How to fix the blue screen of death

We’ve all experienced the dreaded blue screen of death (BSOD), also known as the STOP error, when Windows encounters a problem. In most circumstances, this error message is either hardware or software related. Standard software doesn’t cause blue screens because if an application crashes it won’t affect the operating system.

The blue screen of death is the result of a STOP Error, which causes Windows to crash and restart. This can result in data loss if programs aren’t saved beforehand and is why it is crucially important you have a good backup system (cloud-based or otherwise) in place.

When the BSOD occurs, Windows will automatically create a file known as a “minidump,” which is saved onto your computer’s hard disk. This allows you to view information regarding the errors after they have occurred, which can help you find the route of the problem. To view minidump information, download NirSoft’s free Blue Screen Viewer.

Troubleshooting with the STOP Code

When the BSOD occurs a STOP Code will often appear among the text. The purpose of this code is to help you pinpoint the source of the problem; however, to most people, it’s nothing more than technical jargon. If your computer doesn‘t automatically shut down or restart after the BSOD occurs, note down the STOP Code and cross reference it with the PC Support area on About.com – List of Blue Screen Error Codes – to find a solution to the problem.

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Image Credit: Justin

If your computer is restarting before you have the chance to note down the STOP Code, you must disable the automatic system restart on failure option.

How to disable automatic restart on Windows 8:

  • Navigate to the Control Panel/System and Security/System.
  • Click on Advanced System Settings on the left sidebar.
  • Click on the Advanced tab in the pop-up menu.
  • Click Settings from within the Startup and Recovery section.
  • Uncheck Automatically Restart from within the System Failure section.
  • Press OK.

Note: these steps may differ on earlier versions of Windows. For step-by-step guides on how to disable automatic restart on Windows XP, Vista and 7, visit: Disable Automatic Restart on System Failure.

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Image Credit: Microsoft

Dealing with the Blue Screen of Death

The blue screen of death can have a number of causes, each with their own solution. The first step to troubleshooting is to ask yourself what you just did. For example, if you just installed or updated a new driver, then 9 times out of 10, that will be the problem.

Restore Your System

If your computer has started blue screening and you don’t have any important data saved on your hard drive, then a system restore takes your computer back to a previous state. If you have important data that you need to preserve, you’ll need to save it on an external or web based storage platform beforehand. If this solves the problem, then the BSOD was most likely stemming from recent software installation or updates.

You can set restore points on your computer using the following Microsoft guide: Create a Restore Point.

Scan for Malware

Malware is one of the most common cases of the BSOD. Malware will dig into your system registry and cause instability. This buggy software can be very harmful and cause your computer to crash. To solve the problem download an anti-malware program and scan your computer.

To download free anti-malware software visit: MalwareBytes.

Update Your Drivers

A driver is software that allows your computer to communicate with hardware. An incorrectly installed or buggy driver is often the cause of the BSOD. Download the latest drivers for your computer’s hardware from the official manufacturer’s websites and install them.

Boot in Safe Mode

In safe mode Windows will only load the essential drivers, so if a driver you have recently installed is causing the BSOD, it shouldn’t pose a problem. If your computer blue screens when you turn it on, then loading in safe mode could help you get into your computer to sort out the problem.

To boot safe mode in Windows 8:

  • Hold Shift and press F8 upon startup to open Recovery Mode.
  • Select See Advanced Repair Options, press Troubleshoot and select Advanced Options.
  • Click on Windows Startup Settings and press Restart.

To boot in safe mode on Windows XP, Vista and 7, press F8 upon startup, and then use the arrow keys to select Safe Mode from the Advanced Boot Options screen.

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Image Credit: Bleepstatic

Check Hardware Problems

Make sure all of your internal cables, cards and other hardware components are securely attached. If your computer can’t efficiently communicate with a certain component, then it could blue screen. Faulty hardware can be difficult to detect; however, one of the most common causes of the BSOD is overheating, so testing your computer’s temperature should always be your first port-of-call.

To download free fan regulation software visit: SpeedFan.

Perform a diagnostics test on all of the hardware that you are able to test. If the tests fail, then it’s more than likely the root of the problem. Again, check the connections to ensure the component is securely attached. If this doesn’t work, you will probably have to replace the hardware completely.

To download free system memory testing software visit: Memtest86

To download free hard drive testing software visit: HDDScan

Reinstall Windows

If you have tried all of the above options without success, you may have to reinstall Windows. This will completely remove all of your system software and replace it with a fresh new system. If your computer continues to suffer from the blue screen of death, than it’s almost certainly a hardware issue.

Conclusion

A computer that’s in perfect working order shouldn’t ever suffer the dreaded blue screen of death; however, all it takes is one faulty piece of hardware or software and that can all change. Even if your computer works perfectly, it may still have a BSOD on occasion from minor driver bugs that are beyond your control.

If your computer only blue screens every once in a while, then it’s probably nothing to worry about and you can continue using your system like normal. However, if it becomes a regular occurrence, then it’s certainly worth tackling the problem before it causes even more damage.

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