Frozen Computer + Control Alt Delete Not Working (TRY THIS!)

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It’s incredibly frustrating when all of a sudden the programme you’re using becomes unresponsive, and even worse when the normally reliable function of Ctrl + Alt + Delete fails to provide access to the task manager to isolate the trouble causing application.

If your computer has frozen and the Ctrl+Alt+Del command is not working, the best option to get your system back operational once more is to first wait for 60 seconds to allow your CPU to process commands that are stacked (especially if you are running multiple programmes at once). If nothing changes after a minute, go ahead and perform a forced shutdown by holding down the power button for 5 seconds. 

Holding the button down in this manner tells the computer to action a ‘complete shutdown of  hardware’ process, which is no different from the  shutdown performed with the mouse when the system is operating normally.

Holding the power button down is fundamentally different from simply pulling the power plug out from the mains supply.

Pulling the plug and causing a sudden power loss to the system isn’t advisable as it can cause hard disc write to be terminated and data cached on the RAM that is not yet written onto the hard drive to be lost.

If your mouse cursor is frozen in position AND for some reason you cannot access the power button an alternative route to force a shutdown is to hold down Windows key + R then type Shutdown /s into the Run command box.

By force restarting the computer, you can proceed toward the next step which is  identifying why this issue occurred in the first place.

Tip: It’s worth restarting your video drivers to see whether that action might unstick a frozen screen, the keyboard shortcut for this action is Win + Ctrl + Shift + B

Tips to make Ctrl + Alt + Delete start working again

If your computer only freezes up once and hasn’t been repeating the issue, then it might have been just a one-time problem that a hard restart may have fixed. You only need to worry if freezes become a regular issue.

Here are some of the things you can try to identify the issue that may be causing your computer to freeze up.

Check computer for malicious software

A very probable reason for your PC freezing up and ctrl+alt+del not working could be computer viruses. Malicious programs can very likely cause issues, PC freezes and hamper your computer’s regular operations.

While to an average user it may not be very clear if their PC has been infected with malware it is a good idea to either use Windows defender or an antivirus program like Malwarebytes to do a complete scan of your computer.

If it really is malware causing this issue, it will show up in a deep scan. Then you can quarantine and remove that particular file and hopefully fix both the issue of the ctrl+alt+del not working as well the frequent PC freezes. 

Update Windows

Keeping your Windows operating system up to date is a must in this day and age, and regularly keeping yours updated means that there is less chance of something going wrong.

Hundreds of small bugs are identified and fixed each month by people working at Microsoft and by regularly installing updates, you make sure that all these problem fixes and patches reach your device.

You can go to Windows settings and select to install the latest windows update from there. Who knows the bugs causing your PC to freeze or your ctrl+alt+del shortcut not to work have already been identified and rectified. All you need to do is to update your computer to apply that fix.

Image by FabrikaCr on Canva Pro

Check for keyboard drivers

The ctrl+alt+del combination failing to work has also been attributed to faulty keyboard drivers that you might not encounter until the time comes when you need to press this specific combination of keys. 

Drivers in your computer are a link between hardware components of your PC and their functioning at a software level. Every hardware component in your PC from the processor to your Wi-Fi adapter has accompanying drivers installed.

If and when these drivers go faulty, it can severely affect the function of that component. That includes the keyboard not responding to the ctrl+alt+del shortcut.

Fortunately, this problem can be easily identified and fixed.

  1. To check and fix keyboard drivers, first open the device manager. Just search for Device Manager in the start menu and open the application. 
  2. In the device manager look for the keyboard. 
  3. Select the Keyboard to expand the list of drivers installed. 
  4. Right-click on the Driver and select the uninstall option. This will uninstall the drivers. 
  5. Now restart your PC, upon starting up your computer will reinstall the drivers again. This should fix any driver issues.  

Disable and enable task manager

This one is suited towards troubleshooting when your computer appears to be working normally except the ctrl+alt+delete function doesn’t respond.

The register of your windows operating system is a huge database of all the instructions needed to run your computer. Problems in the registry can cause an array of issues and sometimes when you install a new program on your PC, it can make changes to your registry and break some things.

In this case, it could be that the registry entry regarding the task manager has become faulty. 

To fix this you will need to go into the Windows registry and follow these steps to turn the task manager off and on again:

  1. Use the start menu search bar and type ‘regedit’ and select the registry editor
  2. Go to this path: Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Policies\System 
  3. Right-click on a blank area of the right hand panel and select a new DWORD (32 bit) Value and name this DisableTaskMgr 
  4. Now double click on the newly created Reg_DWORD and set the desired value to 1, which means disabling Task Manager
  5. Close the registry editor and then restart your PC
  6. Enable the task manager once again by simply navigating to the DisableTaskMgr DWORD once more and change the desired value to 0

Perform Windows restore

This option is the absolute last resort. If the PC crashing problem persists and none of the above-suggested fixes are solving the issue. Then it is just better to start new. This can be done by performing a system restore.

Your computer will then return to its original factory settings. And thus fix all operational issues with your operating system. Just make sure you back up any data before you do a system restore, to be on the safe side. All the data in the drive where you are installing the windows will be wiped, so definitely back that data up.

Closing Notes

If using Ctrl+Alt+Del is not working during a computer freezing up, you can try using Ctrl+Shift+Esc to directly access the Task Manager to identify and isolate the problem application.

If all keyboard commands fail and the whole system is frozen the best course of action is to force your PC to shut down by holding down the power button for 5 seconds. This is a controlled process and will not cause any harm to your laptop or PC.

Huzaifah Muhabat

Huzaifah Muhabat

Tech Writer

STEM Graduate with an engineering background and an insatiable curiosity to understand how things work.

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