Understanding The Blue Screen of Death

The color blue is supposed to make one feel calm, relaxed and secure.  The color blue represents stability.  Ironically, if you happen to experience what is referred to as the “Blue Screen of Death” in the Windows world, the feelings that are evoked may be anything but!  Read below for some general information pertaining to the Blue Screen of Death (aka the BSOD), and what to do if you experience this.   




Blue Screen of Death A Good Thing?

Ironic as it sounds, the blue screen of death can actually be viewed as a not-so-bad thing. In reality, it’s a preventive measure because Windows has determined that something is not right and needs to put the brakes on to prevent further issues from taking place. 


What Causes the Blue Screen of Death?

Your first question may be, what is the infamous Blue Screen of Death?  In simple terms, this generally occurs when the Microsoft Windows operating system encounters a critical error in which it can’t recover.  When this happens, Windows will come to a halt and stop/crash.  More common culprits of this kind of crash may be from software running in the Windows kernel, a driver issue, or a hardware issue.  The Windows kernel can be equated to the core of the operating system.  It is essentially an interface, or a link, between software and hardware of a computer system.  A driver is software that provides the means for the Windows operating system to know how to work with hardware devices. 


It’s also worth noting that typically, regular applications crashing normally do not cause blue screens.  It is usually the case where, should an application crash, it will occur without taking down the whole operating system!  So, if a blue screen crash occurs, it is in your best interest to not dismiss it. 


Some understandable frustrations with the blue screen of death is that it is not anticipated, and if you have files or applications open when it occurs, you risk losing work that you were in the middle of, or losing data that you have not yet saved.  While a separate topic, this is why we also stress the importance of having good backups!  


A blue screen of death can happen to anyone, at any time.  Ideally, you may rarely, or never, encounter this.  However, if you are experiencing a blue screen of death at more frequent intervals, then something could very well be amiss, and certainly worth addressing as soon as possible, as chances are, it won’t go away on its own. 


Fixing A Blue Screen Of Death

Should a blue screen of death occur, there are several steps that you can take. Of course, we recommend discussing with your IT professional first!   


When a blue screen of death occurs, the memory information from your computer is dumped into a file and saved to disk.  These files are referred to as dump files, or crash dumps, and they serve to help with determining root cause of why the computer crashed.  The dump file analysis practice is sometimes also referred to as debugging.  Debugging involves finding and resolving bugs that reside within computer software or systems, which is very helpful in that the information obtained from a dump file can help to prevent the issue from happening to you and others in the future!   


WinDbg is handy tool that can be used in certain cases for analyzing the dump file that is generated at time of computer crash and can be downloaded from the Microsoft Store.  Run this with administrator rights in order to successfully view the output.  It is recommended to engage your IT professionals to assist with utilizing this file for troubleshooting purposes and/or utilizing this particular tool.  


It is a default feature of Windows to restart automatically after a blue screen of death occurs.  However, the option to prevent automatic restarts can be disabled by going to the Startup and Recovery Settings on your computer.  This can be useful if one wishes to see the information that is presented before the computer is rebooted, as you will have the opportunity to manually reboot.  Again, it is recommended to seek guidance from your trusted IT professionals prior to making any potential changes tied in with this, or if you have any questions. 



Windows Updates

Windows updates are so important because they download and install critical updates for your system, including updates for drivers.  Ensuring that your computer is up-to-date with patches serves as peace of mind.  Your IT professionals can assist with confirming your system is up to date with Windows updates, and also make any necessary changes that may require elevated privileges. 


Scan your system for Malware 

Malware is malicious software, and there are many malware removal tools available that can be used to scan and remove unwanted bad actors from your computer.  


Viewing Logs

If you are feeling adventurous, you can take a look at the Windows System and Application logs found in the Event Viewer to see if there are any flags listed leading up to when the blue screen of death occurred.  The log events provide useful information as to what may be potential culprits of the computer crash.  This hand-in-hand with some internet sleuthing can assist with figuring out what potentially may be going on, if you so desire.  


External Devices

If you have your computer hooked up to external devices, such as an additional monitor or docking station, you can try disconnecting which can serve as process of elimination.  If the behavior ceases, then this is an indicator the crashes can be tied in with a driver or hardware. 


Reinstalling Windows

As a more direct and perhaps last resort action, reinstalling Windows could be done. Again, we stress it is recommended to consult your trusted IT professionals before doing this.  Uninstalling  Windows and reinstalling a new, fresh Windows system can help determine if the BSOD culprit is hardware related. If the behavior presents itself again, it is more likely to be a hardware problem. 



The blue screen of death, while undesirable, is your computer’s way of telling you that something is not quite right and needs attention.  It is of utmost importance to take care of your computer, acknowledge when it gives these signs and be proactive. In return, you can take the necessary steps to have a well running machine.  Also, remind yourself not to panic or overcomplicate – there is an answer to be found.  We are trusted IT professionals who are here to help! Let us know if we can help you solve one of your problems today!


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