The official home of It's Geek to Me on the web!

Issue #578: August 19-25, 2018

Q: When typing in Office Home & Student Word and Excel programs, the screen will suddenly go “gray” and freeze; this has happened before I had Office H&S when I had Office 365 it happened too. I will do a Ctrl+Alt+Delete and bring up Task Manager but I must do this several times before Task Manager appears and then I can resume what I was working on. Why does this occur and what can I do to stop it from happening?

– Kathy D.
Niceville, Florida

A:  I must admit, Kathy, this was a problem that I’ve never personally experienced, nor even heard of before reading your question.  I went ahead and did a little bit of research, looking on Microsoft chat boards, and other discussion forums for similar problems.  Rest assured, you don’t seem to be the only person having this problem, although the vast majority of the other descriptions I read seemed to indicate that the problem occurs upon launching the application, not suddenly while using it, as you described.   Also, none of the solutions that I read involved bringing up Task Manager. 

You didn’t really say what you do with Task Manager once it’s launched.  It sounds like the mere act of running it clears out the problem, at least temporarily.  That is suspicious in and of itself.  The fact that you occasionally have difficulty launching Task Manager when experiencing the problem may be doubly telling.  Your system may be so overwhelmed during this time, that it simply has no spare processing bandwidth available to run anything else until it does some housekeeping.  This could account for both the gray screen problem and your difficulty in bringing up Task Manager.  When you do finally get Task Manager running, you should be able to tell by looking at it whether your system is overloaded.  Click the “More details” button at the bottom, and look at the percentage of CPU, Memory and Disk currently being utilized.  Even running Word or Excel, CPU and Disk usage should be in the single-digits, and unless your computer has a comically small amount of RAM, the percentage of memory in-use shouldn’t be over 50% or so.  So look and see if something is using an inordinately high percentage of your system’s resources, because barring that, you should be able to pop-open Task Manager with little or no delay.  By the way, here’s a Geek Tip for you: Try using [Ctrl]+[Shift]+[Esc] to launch Task Manager directly, rather than rather than use [Ctrl]+[Alt]+[Delete] to get to the system menu and clicking “Start Task Manager”.  If your system is indeed low on resources, you don’t need to make matters worse by forcing it to display the system menu.

My research into this problem showed that typical causes seem to be corruption of some unnamed parts of the Office applications themselves.  There are two ways to try and handle that.  The strong-arm solution would be to completely uninstall then reinstall Office.  A more subtle solution would be to attempt an in-place repair.  Microsoft has provided a nice page in their support knowledge base called “Repair an Office application” that explains the steps for both options.  You can find it at

• •

Q: With a couple caveats, you gave the “ok” to saving passwords on our browser (Geek Note: I.G.T.M. #570, June 24, 2018 and I.G.T.M. #574, July 22, 2018) but what about the various websites that encourage someone to save of all passwords on their site?

 Various articles encourage users to concoct long, complicated passwords, yet most websites only require passwords to include a capital letter, a number and possibly a special character. Are the websites requiring enough?

 – Richard M.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

A:  I can only imagine you’re taking about various password management tools, Richard.  I’ve spoken about these in the column before, and have encouraged people to use them to solve many problems related to passwords, including the one you asked in your second question.  The actual location of where the passwords are stored varies among products, with some storing them in the cloud, and other encrypting them for storage on the local device.  Neither solution is perfect, as evidenced by one of the leading password management companies, known for their advanced security technology, falling victim to not just one, but two security breaches in the last few years.

In regard to your second question, one would have to have a good definition of “enough” to even take a crack at it.  But I promise you, if sites required a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters, people would still use passwords like “ABC1234!” and “Password#” and making them longer won’t force people to make them better.  One of the strongest arguments for automated password managers is that they generate and remember passwords that are far stronger than most people could think up, much less guess.  And the best managers automatically change them for you without you ever even knowing.  Pretty slick if you ask me.

Leave a Reply

July 2024

Search the site


Copyright Notice

All content on this site is Copyright © 2007-2024 by Jeff Werner – All rights reserved.