A blank blue computer screen is never a pleasant sight. It means that something has crashed your computer so badly that immediate steps must be taken to restore your system.
What is the Blue Screen of Death? What Causes It?
The Blue Screen of Death (BSOD), aka STOP error, appears when a problem is so severe that Windows must stop booting. Usually it’s related to hardware or drivers; in most cases the STOP code is displayed to help you figure out the root cause.
If the blue screen is flashing and your computer automatically restarts, you need to disable the “auto restart when system crashes” option. Below are general steps to troubleshoot the blue screen of death.
Please see our list of blue screen error codes for individual STOP code troubleshooting steps. Come back here if we don’t have a troubleshooting guide for your specific STOP code or if you have no idea what your STOP code is.
How to fix the blue screen of death
The most important Blue Screen of Death troubleshooting step you can take is to ask yourself what you were doing just before your device stopped working.
Did you just install a new program or piece of hardware, update the driver, install Windows Update Center, etc.? If so, there is a very good chance that the change you made caused the BSOD.
Undo the changes you made and recheck for a STOP error. Depending on what exactly has changed, some solutions may include:
Running using the Last Known Correct Configuration to undo recent changes to the registry and drivers.
Using Windows system restore to undo recent system changes.
Rolling back the device driver to the version before the driver update.
Make sure there is enough free space on the hard drive where you are installing Windows. Blue screens of death and other serious problems such as data corruption can occur if your main partition does not have enough free space.
Windows 10 shows free space in C
Microsoft recommends maintaining at least 100MB of free space, but you’ll regularly run into problems with this low level of free space. It is generally recommended that Windows users always leave at least 10% of their disk capacity free.
Scan your computer for malware and viruses. Some viruses can cause a blue screen of death, especially those that infect the master boot record (MBR) or the boot sector.
If you can’t go far enough to run a virus scan from Windows, there are some great free bootable anti-virus tools.
Check and install all available Windows service packs and updates. Microsoft regularly releases patches and service packs for its operating systems that may contain fixes for the cause of your BSOD.
Update your Windows hardware drivers. Most blue screens of death are hardware or driver related, so updated drivers can eliminate the cause of the stopping error.
The Update driver menu item in Windows Device Manager
Check the system and application logs in the Event Viewer for errors or warnings that may provide more information about the cause of the BSOD.
The Event Viewer can be opened using administrative tools.
Restore the default hardware settings in Device Manager.
Unless you have a specific reason for doing so, system resources for which separate hardware is configured for use in Device Manager should be set to default. Hardware settings other than the default have been known to cause a blue screen of death.
Return the BIOS settings to their defaults. An overclocked or improperly configured BIOS can cause all sorts of random problems, including BSODs.
Make sure that all internal cables, boards, and other components are installed and installed correctly. Unreliable hardware can cause a blue screen of death, so try reinstalling the following, and then check again for the stop message..:
- Reinstall all internal data and power cables
- Reinstall the memory modules
- Reinstall all expansion cards
Run diagnostic tests on all equipment you can test – there are free memory testing programs and free hard drive testing tools.
It’s very likely that the root cause of any given blue screen of death is a hardware malfunction. If the test fails, replace the RAM on your computer or replace the hard drive as soon as possible.
Update your BIOS. In some situations, an outdated BIOS can cause a Blue Screen of Death due to certain incompatibilities.
Run your computer with only the necessary hardware.
A useful troubleshooting step in many situations, including BSOD problems, is to start your computer with the minimum hardware necessary to start your operating system. If your computer starts successfully, this proves that one of the remote hardware devices was the cause of the stop message.
If you have not yet eliminated the cause of the BSOD, continue with the steps below using software or hardware, depending on the troubleshooting direction described above.
Software is probably the cause of the BSOD
If, as a result of troubleshooting, you conclude that a particular program is probably the cause of the BSOD, review this troubleshooting section to get to the bottom of it:
Check and install any available program updates. Most programs allow you to check for updates via some menu item, so dig around until you find it.
If you can’t or don’t think it’s working, you can try one of these free, specialized software update programs instead.
Reinstall the software. If the update doesn’t work or isn’t an option, simply uninstall the software and then reinstall a clean version.
Contact the developer for support information. It is possible that this particular BSOD is a problem that the software manufacturer has encountered before and has already documented a specific solution.
Try a competing program. If there is simply no way to get that program to work (and removing it has proven to be the cause of the BSOD), then using a different but similar program may be your only course of action.
Hardware is probably the cause of the BSOD
If at this point you think some of the hardware is causing the Blue Screen of Death, here are your options:
Make sure the hardware is on your Windows hardware compatibility list.
While this is probably unlikely, it’s possible that the hardware is simply not compatible with your version of Windows.
Update your hardware firmware.
Just as you could update the software to fix a Windows-related problem, updating the software of the hardware, called firmware, if any, is a smart idea.
Contact the manufacturer for support information. Their knowledge base might have information on this issue that might be helpful.
Replace the equipment. At this point, it is likely that the equipment itself is simply no longer working properly and needs to be replaced. Assuming that this piece of equipment was really the only cause of the BSOD, it should go away after you do this.