Attack of the Blue Screen of Death

Brewski13 asked the Desktops forum for the best way to diagnose and repair a recurring Blue Screen of Death.

You're working on an important project, and suddenly your screen is filled with seemingly incoherent white text against a blue background. There's nothing you can do but reboot your PC and hope that everything important was saved to your hard drive.

Microsoft calls these stop errors, but everyone else prefers a more descriptive label: The Blue Screen of Death (BSoD).

They're not as common as they used to be, but BSoDs still happen (I experienced one two days ago as I write this). If you get one, curse, reboot, and hope for the best. But if you're getting them frequently, you've got a problem that needs fixing.

The trick is to find information about your particular BSoD, and then--since that information usually comes in an obtuse form--search the Internet for more practical advice.

What should you look for when the BSoD is in front of you? You'll find useful data immediately below the first paragraph, and under the "Technical information" label near the bottom of the screen. I've highlighted those areas on the image below.


Since you can't use Windows' Snipping Tool to capture a BSoD screen, you'll need to write down the important information on paper.

Click for full image
Or you can use a camera or phone to photograph the screen. Just don't expect a great-looking photo--or even an easily readable one.

You can also get information on the BSoD after you've rebooted:

If you get a "Windows has recovered from an unexpected shutdown" message, you're in luck. Click View problem details for technical information.

You can also click Check for solution, but don't expect much help there. In my experience, this button rarely does anything.

You can also get information, after rebooting, via the free and portable program BlueScreenView. This lists all of your recent BSoDs and offers the needed info.

However you get the info, intelligent use of a search engine can probably bring up something useful.

If it doesn't, here are some other tests you might try:

My thanks to LiveBrianD for recommending BlueScreenView in the original forum discussion.

Contributing Editor Lincoln Spector writes about technology and cinema. Email your tech questions to him at answer@pcworld.com, or post them to a community of helpful folks on the PCW Answer Line forum. Follow Lincoln on Twitter, or subscribe to the Answer Line newsletter, e-mailed weekly.

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