How to Fix Not Responding Errors

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How to Fix Not Responding Errors

Windows uses a spinning hourglass and a spinning wheel (depending on your operating system) to indicate that it is busy with a task. When the task completes, the spinning icon goes away and you are able to use your computer once again.

But what happens when the task doesn’t complete? You guessed it: Windows is not responding errors. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to say that just about all Windows users have been through these errors. Probably the only exception would be a brand new Windows user with a brand new computer loaded with system resources. For the rest of us though, we must deal with not responding errors from time to time.

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In older versions of Windows, not responding errors usually required a system reboot. Fortunately, newer versions are less prone to full system crashes. In Windows Vista, when a program is not responding, an option appears prompting you to wait for the program to respond or shut down the non-responsive program. Shutting down the non-responsive program allows you to return to other tasks without having to reboot your computer. You may have lost data in the offending program but the data in other open programs is not affected.

In both Windows Vista and Windows XP, you can manually shut down non-responsive programs by going into the Task Manager. To do this, right-click on a blank area of the taskbar and choose Task Manager. Alternately, you can click the Control + Alt + Del key combination and choose Start Task Manager.

Once launched, click on the Performance tab. Here you’ll see a graphical view of how your resources are being used. Since you have a non-responsive error, it’s likely that your CPU usage and memory will be nearly maxed out. Next, click on the Applications tab. You’ll see a list of all running applications as well as their current status. The non-responsive program will have a status of “not responding.” Highlight the not responding program with your mouse and click on End Task. 

If you’re curious about how much CPU and memory a given program is using, click the Processes tab and find the program’s related .exe file in the list. For example, if you want to see how many resources Excel is using as it runs, look for excel.exe and view the numbers. As you’re looking at this list, you’ll see dozens of processes and programs are taking up large chunks of processing power and memory. If you have too many programs gobbling up resources, then this is likely contributing to your original not responding errors. The more resources that your computer has available, the less likely it is to stop responding.

With that in mind, get into the habit of running fewer programs at once. Use the System Configuration utility to restrict programs that automatically start with Windows. By restricting startup programs, you will avoid giving away precious resources to programs that you aren’t using.

To limit startup items with the System Configuration utility:

  • Go to Start > Run
  • Type: msconfig
  • Press Enter
  • Click the Startup tab
  • Remove non-essential programs from the list that you do not need running

Because viruses and spyware are also notorious resource hogs, make sure to keep your computer protected and run regular malware scans. By freeing up resources, you should notice improved performance and fewer not responding errors.

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