How do you restart a frozen Dell laptop?

A frozen or unresponsive Dell laptop can be very frustrating. However, there are several troubleshooting steps you can take to try and restart your Dell laptop if it freezes or becomes unresponsive.

What causes a Dell laptop to freeze?

There are a few common causes for a Dell laptop freezing up:

  • Too many programs running – Having too many programs or browser tabs open can overload the laptop’s RAM and cause it to freeze.
  • Overheating – Excessive heat due to poor ventilation, dust buildup, or intensive programs can cause system instability.
  • Software conflicts – Incompatible apps, corrupted files, or malware/viruses can lead to freezing.
  • Faulty hardware – Defective RAM, hard drive issues, or other hardware problems may result in lockups.
  • Outdated drivers – Old drivers for graphics, WiFi, or other components can sometimes cause conflict and freezing.

How to restart a frozen Dell laptop

If your Dell laptop is frozen, there are a few ways you can attempt to restart it:

Perform a regular restart

The first thing to try is a normal restart of your Dell laptop. To do this:

  1. Press and hold the power button for 5-10 seconds to force a power down.
  2. Once the laptop is off, press the power button again to turn it back on as normal.

This standard restart can resolve many temporary software freezes and glitches. Be sure to save any open files first, as forcing a restart will result in data loss.

Restart from the sign-in screen

If you can’t power down normally, you may be able to restart from the Windows sign-in screen:

  1. Press Ctrl + Alt + Delete on your keyboard.
  2. Select the Power icon in the lower right corner of the sign-in screen.
  3. Choose “Restart” to reboot your Dell laptop.

This allows you to restart without fully signing in and may help resolve issues if a program is freezing at launch.

Boot into Safe Mode

Booting into Windows Safe Mode starts your Dell laptop with only essential drivers and services. This can help isolate freezing issues caused by third party apps and software conflicts.

To boot into Safe Mode:

  1. Force shutdown your laptop by holding the power button.
  2. Power on your laptop and quickly press F8 as it is booting up to access the Advanced Boot Options.
  3. Select “Safe Mode” using the arrow keys and press Enter.

If your laptop restarts normally in Safe Mode, freezing may be caused by a problematic app or setting that is disabled in Safe Mode.

Boot into Last Known Good Configuration

Booting into the Last Known Good Configuration option reverts your Windows settings and drivers to a previous working state. This can resolve freezing caused by a recent Windows update or driver installation. To use this option:

  1. Force shut down your Dell laptop by holding the power button.
  2. Power your laptop back on and quickly press F8 during boot up.
  3. Choose “Last Known Good Configuration” and press Enter to restart.

If your laptop was working fine until a recent change, reverting to a previous configuration may fix freezing issues.

Start in Safe Mode with Networking

Safe Mode with Networking can help determine if network connectivity is the culprit behind a frozen Dell laptop. This mode boots with essential services and drivers enabled, along with network access. Try it by:

  1. Force shutting down your laptop.
  2. Powering up and pressing F8 during boot.
  3. Choosing “Safe Mode with Networking” using arrow keys and Enter.

If your laptop unfreezes with networking enabled, you may need to update network drivers or configure settings.

Start in Safe Mode with Command Prompt

Advanced users can try starting in Safe Mode with Command Prompt to run diagnostic tests and troubleshoot system files. To do this:

  1. Force shutdown then restart your laptop.
  2. Press F8 during boot and select “Safe Mode with Command Prompt”.
  3. Use the Command Prompt to run system file checks and diagnostics like CHKDSK, SFC, and DISM.

Restarting normally after repairs may resolve any file corruption and instability causing freezes.

Reset or uninstall recent updates

If your Dell laptop began freezing after a particular Windows or driver update, resetting that update may resolve the issue. You can do this from the Advanced Startup options:

  1. Go to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery and select “Restart Now” under Advanced Startup.
  2. After rebooting to the Choose an Option screen, select Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Uninstall Updates.
  3. Choose the update to uninstall and select Uninstall to roll back that update.

Check if removing a troublesome update or driver resolves any freezing problems.

Perform a system restore

Reverting your Dell laptop to an earlier restore point can resolve software-related freezing issues. To do a system restore:

  1. Get to the Advanced Startup options by going to Settings > Update & Security > Recovery then selecting “Restart Now.”
  2. After your laptop reboots, choose Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > System Restore.
  3. Select a restore point prior to when freezing issues began and press Next to undo changes.

Restore points created before problematic updates or software installations can be used to revert freezing issues.

Check your hard drive for errors

Corrupted system files on your hard drive can sometimes cause Dell laptop lockups or freezes. Checking for hard drive errors using CHKDSK can help identify and repair such problems.

To run CHKDSK:

  1. Access the Command Prompt from Advanced Startup options.
  2. Type “chkdsk /f” and press Enter to scan your hard drive and repair errors.
  3. Restart your laptop normally afterwards.

CHKDSK will attempt to replace corrupted files to resolve stability issues like freezing.

Examine system and app event logs

Checking event logs from your Dell laptop can provide clues to the source of freezing issues based on error messages. To view event logs:

  1. Go to Control Panel > Administrative Tools > Event Viewer.
  2. Open Windows Logs > System to check system errors.
  3. Open Windows Logs > Application to check app crashes and faults.

Event logs can indicate failing hardware, buggy drivers, app compatibility issues, and other problems that may be causing system freezes.

Test your RAM for errors

Faulty RAM sticks can easily cause random lockups and system freezes. Testing your Dell laptop’s RAM using the Windows Memory Diagnostic tool is recommended. To use this tool:

  1. Type “Windows Memory Diagnostic” in the taskbar search box and select the app.
  2. Click “Restart now and check for problems” to reboot into the RAM test.
  3. The test will run automatically and report any errors found.

If bad RAM is detected, replacement of the faulty memory module is advised.

Check CPU and system temperatures

An overheating CPU or internal components can definitely lead to laptop freezes. Monitor your Dell laptop’s temperature using an app like Core Temp or Open Hardware Monitor. If overheating is occuring:

  • Clean out any dust blocking cooling vents or fans.
  • Consider reapplying thermal paste between the CPU and heatsink.
  • Place the laptop on a hard flat surface for better airflow.
  • Invest in a laptop cooling pad to help lower temperatures.

Keeping your Dell laptop’s internal temps within acceptable limits can prevent heat-related instability and freezing.

Update BIOS, chipset and firmware

Outdated BIOS, chipset or firmware versions can sometimes produce system instability and lockups. Check Dell’s support site for any available updates to these components. Important updates may include:

  • BIOS / UEFI firmware
  • Touchpad driver
  • Video / GPU driver
  • WiFi / Networking adapter
  • Bluetooth driver
  • Audio driver

Installing the latest optimized versions of these system components can potentially improve stability and reduce freezing.

Update or reinstall graphics drivers

Graphics driver issues are a common source of Windows lockups and crashes. To troubleshoot your video drivers on a Dell laptop try:

  • Updating to the latest graphics drivers from Dell or your GPU vendor.
  • Performing a “clean” driver installation using Display Driver Uninstaller.
  • Rolling back drivers to a known good version if a recent update caused problems.
  • Completely removing and reinstalling the most current graphics drivers.

Use the above steps to eliminate any graphical driver-related causes of laptop freezes or hangs.

Disable Fast Startup

Having Fast Startup enabled in Windows can sometimes cause intermittent freezing and system instability. Disabling this feature may help:

  1. Go to Control Panel > Hardware and Sound > Power Options.
  2. Click “Choose what the power buttons do” on the left side.
  3. Click “Change settings that are currently unavailable.”
  4. Uncheck the box for “Turn on fast startup.”
  5. Click Save Changes and restart your laptop.

With Fast Startup disabled, a full shutdown and restart may resolve Dell freezing problems.

Perform a factory reset

If all else fails, performing a factory reset can eliminate any lingering software issues causing your Dell laptop to freeze. This will erase all data and reset Windows to factory condition. Before resetting:

  • Backup any important data.
  • Have your Windows product key available for reactivation.

Then factory reset using either the Reset this PC option in Windows Settings or Dell’s recovery partition option by pressing Ctrl+F11 on boot.

A clean slate via factory reset provides the best chance for resolving Dell laptop freezes when software is the likely culprit.


Unresponsive Dell laptops can be a nuisance, but hopefully the troubleshooting steps outlined above will help get to the bottom of what’s causing the system to freeze or lock up. Some key things to try include:

  • Restarting in Safe Mode
  • Checking event logs for clues
  • Updating drivers and firmware
  • Running hardware diagnostics like RAM tests
  • Monitoring system temperatures
  • Performing a factory reset for a clean slate

Isolating whether the issue is caused by software conflicts or hardware faults will help direct your troubleshooting efforts. With persistence and methodically working through these restart suggestions, you should be able to get your Dell laptop back up and running smoothly again.