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Diagnose Blue Screen Errors With Minidumps: Part 1

Monday, January 12th, 2015 by | Filed Under: Computer Terms, System Tune-Up Help
 
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Whether you’re testing out new hardware or diagnosing faulty equipment, blue screens of death (or BSODs, as they’re more commonly known) can often be highly frustrating with their ambiguity. It’s very hard to diagnose what exactly causes a BSOD – it could be a driver, a bad piece of software, or even a hardware fault. From the occasional glitch to a daily occurrence, knowing the cause of a BSOD can give a user the answer to re-stabilize their system. But how does someone figure out what caused a BSOD?

The best way to figure out what is crashing your computer is to tell Windows to leave a ‘minidump’ every time it encounters a BSOD. The minidump contains basic information as to what file on your computer caused the crash. While it sometimes does not give a definite answer as to what is going wrong, it can allow someone to make an educated guess as to what was the cause of the problem. While the BSOD screen itself will sometimes give very basic information as to what caused a crash, a minidump is very useful for showing technicians or for prying into it yourself.

To utilize minidumps, you must first tell Windows to create a minidump after a BSOD occurs. Here’s how you do it.

First of all, click on the Start button, then Control Panel.

Minidump1

 

If you’re using Windows 8 Metro view, type the word ‘Control Panel’ on your keyboard, then click Control Panel.

Minidump2

Inside the Control Panel, you are using Small Icons or Large Icons, simply click the button that says ‘System’.

Minidump3

If you’re using Category view, click System and Security, and then System.

Minidump4

Minidump5

Within the System window, click the Advanced System Settings Link.

Minidump6

In this new window, make sure that you’re in the tab that reads ‘Advanced’, and click the ‘Settings…’ button under the section that reads ‘Startup and Recovery’.

Minidump7

In this new window, look for the section that reads ‘Write debugging information’ under ‘System Failure’. Click on the drop-down menu in this section and select ‘Small Memory Dump’, then OK out of all the windows.

Minidump8

Now you’re all set! You’ve successfully told Windows to store a minidump on your computer the next time your system crashes.

Now that you’ve done this, what should you expect when you next encounter a BSOD?  We’ll look at that in Part 2 of this article.

~ Simon

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2 Responses to “Diagnose Blue Screen Errors With Minidumps: Part 1”

  1. Kevin says:

    Simon,
    Thank you for this article. Very informative and may prove useful someday (but I hope not).
    You can also get to System Properties by using a Run command. For those unfamiliar with this process, simply hold the Windows key and tap the R key. This will bring up the Run dialog box. There, type or copy and paste the following
    sysdm.cpl
    Voila, you’re in System Properties. Works in Windows systems from XP through 8.1.

  2. […] In part 1 of this article, we showed you how to set up a minidump folder to save information about the dreaded Windows blue screen of death. Now let’s look at how to use that information. […]

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