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Blue screen of death troubleshooting tips

Blue screen of death troubleshooting tips

Sometimes things go wrong, Windows crashes with a blue screen of death (also known as a BSoD), resetting the computer.

The blue screen contains some information about the cause of the error, often that information can help you solve the problem almost immediately. However, most systems are configured to restart automatically when a blue screen occurs, thus there is not enough time to actually read the text on the blue screen.

You're missing a great deal of data - the name of the faulty driver, the code of the error itself, and some addresses which might be useful later.

To prevent that from happening, Windows can be configured not to restart the system automatically when such a crash occurs. This gives you enough time to analyze the data on the blue screen and figure out whether something can be done about it.

To do that:

  1. Open the System properties dialog (you can get there by pressing Win+Pause)
  2. Go to Advanced\Startup and recovery
  3. Press Settings
  4. Uncheck Automatically restart

From now on, you'll have plenty of time to enjoy the view of the blue screen, it will be displayed until you press the reset button (laptop owners beware: if you don't have a reset button, you'll have to turn the system off, then turn it back on).

Basic troubleshooting steps

  • If you're lucky, the blue screen will contain the name of the faulty driver, the one that caused the problem. Usually it is a *.sys file. Copy the name of that file and see if you can find any info on it on the Internet. Usually the first results will point you to pages which explain which program the driver belongs to, so now you know that you can boot into Safe Mode and remove the offending application.
  • Alternatively, you may figure out that the blue screen started to occur after you've installed a particular program or a device driver - so obviously the first thing to do is try to remove that program and install a newer version.
  • Microsoft provides a list of errors shown on the blue screen, as well as their detailed descriptions. It's a good idea to take a look at that list and find out the meaning of PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA or IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL

Minidump - what do I do with it?
By default Windows will create a minidump, and store it to %windir%\minidump. The minidump contains information about the state of the system before the crash; these data can be used to understand what caused the error, and how to fix it (once you find the offending driver, it's a good idea to contact the authors of that module and give them the minidump as well).

Note that interpreting a minidump is not easy if you are not an experienced developer. You are more likely to have a positive result if you try the tips described above. If nothing helps, get hold of the created minidump and send it to someone who knows what to do with it.

If you want to give it a try yourself, use Microsoft's Debugging tools for Windows. Once you run the debugger, go to File\Open crash dump, and then you're on your own.

How to enable minidumps
Some may choose to disable the creation of minidumps (to save space perhaps?), but they are very important when troubleshooting a problem. To enable the minidumps:

  1. Press Win+Pause to start the System Properties dialog;
  2. Go to Advanced\Startup and recovery;
  3. Ensure that Write debugging information is set to Small memory dump (64 kb).

Happy troubleshooting!

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3 comments

Comment from: Ken McKeown [Visitor] Email
Ken McKeownI have tried to uncheck the "automatic restart" and set a debug dump.
BUT
it will not hold the uncheck
the apply button I am unable to click
2009-08-12 @ 00:23
Comment from: Alex [Member]
AlexHmm... what a weird thing. Do you suspect that a rootkit is interfering with this, making it difficult for you to find it?

You can manually change the settings to the ones you need by editing the registry.

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Control\CrashControl
  • AutoReboot = 1 (on) or 0 (off)
  • CrashDumpEnabled = 3 (64KB minidump)


Let me know how things went.
2009-08-12 @ 09:12
Comment from: Registry Fix [Visitor]
Registry FixPondering the mystery of the computer's habitual and completely unexplainable shutting down and restarting? If you've ever thought that it might be a great idea to learn the "ins and outs" of cleaning your PCs registry, then now might be the time to understand. Well have no fear! I will teach you how with great clarity.
2010-03-10 @ 23:34

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