Question Windows 10 taskbar sometimes freezes for a few seconds

rick_meadows

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Mar 2, 2013
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Hello, everyone. I hope you can help me solve a problem that's been irritating me for a while now.

Occasionally whenever I move my cursor to the taskbar, I notice that it's frozen (as in, I hover some of the icons and there is no selection and I can't interact with them). After a 2-3 seconds, it goes back to normal.

And here is the weirdest part: this is a new PC and a remember it happening with my previous one as well. I thought it might be a buggy Windows update but the issue does not occur on my laptop. Could be software that's causing it, since I installed mostly the same things on the previous PC and the new one.

Can anyone help me triangulate the cause for this? I have no idea what to look for to find the root of this problem. It's driving me crazy.

Here are my current PC specs if that helps:

  • Z390M PRO Gaming
  • Intel i5 9400F
  • RTX 2060 SUPER
  • 16GB RAM
 

Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator
First,

make sure your motherboard has the MOST recent BIOS version installed. If it does not, then update. This solves a high number of issues even in cases where the release that is newer than yours makes no mention of improving graphics card or other hardware compatibility. They do not list every change they have made when they post a new BIOS release.


Second,

go to the product page for your motherboard on the manufacturer website. Download and install the latest driver versions for the chipset, storage controllers, audio and network adapters. Do not skip installing a newer driver just because you think it is not relevant to the problem you are having. The drivers for one device can often affect ALL other devices and a questionable driver release can cause instability in the OS itself. They don't release new drivers just for fun. If there is a new driver release for a component, there is a good reason for it. The same goes for BIOS updates.


IF you have other hardware installed or attached to the system that are not a part of the systems covered by the motherboard drivers, then go to the support page for THAT component and check to see if there are newer drivers available for that as well. If there are, install them.


Third,

Make sure your memory is running at the correct advertised speed in the BIOS. This may require that you set the memory to run at the XMP profile settings. Also, make sure you have the memory installed in the correct slots and that they are running in dual channel which you can check by installing CPU-Z and checking the Memory and SPD tabs. For all modern motherboards that are dual channel memory architectures, from the last ten years at least, if you have two sticks installed they should be in the A2 (Called DDR4_1 on some boards) or B2 (Called DDR4_2 on some boards) which are ALWAYS the SECOND and FOURTH slots over from the CPU socket, counting TOWARDS the edge of the motherboard EXCEPT on boards that only have two memory slots total. In that case, if you have two modules it's not rocket science, but if you have only one, then install it in the A1 or DDR4_1 slot.



The last thing we want to look at,

for now anyhow, is the graphics card drivers. Regardless of whether you "already installed the newest drivers" for your graphics card or not, it is OFTEN a good idea to do a CLEAN install of the graphics card drivers. Just installing over the old drivers OR trying to use what Nvidia and AMD consider a clean install is not good enough and does not usually give the same result as using the Display Driver Uninstaller utility. This has a very high success rate and is always worth a shot.


If you have had both Nvidia and AMD cards installed at any point on that operating system then you will want to run the DDU twice. Once for the old card drivers (ie, Nvidia or AMD) and again for the currently installed graphics card drivers (ie, AMD or Nvidia). So if you had an Nvidia card at some point in the past, run it first for Nvidia and then after that is complete, run it again for AMD if you currently have an AMD card installed.

 

rick_meadows

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Mar 2, 2013
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Please mention some of the software you think might be problematic.
Hey!

Among the installed software I have installed on my PC (where the problem happens) and not on my laptop (where the problem doesn't happen) are Steam, Origin, Uplay, SyncBackFree, WinDirStat and Oracle Virtualbox.

I don't think any software might be problematic, as they are all functioning correctly. That's why I was hoping to know where to look for some logs or something to see what sort of errors might be happening when the issue happens.
 

rick_meadows

Distinguished
Mar 2, 2013
9
0
18,510
0
First,

make sure your motherboard has the MOST recent BIOS version installed. If it does not, then update. This solves a high number of issues even in cases where the release that is newer than yours makes no mention of improving graphics card or other hardware compatibility. They do not list every change they have made when they post a new BIOS release.


Second,

go to the product page for your motherboard on the manufacturer website. Download and install the latest driver versions for the chipset, storage controllers, audio and network adapters. Do not skip installing a newer driver just because you think it is not relevant to the problem you are having. The drivers for one device can often affect ALL other devices and a questionable driver release can cause instability in the OS itself. They don't release new drivers just for fun. If there is a new driver release for a component, there is a good reason for it. The same goes for BIOS updates.


IF you have other hardware installed or attached to the system that are not a part of the systems covered by the motherboard drivers, then go to the support page for THAT component and check to see if there are newer drivers available for that as well. If there are, install them.


Third,

Make sure your memory is running at the correct advertised speed in the BIOS. This may require that you set the memory to run at the XMP profile settings. Also, make sure you have the memory installed in the correct slots and that they are running in dual channel which you can check by installing CPU-Z and checking the Memory and SPD tabs. For all modern motherboards that are dual channel memory architectures, from the last ten years at least, if you have two sticks installed they should be in the A2 (Called DDR4_1 on some boards) or B2 (Called DDR4_2 on some boards) which are ALWAYS the SECOND and FOURTH slots over from the CPU socket, counting TOWARDS the edge of the motherboard EXCEPT on boards that only have two memory slots total. In that case, if you have two modules it's not rocket science, but if you have only one, then install it in the A1 or DDR4_1 slot.



The last thing we want to look at,

for now anyhow, is the graphics card drivers. Regardless of whether you "already installed the newest drivers" for your graphics card or not, it is OFTEN a good idea to do a CLEAN install of the graphics card drivers. Just installing over the old drivers OR trying to use what Nvidia and AMD consider a clean install is not good enough and does not usually give the same result as using the Display Driver Uninstaller utility. This has a very high success rate and is always worth a shot.


If you have had both Nvidia and AMD cards installed at any point on that operating system then you will want to run the DDU twice. Once for the old card drivers (ie, Nvidia or AMD) and again for the currently installed graphics card drivers (ie, AMD or Nvidia). So if you had an Nvidia card at some point in the past, run it first for Nvidia and then after that is complete, run it again for AMD if you currently have an AMD card installed.

Hey!

I'm currently running the most up-to-date versions of my drivers. As for the graphics card drivers, I already make sure to do a clean install every time (had issues in the past).
 

Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator
Ok, that's good then. And when you say "I'm currently running the most up-to-date drivers" I hope that means you have manually gone to the motherboard product page, downloaded and installed them yourself, rather than relied on some third party "driver updater" type utility or even the manufacturers driver update utility. Those almost ALWAYS cause problems, and practically never result in having the most current, and correct, drivers installed.

If you have manually verified that you have the most recent chipset, audio, network adapter (Both Ethernet and WiFi, if you have both), any required USB drivers available from your motherboard product page that are not included as part of the chipset and any third party storage controller drivers, as well as the graphics card drivers, then I'd recommend moving on to the suggestions at the following link. Yes, much of this seems basic, but more often than not even for myself or other advanced users, addressing the basics first (Even when you think you already have) often leads to a much quicker fix because then you tend to not overlook something that is painfully obvious in hindsight.

Your mouse behavior is something I have seen before and I'm pretty sure it's due to a process running that is taking up significant system resources and causing everything else to wait. So, disabling automatic optimization and automatic creation of system restore points is a good first step at eliminating resource hogs while troubleshooting. Any other programs installed like NZXT CAM or any bundled software that came with or is available from your motherboard manufacturer should be uninstalled, except where it is mandatory in situations like an AIO cooler that can't run without it. Even then, there are generally options to provide control through the BIOS rather than relying on CAM and other utilities.


It's probably also a really good idea to update any virus or malware scanner definitions and do a full system scan as well. If nothing turns up, it might be a good idea to run a second opinion scanner as primary scanners don't always catch everything.

 

rick_meadows

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Mar 2, 2013
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Ok, that's good then. And when you say "I'm currently running the most up-to-date drivers" I hope that means you have manually gone to the motherboard product page, downloaded and installed them yourself, rather than relied on some third party "driver updater" type utility or even the manufacturers driver update utility. Those almost ALWAYS cause problems, and practically never result in having the most current, and correct, drivers installed.

If you have manually verified that you have the most recent chipset, audio, network adapter (Both Ethernet and WiFi, if you have both), any required USB drivers available from your motherboard product page that are not included as part of the chipset and any third party storage controller drivers, as well as the graphics card drivers, then I'd recommend moving on to the suggestions at the following link. Yes, much of this seems basic, but more often than not even for myself or other advanced users, addressing the basics first (Even when you think you already have) often leads to a much quicker fix because then you tend to not overlook something that is painfully obvious in hindsight.

Your mouse behavior is something I have seen before and I'm pretty sure it's due to a process running that is taking up significant system resources and causing everything else to wait. So, disabling automatic optimization and automatic creation of system restore points is a good first step at eliminating resource hogs while troubleshooting. Any other programs installed like NZXT CAM or any bundled software that came with or is available from your motherboard manufacturer should be uninstalled, except where it is mandatory in situations like an AIO cooler that can't run without it. Even then, there are generally options to provide control through the BIOS rather than relying on CAM and other utilities.


It's probably also a really good idea to update any virus or malware scanner definitions and do a full system scan as well. If nothing turns up, it might be a good idea to run a second opinion scanner as primary scanners don't always catch everything.

I'm relieved you have seen it before. I thought I was going mad :D

I checked my settings and automatic optimization is happening weekly, not during the times I've noticed the problem. And system restore points is set to monthly...

I was hoping there was a way to check Windows logs to know what was causing the freezes. I have written down the times they last occurred so all I'd need is a way to check what happened at those times, right?

I took a look at Event Viewer but I have no idea what to look for :(
 

Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator
Do us both a favor. Press Ctrl+Alt+Delete at the same time, and then click on task manager. If it doesn't show you the 7 tabs, then click on the little "More details" at the bottom of the left side of task manager. Click on the "Processes" tab. Click on the top of the CPU column until it brings the processes using the most CPU resources to the top so that it is descending from highest to lowest. Take a screenshot by pressing the windows key + PrtScn.

Now do the same thing for the memory column.

Then, click on the Startup tab and take a screenshot of everything on that page. If there is more than what will fit in one image, scroll down and take a second screenshot.

Post the images here using the instructions at the following link:

 

Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator
And here is the weirdest part: this is a new PC and a remember it happening with my previous one as well.
Did you do a completely new, fresh, CLEAN install of Windows when you built the new system, or are you using the same Windows installation that was in use on the old system?

If you are not using the same OS installation, then are you using the same DRIVE for the operating system in THIS machine that you were using in the OLD machine? And if you are not using the same drive for the operating system (Windows) are there ANY drives from the old machine that are installed in THIS machine?
 

rick_meadows

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DRIVE for the operating system in THIS machine that you were using in the OLD machine?
Oh, yeah! I'm using the same HDD. This new PC has an SSD where the OS is installed and I'm using the old HDD as a data storage. Do you think this might be related to the issue? Is there a way I can check?

While looking at Event Viewer after the issue occurred last time, I noticed another entry that always has an entry at the time the freezing happens:

Updated Windows Defender status successfully to SECURITY_PRODUCT_STATE_ON

I also noticed the problem tends to happen after Windows Defender updates itself. Is this all connected? Can the issue be something else?
 

Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator
I would bet that the EFI boot partition still exists on the old HDD and that could be causing some discrepancies with the registry. I'd use a partition utility and make sure there are no partitions on the HDD except for the one you are using for storage. I would also download Seatools for Windows and run both the short DST (Drive self test) and the Long generic. It will take a good long while to complete the long generic. This should tell you if there are problems physically with that drive.

First though, I'd shut down, unplug that drive and then power up and see if you have any of the same problems with it disconnected.
 

rick_meadows

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Mar 2, 2013
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I would bet that the EFI boot partition still exists on the old HDD and that could be causing some discrepancies with the registry. I'd use a partition utility and make sure there are no partitions on the HDD except for the one you are using for storage. I would also download Seatools for Windows and run both the short DST (Drive self test) and the Long generic. It will take a good long while to complete the long generic. This should tell you if there are problems physically with that drive.

First though, I'd shut down, unplug that drive and then power up and see if you have any of the same problems with it disconnected.
I just checked the HDD with Windows Disk Management. It has 5 (!) partitions, all marked as healthy: 3 recovery partitions, the primary partition and a single EFI system partition! Also, apparently all of these except for the primary are empty...

I still need to run Seatools, but can I safely delete these partitions and see if the problem persists? And if so, how? (I dunno if Windows Disk Management can do this, I right clicked the partitions and only Help was available)
 

rick_meadows

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You will need to use a third party partition manager like Gparted. Disk management isn't going to let you remove what it sees as EFI or recovery partitions, since it protects those types of partitions.

I would use Gparted myself but there are plenty of other free partition management utilities out there.

https://www.lifewire.com/use-gparted-to-partition-hard-drive-2205693
I know this isn't the Gparted support forum but I ran into a scary issue just now when trying to use it. I created a bootable USB and, when I selected is as the boot device when turning my PC on, a message in red appeared about secure boot violation...? Has this ever happened to you? I was unable to use Gparted and now I'm at a loss on how to delete these useless partitions...
 

rick_meadows

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Try this method. Just be sure you are deleting the ones on the right drive, and not on your primary drive.

https://www.easeus.com/partition-master/delete-efi-system-partition.html

Or, you could simply disable secure boot in the BIOS until after you are done with Gparted, then go back into the BIOS and enable it again.
Thanks for the help. I was able to boot Gparted and delete the extra partition. Sadly, the problem continued so that must have not been it :(

This is driving me mad...

I have considered a clean reinstall of Windows but since the issue also happened at my previous PC, this does not seem like an effective solution to compensate for how radical it is.

I have already tried disabling background applications I have one by one and the problem persists. I also keep seeing "Updated Windows Defender status successfully to SECURITY_PRODUCT_STATE_ON" every single time the freezing happened. It can't be a coincidence, right? Is there a way to completely disable Defender to test this (I don't care how unsafe it might be, I just want this issue to stop)?
 

MetalMatty

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Apr 20, 2017
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This is very akin to what is happening to my computer, only when taskbar freezes it closes all other programs as well.
I'm still trying to figure out what the root cause is, but a fix for me is to run a command prompt for "chkdsk C: /f", where "C" is your primary drive storage letter. It'll prompt that it can't do it in use and if you want to do it on next restart, hit "Y" and enter.
Next reboot Windows will check and repair the "C:" drive. The first time it took my computer HOURS to do it, but I've done it four times since and it only takes about 5 minutes now.
It isn't an ideal fix but it at least makes my computer usable.
 

Darkbreeze

Titan
Moderator
A clean install would make it a lot MORE usable. If a clean install doesn't fix the problem, then you have a faulty piece of hardware. You can also create a bootable Linux distro like Ubuntu to boot from on a flash drive, which should tell you if it is a Windows problem or hardware. If you have the same problem on the Linux distro, then it's hardware, not Windows.
 

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