Common causes for AutoCAD® freezing

by Will on December 16, 2010

How many times have you been working in AutoCAD®, and then suddenly it freezes on you? Panic sets in, as you try to remember the last time you saved… You wait… and wait… and… thankfully AutoCAD® un-freezes, this time…

But what actually is the cause of AutoCAD® freezing? It depends – there are many potential reasons for AutoCAD® freezing, but some can be avoided completely with a little understanding of what’s actually happening.

Selections

The first and most obvious reason for AutoCAD® freezing is when we do things to a very large selection. What can sometimes be unexpected is when AutoCAD® freezes when we have merely selected the objects without doing anything to them. This can sometimes leave us gazing at an hourglass thinking “I didn’t ask you to do anything! Why are you freezing on me!?”. Odd as this may seem, there is a reason for it.

When a selection is made, any on screen information that relates to your active selection needs to be updated; otherwise you’ll be working from incorrect information. So, if for example you have the properties window on your screen anywhere, even if it is docked with the auto-hide feature enabled, all the data in the properties window needs to be updated with correct information. The time that this takes is proportional with the amount of things selected, so you can see that simply selecting objects can be the cause of AutoCAD® freezing.

There are ways of working that allow us to drastically reduce the frequency of AutoCAD® freezing when working with a large selection. Make sure you select commands before you make a selection. This sends a clearer instruction to AutoCAD®, and it is dealt with more quickly than if we make the selection first. By selecting first you’re saying to AutoCAD® “Here are some entities that I am interested in – prepare them for me to use in any way”. This is vague, so AutoCAD® has to prepare for anything. However by invoking the command first and making a selection afterwards you’re saying “I only care about performing this action – these are the entities I want to perform it on”. This instruction is much clearer and skips out a lot that we’re not interested in. An extension of this is to get out of the habit of using the Delete key for erasing entities. Yes, it works. But again, picking the erase command first and then the entities sends a clearer message with a very noticeable difference in performance when working with large selections.

Commands

There are a few commands that more commonly cause AutoCAD® to freeze than others. Hatching is one of the main ones, but again, a little know-how can avoid this. A lot of people routinely use the pick-points option for defining a hatch boundary. I personally always try to draw in a way that makes hatching easy. For example, where possible I use closed polylines instead of lines. This allows me to then hatch later by selecting a boundary, eliminating the need to pick points, potentially making AutoCAD® hang. Take a look at my post on the RECTANG command to see what I mean.

When working in 3D, you might be tempted to avoid the 3DORBIT command completely in favour of the SHIFT+MOUSEWHEEL, but there is a reason you should generally use the 3DO command instead. AutoCAD® needs to prepare for 3D orbitting, and if you’re planning on manipulating the drawing a bit, you only want to make AutoCAD® hang for this preparation once. If you use the SHIFT+MOUSEWHEEL method, you’ll make AutoCAD® prepare for 3D orbitting each time you use it, which can be very time consuming on larger drawings. So for very small drawings, its fine to use SHIFT+MOUSEWHEEL, but for everything else use 3DO.

Networked Working

Working on drawings that are saved on some external network has been known to suffer performance issues. Try where possible to work locally, but only where doing so does not undermine whatever document management system you have in place (you do have a structured and coherent document management system.. don’t you??).

Bugs

One particularly prolific bug that I’ve had problems with is the Scale List Bug. Click here to view the solution.

When AutoCAD® Freezes or Hangs…

Wait!!! Do not mash the keys - however tempting that may be! Doing so will only make it take longer. Try to be patient. After a minute or so, you could try a few taps on the Escape key – sometimes you can cancel the command and regain control. After a few mins longer you may want to weigh up whether or not it is worth trying to regain control at all. Is the amount of work you have done since the last save worth rescuing? That will depend on how much work you did. Often, the bulk of the work is the thought processes that went into whatever you did in AutoCAD® – this work has still been done, and you can redo the actual AutoCAD® input quite quickly. If you choose to kill AutoCAD®, you might want to know this useful keyboard shortcut – Ctrl + Shift + Escape, which brings up the task manager.

I will be updating this list in the future so you may want to revisit this post in the future. If you haven’t already, please do subscribe to howtoautocad.com. It is really simple to do – just fill out your email address below, and all you get is an email whenever I post new content. So, it can only be useful to you, and you have nothing to lose :-)

Will

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

neil jones December 17, 2010 at 8:48 am

Interesting points about selections – I’ll give all these tips a try as Civil 3D frequently locks up (but sometimes comes back after up to 30 seconds)

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paul breault April 7, 2011 at 4:34 pm

Wow, what a difference. This problem has been dogging me for a while. Doing the command first before the selection makes a tremendous difference. In this drawing, after selecting geometry, autocad freezes for 54 seconds (I timed it). When I do , for example, the move command first, then make the selection, it only pauses for a second. Thank you so much!!!

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Will April 8, 2011 at 8:04 am

It certainly does make a big difference sometimes doesn’t it! Glad to help :-)

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Allyson Leisey August 23, 2011 at 1:26 pm

Program and platform: I’m working in AutoCAD 2011 on Windows XP.

Symptoms: I open AutoCAD for the first time and it run like it should, save my files then close and come back to do more work. On opening AutoCAD for the second time it Freezes and I have to uninstall and reinstale again but it is the same over and over again.

If you could shine some light on this topic I would be grateful.

Thank you
Allyson Leisey ^_^

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Will September 7, 2011 at 7:42 am

Hmm that’s a tough one Leisey, but you shouldn’t have to reinstall every time! I’m afraid I haven’t come across this before, and I’m not sure if I can help. If I think of anything I will get in touch.

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Harold Curtis September 29, 2011 at 7:06 pm

In Mechanical 2008, the freezing only happens after a certain period of time in the drawing. It works fine for a while and then suddenly starts hanging. It doesn’t get gradually slower. I can’t get out of the Subject/Verb habit and I frequently edit very large blocks. It has to have something to do with the limits of the undo file. Number of zooms seems to affect it as well, because zoom was unwisely included in the undo stack. Saving, closing, and reopening the drawing resets the limit and everything works fine again (up to that limit).

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nitz October 14, 2011 at 7:21 am

when i hatch an object it takes too much time when i pick a point. What can i do?

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Will October 14, 2011 at 6:26 pm

The best thing to do is create a boundary for your hatch – I try to do this for pretty much all hatches I create. Hope this helps!

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JC February 15, 2012 at 7:28 pm

Big difference comparing AutoCAD vrs Microstation stability. I wonder why?

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dereje woldesenbet April 4, 2012 at 10:02 am

I face difficulty while hatching. It says boundry definition problem. It selects many boundries at the same time. Please help!

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Gary April 26, 2012 at 1:36 pm

My downfall appears to be creating multiple layouts and viewports, then using layer properties to turn layers off/on in various viewports. Eventually the graphics processor seems to get overwhelmed and everything comes to a stop. There is probably a magic number of layouts/layers/objects before I really should split the drawings into multiple files, but don’t have an intuitive grasp of when I’m approaching that point.

The boundary definition trap has caught me too. I’ve left it overnight and still found it “analyzing” in the morning.

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Will May 25, 2012 at 10:42 am

Thanks for this Gary – you’ll get a “feel” for how AutoCAD behaves with time… :-)

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Kristie June 14, 2012 at 9:05 am

My husband recently got a new laptop and we loaded Autocad 2010 on it (he was previously using Autocad 2000), now every time we open up the old drawings from 2000 the entire PC freezes and we have to forcibly restart. This is now really affecting our business. Any suggestions or ideas as to why this is doing this and how we can solve the problem?

Thanks

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Will August 8, 2012 at 6:43 pm

From 2000 to 2010 is quite a jump – the first thing I’d say is that not many laptops really are equipped to run the latest versions of AutoCAD (well). If it’s an old laptop, chances are that’s your problem.

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Amir July 5, 2012 at 6:59 am

Hi
I have another problem , when I’m selecting or drawing , suddenly selection or drawing cancel skip to write command again . it really annoying problem, does any body know the solution ?

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Will August 8, 2012 at 6:40 pm

I’m not sure I’m afraid – let us know if you find the solution.

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TJ July 25, 2012 at 5:50 pm

My freezes are very consistent. Every 20 seconds or so and last for 5-10 seconds. Just repeats endlessly. It has something to do with working away from the servers at work. When I am at home, it freezes. When I am at work, it never freezes. I have tried to repath everything in “options” to my local drive and all drawings are local. Xrefs are always “relative path”. No solution found.
Thoughts? Thanks!

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Will August 8, 2012 at 6:37 pm

I’ve always battled with this problem at work – I’m afraid I don’t have a definitive answer for you. I’m pretty sure it’s going to be trying to access the network for something, but I haven’t been able to find out exactly what it is either. Let us know if you make any progress!

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Ravikiran August 17, 2012 at 6:16 pm

when i return back after some minites keeping AutoCAD 2012 open it closes without any warning. I work accessing files from server. Please help.

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Will October 2, 2012 at 11:43 am

Yes, the ol’ working from the server issue. Not sure I can help with that.. hopefully an upgrade to 2013 will help!! lol :-)

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Firas November 1, 2012 at 8:18 pm

Hi!
Basically I m working with AutoCAD 2012 Student version, using intel i7 with 8 G Ram, the program freezes while moving from 3D conceptual to 2D framework, it didn’t crash but nothing could happen. otherwise I can still moving to/from 3D/2D on other files without any freezing problems.
Thank in advance.

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Will November 19, 2012 at 1:25 pm

Very odd – I’m afraid I don’t have a solution for you, but hopefully it will be fixed in one of the new patches for AutoCAD.

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