Tips to avoid locking your computer

Tips to avoid locking your Personal Computer

Public access computers frequently lock up and that means someone has to fix them. This takes up valuable staff time and discourages institutions from providing public access. If we are good public access citizens we are likely to get more public access. So I have collected some tips on how to avoid locking up your computer. Note, that this web page is just another example of the socially positive things that people do with public access.

These hints may also be of use at home, but at home you can usually just turn the computer off and then boot it up again. That is not as good an option on public access machines because you have to call a staff member over to put in the pass word. Now on to the tips.

Don't Overload the Machine

In general try not to overload the machine, particularly do not fill up its memory. There are several things you need to avoid so you will not overload the memory.

First, avoid having too many windows open at once. This means keep an eye on those pop-up ads. Usually you will see evidence of them at the bottom of your screen. If the number of windows begins to stretch across the page then stop and close some of the windows.

Second, games, particularly ones with high resolution graphics, can lock up a computer. Do not play them on public access machines. As one librarian says, these are Volkswagens, not Ferraris. They can not do everything. Shockwave programs in particular cause trouble.

In general it is best to avoid using public access machines for games, especially when others are waiting.

Third, try to avoid downloading large files. Graphics files are often large, be careful with them.

I often have difficulty with PDF files. They take too long to down load, are difficult to manipulate when they are down loaded and frequently something happens to lock the computer. You can often view them as html files on Google. Look up the web page on Google and click on the link with the word cached.

One librarian, the local computer expert, says that if the page does not load in a few seconds then you should hit the stop button on the tool bar at the top of the page. Pages should normally load quickly on public access machines because they are on DSL.

Several ways to stop a run away task

In additon to the stop button there are several other useful key combinations. You can click on the x at the upper right corner of the screen to close the window.

The box with the little line near the bottom will minimize a page, perhaps you can open another page and ignore that window for a while. This might be a good thing because I suspect the computer locks when you hit a lot of things and it can not respond properly.

If you hold down one of the alt keys on either side of the space bar and then hit F4 this will close the window you are working on. This is often faster than using the mouse, useful when they are throwing lots of pop up windows at you.

The escape button can also be useful for getting out of trouble.

Holding down the control button, the far left corner, and then the pause/break key may end the process which is tying up the computer. This is a more radical step.

Using the task manager

More radical still you can hold down the control key, the alt key, and the delete key. This is called control, alt, delete, and used to cause the computer to reboot. In the past you might have avoided doing that because you would generally have to call the librarian or some other staff member over to get the computer going again. This page is about getting the computer going again without calling the staff in to get the computer going. But now on windows at least I find this gives me windows that give me other alternatives. The window will often have buttons for shut down and log off, you do not want those. You are looking for the task manager.

In many cases the botton of the task manager window is bellow the bottom of my screen so I have to go to the top of the window and drag it up. At the bottom of the end task window is a end task button, press it. Of course if you are ending a task without saving you could loose your material. At any rate another window will show up and ask whether you want to end the task immediately or wait. I usually say end immediately.

Please be polite

Sometimes nothing works and a librarian or other staff member may have to be called in. Please be patient and polite. Often public access is not the institution's top priority. The fewer problems we create the more of it they will provide.

This web page is based on a couple of brief conversations with librarians and my own growing experience. I am trying to lean from my own difficulties in this area and talk to more people to get more hints. The page is rapidly growing. No doubt many other people have more expert advice, which I would like to here and add to this page. You can put a note in my guest book at If you are providing public access you might want to link to this page, help the users be better public access citizens, and save yourself some trouble. I have been talking to my local librarians about using this and some of the other pages on this cite as default homepages on public access machines for a few days so the regular users would be encouraged to read the pages and improve their public access citizenship. If some thing like that interests you, you might want to contact me. I could set up the page so it had one, or several links back to your normal homepage for the several days that you make this page the default.

Last up dated August 20, 2004

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This page is written by Richard Bruce, the web space and computer access were provided by Davis Community Network, DCN, thank you DCN.