Blue Screen of Death (BSOD)

The dreaded Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) that you have all seen since you have been competent enough to type. The BSOD is windows’ way of protecting itself and the components within the computer. This blue screen is windows being forced to “stop” when a serious error has occurred. Since there is no friendly errors on screen to help diagnose the issue this is where the headaches usually start.


Blue Screen of Death

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Diagnosing a Blue Screen of Death

One of the first ways to diagnose the cause of the BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) stop command is to think about what you have just done. Did it happen when trying to open or save a program or when trying to use a piece of hardware? if nothing obvious has sprung to mind then it is time to start looking into the error message.

The Blue Screen of Death is split into 4 parts:

Error Name

Most of the times this probably all you need to diagnose the issue. The error name is the small line of capitals with lines between them (underscores). In the example above this is “DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL”.

This error is generated when a driver or part of Windows attempts to access page-able memory using the IRQL kernel process that is invalid. In this example the error would be cause by incorrect or corrupt hardware drivers, faulty physical memory or corrupt paged memory.

There are lots of other errors that can be displayed but generally they pretty legible.

Troubleshooting Advice

Nearly every Blue Screen of Death includes some basic troubleshooting advice that usually consists of restarting your computer and undo any changes you just made. Not very helpful we may add, before doing this we need to make a copy of the important information so that we can actually try and resolve the error and not just hope that it goes away.

Make a note of the ALL CAPS name at the top of the screen and any hexadecimal errors below, usually displayed as a string of zero’s (0 x 000000D1, 0 x 00000002, 0 x 00000000) as these are the most important sections of information on the screen, the rest is just garbage, kind of like the screen itself.

Technical Information

The technical information that is displayed are the hexadecimal values and any file names that are included. More will be loaded about all the stop values.

Memory Dump

The final part of the Blue Screen of Death is the information relating to the “Physical Dump”. This dump is a copy of everything that was stored in the memory when the error happened, when contacting Microsoft support they will almost always ask for a copy of this file.  The physical dump can be access by typing %windir%/minidump in the run menu. This will open the mini dump folder that is located in your windows directory. These mini dumps give a detailed report on what happened when the error occurred. Reading these can be rather difficult to the untrained eye.


Fixing the BSOD (Blue Screen of Death)

Now that we know how to read the error we still need to look at fixing it. In the above example used “DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL” the process of fixing this would be first to boot back into windows. If the BSOD is preventing this from happening then you will need to boot into safe mode and restore windows to a previous version. Unfortunately I will not be explaining how to do this as if this is out of your technical range then you would be best seeking further technical advice.

Now that you have booted into windows it is a case of trial and error, unless you know what hardware or software caused the blue screen error. Since we have already mentioned that this is a driver / memory issue there is a need to update all drivers. A basic but not extensive list would be as follows:

  • Graphics drivers
  • Motherboard drivers
  • Sound Card Drivers
  • Printer Drivers
  • Any additional peripherals such as scanners, cameras and gaming devices.

If updating these has not resolved the issue make sure windows is fully updated in case any of the built in drivers have bugs in them as windows releases “security fixes” almost daily.

After all the updating and the issue has not been resolved this means this is almost certainly a memory issue, now there are 2 sets of memory physical and virtual.

Hardware checks

If you have recently added new memory to your computer then this could be the culprit. Try removing the new memory module to see if this cures your problem, if no additional memory has been added then try removing memory one stick at a time and try again. If by removing a stick of memory cures the Blue Screen of Death errors then it was the memory module that was at fault if this does not resolve the issue the last form of memory to try is the virtual memory.

Virtual Memory

Luckily Virtual memory is free and easy to change :)

Windows XP

To increase the virtual memory or recreate the page file in windows XP follow the following steps:

  1. Click Start, Settings, Control Panel, and Open the System icon.
  2. In the System Properties window click the Advanced tab.
  3. Click the Settings button under Performance.
  4. Click the Advanced tab.
  5. Click the Change button under Virtual Memory.
  6. Select No paging file and then click each of the OK buttons until all windows are closed.
  7. Restart Windows.
  8. Click Start, Settings, Control Panel, and Open the System icon.
  9. In the System Properties window click the Advanced tab.
  10. Click the Settings button under Performance.
  11. Click the Advanced tab.
  12. Click the Change button under Virtual Memory.
  13. Click System managed size and then click each of the OK buttons until all windows are closed.
  14. Restart the computer.

Windows vista & 7

  1. Click Start, Settings, Control Panel, and Open the System icon.
  2. In the System Properties window click the Advanced System Settings link on the left.
  3. Click the Settings button under Performance.
  4. Click the Advanced tab.
  5. Click the Change button under Virtual Memory.
  6. Untick Automatically manage paging file size for all drives.
  7. Select No paging file and then click each of the OK buttons until all windows are closed.
  8. Restart Windows.
  9. Click Start, Settings, Control Panel, and Open the System icon.
  10. In the System Properties window click the Advanced tab.
  11. Click the Settings button under Performance.
  12. Click the Advanced tab.
  13. Click the Change button under Virtual Memory.
  14. Click System managed size and then click each of the OK buttons until all windows are closed.
  15. Restart the computer.

 

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