Why does PC freeze when gaming?

It can be incredibly frustrating when your PC freezes or crashes while gaming. One moment you’re immersed in the virtual world, battling enemies or building your empire, and the next everything freezes and you’re left staring at a still image on your monitor.

Gaming places heavy demands on your PC’s hardware and software, so it’s not entirely surprising that you may encounter crashes or lockups from time to time. But understanding the potential causes can help you identify and fix the issue so you can get back to gaming without disruption.

Common Causes of Freezing/Crashing

There are a number of possible culprits when it comes to PC gaming crashes and freezes:


One of the most common causes of crashes and lockups while gaming is overheating. Graphics intensive games place a lot of demand on your GPU and CPU, generating significant heat. If the cooling system can’t keep up, the components can overheat and trigger a crash or freeze.

Dust buildup in your PC blocks airflow and reduces the effectiveness of cooling fans and heatsinks. Ensure your PC and components are kept clean and make sure all fans are running properly. Consider an aftermarket CPU cooler or more aggressive GPU cooling solution if you are running hot.

Driver Issues

Outdated, corrupt or incompatible drivers can also cause crashes while gaming. GPU drivers in particular are frequently updated to optimize performance and compatibility for new games. Make sure you have the latest graphics drivers installed from the manufacturer (Nvidia, AMD etc).

Also check that other key drivers like chipset, audio and networking are up to date. Use a tool like Driver Booster to identify and update any outdated drivers.

Insufficient Power

If your power supply can’t deliver enough stable power to support your components during intense gaming sessions, it may trigger crashes or lockups.

Make sure you have a quality power supply with enough wattage overhead for your setup. For modern gaming PCs with powerful discrete GPUs, a 650W+ gold-rated PSU is recommended.

Defective Hardware

Faulty hardware like defective RAM, failing GPUs or CPUs that are overclocked incorrectly can exhibit crashes or freezes under heavy gaming loads.

Test your RAM using MemTest86 to identify any errors. Stress test your GPU and CPU with a tool like FurMark or Prime95 to see if they are stable at stock and overclocked settings. RMA or replace any defective components.

Game Bugs or Conflicts

Bugs, glitches or conflicts with specific games can also be responsible for crashes. There could be compatibility issues with certain GPUs or other hardware. The game itself may have bugs that cause crashes on certain systems.

Check for patches and updates to the game. Try adjusting graphics settings to reduce load if there are known issues. You can also attempt to disable any overlays or background apps that could be interfering.

Background Processes

Too many background processes sucking up CPU, memory or disk resources while gaming can potentially lead to freezes or crashes. Antivirus scans, software updates, video encoders and other resource intensive apps running in the background take a toll.

Use Task Manager to identify any unnecessary processes you can disable before launching your game. An app like Process Lasso can automatically rein in background processes when you launch games.

Insufficient Resources

If you try to run games your PC can’t really handle, because of insufficient RAM, dated components, etc, then lockups or crashes are more likely. Upgrade to meet the game’s system requirements, close other apps to free up resources, or lower graphics settings.

Overclocking Issues

If you pushed an overclock too far on your CPU, GPU or RAM, you may encounter crashes or freezes under heavy gaming loads, even if it seems stable during normal use or tests. Dial back your overclocks in small increments until the issues resolve.

Thermal Throttling

Many modern GPUs and CPUs will automatically throttle clock speeds if they start to overheat to try and protect the components. This severe throttling during gaming workloads can directly cause performance issues, stuttering or freezes. Improve cooling to prevent this.

Corrupt Game Files

With today’s huge game install sizes, it’s not uncommon for some game files or assets to become corrupted. This can lead to crashes or lockups. Validate your game files through your game platform or launcher to identify and replace any corrupted files.

Storage Drive Errors

A failing or severely fragmented HDD/SSD can cause freezing when gaming if it has trouble loading assets fast enough. Scan your drives for errors. Defrag HDDs. Replace drives that are showing signs of failure. Move games to your fastest drive.

Windows Update Issues

Windows updates gone bad can become a source of various problems, including gaming crashes and freezes in some cases. Use System Restore to roll back problematic Windows Updates. Pause Updates before launching games.

Virus or Malware Infection

Viruses, spyware, cryptocurrency miners and other malware running in the background can sometimes be responsible for PC gaming crashes if they overwhelm your system. Run scans with an antivirus program like Malwarebytes to identify and remove any malicious programs.

BIOS Settings

Outdated or misconfigured BIOS settings can potentially lead to problems and system instability. Update to the latest BIOS for your motherboard and reset settings to default. Adjust any overclocking, power and TDP related settings.

Loose Connections

It’s worthwhile to open your PC and check that all power cables, SATA connections, RAM and GPU are properly seated. A loose connector can intermittently cause crashes if it loses contact. Reseat all connectors and cards.

How to Troubleshoot Crashes and Freezes

If your games are still crashing or freezing even after trying common fixes, you can run through some troubleshooting steps to identify the issue:

1. Isolate the Problem

Figure out if the crashing or freezing is limited to one game or all games. This can help indicate a game specific issue vs general system instability. Test with graphics intensive 3D games as well as older 2D games.

2. Update Drivers

As mentioned previously, outdated drivers are a common source of gaming crashes. Go through each major component like GPU, chipset, audio etc and update drivers.

3. Monitor Temperatures

Use HWMonitor or your BIOS to check component temps before and during gaming sessions where crashes occur. Overheating may be the culprit if temps spike over 90-100C before a crash.

4. Stress Test Hardware

Use CPU and GPU stress testing tools to analyze system stability. Apps like AIDA64, Prime95, FurMark and Heaven Benchmark will push components hard to identify any weakness or defects under heavy loads.

5. Test RAM

Unstable RAM can cause random crashes and freezes. Use MemTest86 to extensively test your RAM sticks one at a time. Let it run 6+ passes on each stick to check for errors.

6. Check Event Viewer

The Windows Event Viewer provides detailed system logs and error messages. Check for critical errors around the timestamp of crashes, which may identify the source. Search online for the specific log codes.

7. Eliminate Background Processes

Completely close all unnecessary background apps before launching games. Disable startup items, antivirus scans and software updates. Use Task Manager to end background tasks. Test if crashes persist.

8. Reinstall Game

If crashes only occur in one game, try uninstalling and reinstalling the game completely. This can replace any corrupted files. Make sure to install latest game patches too.

9. Roll Back Drivers

If a system or game worked fine before a certain driver update, roll back the GPU drivers, BIOS or other drivers to the last version you know was stable to test if an update is the issue.

10. Check File Integrity

For steam games, right click and go Properties > Local Files tab > Verify Integrity of Game Files to check for corrupt installs. Other launchers usually have a similar integrity check option too.

11. Test with Single RAM stick

Remove all RAM sticks except one and try gaming. If the crashing persists, swap the stick and retest with others one at a time in each slot. Faulty RAM can be identified this way.

12. Try Safe Mode

Boot into Windows Safe Mode and attempt gaming to see if crashes persist. This will load only essential drivers and services, isolating potential driver and software issues.

13. Reseat Components

As mentioned earlier, loose components can cause intermittent crashes in some cases. Power down, open the case and firmly reseat the GPU, RAM sticks, power cables and other connections.

14. Test with Another GPU/PSU

If you have another system, try swapping in those components one at a time to isolate potential hardware defects causing problems. Test with another GPU or PSU if you have them.

15. Clean Install Windows

As a last resort, backup your data and perform a completely fresh Windows install to rule out underlying OS corruption issues. Reinstall games and essential drivers only after the reinstall.

Tips to Avoid PC Freezing When Gaming

Here are some general tips to help avoid those annoying PC crashes and freezes while gaming:

– Keep your PC, GPU and other components dust-free and properly cooled

– Don’t overclock components to unstable levels

– Update GPU drivers frequently and keep other system drivers updated

– Make sure you have a quality, high-wattage power supply

– Don’t run unnecessary background tasks while gaming

– Add more RAM if you frequently max it out while gaming

– Use an SSD as your primary gaming drive for faster loads

– Verify game file integrity through your platform to fix corruption

– Close other apps before launching your games

– Maintain stable temps with adequate cooling and airflow

– Disable GPU overclocks or automatic overclocking features if unstable

– Don’t alt-tab excessively or overload the GPU

– Reduce graphics settings if your PC struggles with a game

– Move games to the fastest storage drive on your system

Following proper troubleshooting steps and general stability best practices will help minimize or eliminate irritating game crashes. But some amount of freezing may still occur occasionally due to game bugs or updates. Regularly save progress in games and keep GPU drivers updated is all you can do to minimize disruption in those cases. Enjoy your PC gaming!


PC gaming crashes and freezes can be annoying, but are usually fixable. The most common causes include overheating, driver issues, hardware defects, game bugs and insufficient system resources. Following proper troubleshooting steps like monitoring temperatures, stress testing components, updating drivers, verifying game file integrity and eliminating software conflicts can help identify and resolve the root cause in most cases. Using adequate cooling, keeping background tasks to a minimum, installing games on an SSD and maintaining proper system and component maintenance will go a long way towards preventing troublesome gaming crashes in the first place.