if it’s stuck and allow you to modify whatever programs are running on your machine. However, have you ever taken a look at the other tabs on this window?

Open your Task Manager and navigate to the tab labelled “Processes”. If you’re running Windows 10, that will be the first tab opened when you launch the manager. Scroll down to the section with background processes and make sure that all the ones related to the program giving you issues are closed. You may have to manually close some of these processes, but after you do so, restarting the game or app should clear up the majority of issues.

Additionally, checking the processes your computer is running can help you prevent other programs you aren’t using at the moment from siphoning energy and processing power that can be better used on games. Google Chrome has a tendency of hogging a great deal of power, running a new process for every tab and extension. Just make sure you don’t end any Microsoft processes or Explorer.exe and you’ll be fine.

Tip #2: Scan for Malware/Spyware

There are a few dead giveaways that your PC is infected with some sort of malicious software. Suspicious pop-ups for dodgy antivirus programs is a big one as are web redirects every time you open your browser. However some viruses work in the background, slowing down your desktop without your knowledge.

It’s important to rule out any malicious code before attempting pricier repairs to your computer, since it can save you time and money down the line. Windows 10 comes with antivirus software, but it is possible that a truly nasty bug could have gotten through your security systems. Use Windows Defender to run a full scan and make sure your firewall is still enabled.

The next step is to perform a thorough cleanup of your system for any rogue code. This can be easily accomplished by rebooting your computer in Safe Mode, or Safe Mode with Networking if you have the ability. Once in Safe Mode, run a thorough antivirus program such as Advanced SystemCare or Hitman Pro to clean off all the gunk.

Tip #3: System Restore

The effectiveness of this technique is dependent on the nature of your computer’s problem and your ability to perform preventative maintenance on your PC in the past. Hopefully, your computer will have automatically made Restore Points or images of the way it ran in the past. This is an effective fix for PCs that only recently stopped working, with restore points at least a week or a month old.

Most antivirus and registry cleaning programs will automatically create restore points whenever they finish cleaning your computer. To roll back your computer to one of these start System Restore from the Start Menu. You can also find it in your Control Panel under Update & Security in the Recovery tab. Newer versions of Windows have it listed as “Reset this PC” but Windows 8 and older have it listed as System Restore.

Running this diagnostic tool should take around 20-30 minutes and if successful, your PC should have rolled back to a point where everything is running smoothly. All your data should still remain but the registry should be pristine and free of viruses or inconsistencies. It is possible that your PC has no restore points saved or that the restore was unsuccessful. If this is the case, you’ll have to go nuclear.

Tip #4: Reinstall your OS

This is a last-ditch scenario and should only be done if you’re sure this is the only thing left to try. If any other diagnostic has failed and your PC is still running poorly or not at all, you should try reinstalling your operating system. This is also a good time to consider an alternate OS such as a free Linux distro or an older version of Windows.

Hopefully, you should have a backup image of the OS that’s installed on your PC. There is an option to burn one in your Control Panel and this is the most painless way of accomplishing this task. If you don’t have a backup disc or lost the CD, you’ll have to find another install disc for the OS you want to use. These can be made with free image burning software such as PowerISO, and can even be placed on a large enough flash drive with the aid of Universal USB Installer.

Reinstalling your OS will wipe all data from your hard drive so try and perform a backup of whatever files you wish to preserve before beginning this step. If you can’t even boot into your drive to recover the files, try starting in Safe Mode or disconnecting the hard drive and plugging it into another computer to extract the files. Please be sure of what you’re doing before applying the reset because there’s no going back from it.

Tip #5: Take it to a professional

If you’ve tried everything on this list, you can safely rule out any software issues with your PC. If you’re still experiencing random crashes, blue screens or power loss, the most likely culprit is your hardware. Depending on your level of expertise with gaming PCs, you may be able to ascertain the root cause of your issue and solve it, but that’s a best case scenario.

If you’re concerned that an internal component has stopped working and you aren’t confident in your own tech support abilities, you should strongly consider going to a professional. Many chain retail electronics stores such as Fry’s Electronics or Best Buy have IT professionals on call to assist you with any PC issues, for a nominal cost. If you want to save some money, try looking for smaller retailers that aren’t part of a franchise.

The best way to avoid wasting money when hiring a professional is to do your research. Make sure they are reputable: do they have a website with customer testimonials? How competitive is their pricing compared to the major chains? Do they price match? Check to see if they charge a diagnostic fee, and ask them if there are cases where this fee is waived. Find out how long the turnaround is and the hourly labor cost.

Depending on what kind of cost estimate they give you and how attached you are to the computer, you may want to consider abandoning this PC and starting fresh. For more information on this, check out our articles on 5 Things to Know Before Building Your First Gaming PC and The Best Gaming Laptops Under $500 if you’re in the market for a new one.

Conclusion

These are a few tips to try when you’re PC just won’t agree with you any more. They’ve been organized based on ease of implementation, effectiveness and monetary cost. Hopefully, you’ll be able to sort out any issues with the first few steps, saving you a great deal of time and grief. If problems still persist, you may need to give up on your computer and look for another. And you don’t have to choose a desktop PC. There are plenty of gaming laptops today that are powerful enough to play your favorite titles without breaking the bank. Whatever the case, you should be back to gaming soon, so relax!