2. More advanced freeze-fixing
We have previously told you how to fix a frozen computer. More often than not, however, it's a single program that's going to freeze on you. If you wait long enough, Windows will usually give you the option of shutting it down, but who wants to wait?
Open up Task Manager and go to the Processes tab. Right-click on the process and choose "End Process." That will kill that program completely. If you're using Windows Vista or 7, you can go to the Applications tab first, right-click on the program that says "Not responding" and select "Go To Process" to select the correct process in the Processes tab.
However, in Windows 8.1 and 10 there's a new option you might want to use first. In the Processes tab, find the program or process that appears to be frozen. Right-click and select "Go to Details" to see the process in the Details tab. Then right-click on the process and choose "Analyze Wait Chain."
This will show you if there's another process that's holding up the frozen process. You might discover that the problem isn't with the program you think. You can then go deal with the other program. You can save the valuable time you'd spend trying to get the wrong program to stop misbehaving.
3. Before doing a full restart
On occasion, you'll run into the situation where your programs aren't frozen, but the Windows taskbar and folders stop responding. If you wait long enough, sometimes Windows will give you the message that Windows Explorer, or explorer.exe, has crashed and is restarting. Windows Explorer is the underlying program that handles most of what you think of as "Windows."
If you run into this situation, however, you don't have to wait. If your computer is acting up and you're thinking of doing a lengthy restart, this is also a faster trick you might want to try.
Open Task Manager and go to the Processes tab. In Windows 10 and 8.1, scroll down to the "Windows Explorer" process. Right-click on it and choose "Restart." Your taskbar and any open folders will disappear and come back, hopefully working correctly again.
For Windows 7 and Vista, find "explorer.exe" in the process list, right-click and choose "End process." This is less elegant, but it should still work. And if not, you were going to restart anyway. Find out why restarting your computer can fix a lot of problems.