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How to Troubleshoot a Blue Screen of Death

Neal from CA writes:

How do I get rid of the “Blue Screen of Death”?

The blue screen of death is the most dreaded error screen in Windows. It is caused by a sudden failure of any hardware or system level software. To get rid of the blue screen of death, we have to be proactive and know of any recent changes made to our computer.

The changes that can lead up to a blue screen of death can be classified into two types broadly.

Hardware Changes:

Faulty RAM

Hardware changes are sometimes the cause of repeated BSoD [1](Blue Screen of Death). The most common culprit of a BSoD is a faulty stick of RAM. If you have installed any new RAM lately, and your PC is showing a BSoD, it can easily be traced back to the new RAM, which is probably faulty. To make sure that there is no other cause for a BSoD, remove the new RAM and test your PC without the suspected stick, or with another stick of RAM.

Note: If you cannot remove the RAM by yourself, get an expert to do it for you. Do not apply force on the motherboard.

If the BSoD persists, the problem may be related to another piece of hardware in your computer, like the motherboard (specifically the RAM slots), or maybe even the CPU. Since there is no easy way to test these possibilities, please consult a professional – they may have diagnostic equipment to aid in troubleshooting.

Software Changes:

Some people have the notion that a BSoD is caused only by hardware failures. That is not entirely true. Often times, a BSoD is caused by a misbehaving application trying to do things it is not supposed to. These software failures lead up to hardware failure, like missing writes to the hard disk, unreadable memory or corrupted CPU instructions. As with hardware faults, we can trace back the cause of a BSoD to a recent software install.

Device drivers

The most common cause of a BSoD (where a piece of software is responsible) is device-drivers. Drivers are necessary to run hardware – we know that perfectly well. However, sometimes important device driver files on Windows get corrupt, or they get changed by other programs – like viruses. This can cause the BSoD. To cure this problem, run a virus and malware scan, or you may have to use your Windows installation disk and repair your Windows installation. 

Once again, if you’re unsure of how to proceed, please consult a professional for help. 


Games are getting more demanding and intense in terms of graphics. This requires a strong (and fault tolerant) graphics card and CPU. Sometimes, the cause of a BSoD can be attributed to an overheated graphics card or CPU, resulting from hours of intense gameplay. You should make sure all your vents and internal fans are clear of debris, and perhaps invest in a cooling options for your computer case.



Keep in mind that all BSoD errors are marked with a STOP code which can be helpful to diagnose the problem. The folks at About.com have done a wonderful job putting together a list of common STOP codes [2] and their meanings.

And finally…

Always remember that a BSoD is to be taken seriously. Most of us tend to restart and continue to work until the next time a BSoD occurs. However, repeated BSoD errors can severely damage your hard-disk due to improper interrupting of disk write.

Hope this helps!

~Chinmoy Kanjilal