How do I stop my PC from crashing?

"What do I do to stop my machine from crashing. It spends some time doing a job then I get a blue screen. How do I solve this? Is it a registry problem?"

 It is difficult to say what could be causing the blue screen of death.  It could be a virus.  It could be some faulty hardware.  It could be a messy registry.

There are two basic approaches: "nuke it from orbit" and "we can rebuild him".


Nuke it from orbit

This is the drastic action approach.  Firstly, copy any data you wish to save to an external hard drive or some other media and then reinstall the operating system, thereby re-formatting the hard drive.  Use this option if you are not worried that you might lose stuff and you don't want to gamble time.  It takes 4-6 hours to completely rebuild a pc's software setup, so it is a big time commitment, but you know what you're getting into from the get-go.  Just make sure that you have all the disks necessary to reinstall your software, or you know where to download them once your internet connection is go.

Nuke it from orbit.  Drastic, but effective.

Can we fix it? Yes we can!

This is a more softly, softly way to go, where you perform maintenance routines to give your PC a tune-up and troubleshoot possible hardware/software issues.  This is more of a "how long is a piece of string" approach.  There are various things you can do to improve PC performance, and some of them you can set going and leave working for an hour or two without your input.   

There is a detailed ICTpoint article on these maintenance routines here.

Actually troubleshooting hardware/software issues is harder though.  You have to ask yourself: did I install any new pieces of kit lately?  Did I download anything untoward by accident?  The basic routine is to remove things from the equation, e.g. new hardware, new software, by uninstalling them and then putting them back in one by one until you find the cause of the problem.  Of course, if it is something like your hard drive is on its last legs, you can't whip it out to test the system without it.  But disk scans (one of the maintenance routines) should recognise that sort of problem.

Many manufacturers' machines, e.g. Dell, HP come with a utility/recovery partition in which there are various diagnostic tests you can perform to test every aspect of your system.  Usually, you access these partitions at boot-time by pressing the F12 key, but it will say on-screen "press X key for boot menu".


Fix Vs Replace

If your PC is over three years old, then you should consider whether it is worth the bother of fixing a troublesome machine.  The standard model in business is that technology should be refreshed every three-4 years.  After this period, breakdowns become more frequent and efficiencies drop, driving the total cost of ownership up and reducing the savings made by keeping elderly machines.  Remember that it is possible to pick up a computer very cheaply nowdays, especially if you only need internet, email and Word.  Good quality netbooks are available for less than 200 euro.