Fixing the Blue Screen of Death

A blue screen of death represents a Windows Stop Error - a critical, unrecoverable error that can only be removed by restarting your computer. When Windows encounters one of these errors, it crashes, and displays technical diagnostic information on the screen. This technical information is also dumped to a log for your computer technician to look at.

Dissecting the Blue Screen of Death

The Blue Screen of Death, or a Windows Stop Error, always has a hexadecimal identifier for the error that caused the problem. Some of these errors are:

Obviously, these problems aren't meant for normal users to solve!

The Blue Screen of Death, or a Windows Stop Error, is divided in to four parts. The first, appearing at the very top, identifies which error caused the stoppage. This is the most important part of the Blue Screen of Death - it gives you a starting point for solving the problem. The top part of the stop error may look something like this:

**** STOP: 0x000000D1 (0xC0000005, 0xBF9F9020, )xA8FCCAD4, 0x00000000) A problem has been detected and Windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your computer. DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL

The second section is advice for the user. It's typically very general and will tell you to do something obvious - restart your computer, call your technical support team, and so forth.

The third section of the Windows Blue Screen of Death does not always appear. Occasionally, drivers, the software that allows you to interact with hardware components like your video card, sound card, DVD burner, and monitor, will fail and cause a blue screen of death error. If this is the case, the driver that caused the stop error crash will appear here. It will look something like this:

*** ati2dvag.dll - Address BF9F9020 base at BF9D$000, DateStamp 3d06a6da

The fourth section of the Blue Screen of Death error shows the results of your computer's efforts to dump information about this error to a file so you can review it later. If you're working on a server, router, or another piece of network infrastructure, Windows may attempt to dump the stop error information to an external device over a COM port.

Finding the cause of the Blue Screen of Death

Your computer can have Windows stop errors for several reasons. The programs or drivers you've installed on your computer are not functioning correctly. Although Windows was designed to stop one errant program or driver from freezing your computer, this can still happen under special circumstances. Sometimes a faulty piece of hardware can cause Blue Screen of Death errors. If your installation of Windows was corrupted while you were loading the operating system on to your computer, Windows is very likely to have stop errors. Finally, corrupted system files can cause your computer to have a Blue Screen of Death error as soon as you've turned it on.

Removing Blue Screen of Death errors and Windows Stop errors

Your first step to remove Blue Screen of Death errors should be to make an inventory of all of the changes you've recently made to your computer. Have you installed a new software product? Did your kid just hook his new iPod up to your PC? Have you just upgraded Windows? Try to correlate the changes to your computer with the appearance of Blue Screen of Death errors.

If a specific driver or system DLL appears in the stop message, you should attempt to update the associated driver. Try doing a web search for the file name (for instance, ati2dvag.dll or msoe.dll) and finding out who the manufacturer is. If you can locate the manufacturer of the errant DLL, search their website for driver or DLL upgrades. These are typically readily available.

If updating your drivers doesn't work, you should try the "Last Known Good Configuration" option in the Windows boot menu. Just as your computer is turning on, press the "F8" key until the Windows boot menu appears. Select the "Last Known Good Configuration" option and press Enter.

If none of these options work, you should consider performing a repair installation on your Windows machine. Insert your original Windows XP disk in to your computer and restart it. When prompted, press a key to boot off of the CD-ROM. Follow the prompts and select "Repair Install". Windows will install a new copy of itself while preserving all of your original programs and documents.

Related content: