How to fix a 'Blue Screen of Death' on your Windows computer with 7 troubleshooting tips

How to fix a 'Blue Screen of Death' on your Windows computer with 7 troubleshooting tips
If your Windows computer has displayed the Blue Screen of Death, there are some troubleshooting steps you can take.pixelfit/Getty images
  • You can try to fix the Blue Screen of Death on your Windows computer with a number of troubleshooting methods; below are the most common steps you can take.
  • The Blue Screen of Death on Windows indicates a critical fault and forces your computer to restart. On a properly functioning computer, Blue Screen errors should be rare or nonexistent.
  • Blue Screen errors are generally unintelligible and can have many causes, so the details of the error code are unlikely to tell you what the problem is.

The "Blue Screen of Death," often abbreviated as BSOD or just called a Blue Screen, is the name that's been given to a generic set of error messages Windows computers display when a critical fault has occurred. A Blue Screen means that Windows can't proceed, so after displaying the error message, Windows will perform some behind-the-scenes housecleaning and restart. Unfortunately, there's no opportunity to save your work, so a Blue Screen often involves losing data.

Blue Screen errors should be rare – if it happens to you frequently, you have a serious problem with your computer and should get the issue resolved professionally or replace the PC entirely. Even a very rare Blue Screen can be frustrating and costly (in terms of lost data or wasted time), though.

Unfortunately, these error messages are unintelligible to ordinary users (and rarely tell even experienced programmers or developers enough to make meaningful recommendations), and there can be so many potential causes that they are very difficult to troubleshoot.
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How to fix a Blue Screen of Death on a Windows PC

These seven tips provide some general guidance for dealing with Blue Screen of Death error in Windows.
How to fix a 'Blue Screen of Death' on your Windows computer with 7 troubleshooting tips
This is what a typical Blue Screen of Death looks like on Windows.Microsoft

Uninstall incompatible software

Because there are so many potential causes, it's helpful to start with the simplest possible fixes and work your way towards more complex or difficult troubleshooting steps.

Your BSOD won't definitively identify the cause, but if you get the error more than once while running a particular program, that app might be to blame. If there's an updated version available, be sure to upgrade. If not, try uninstalling that app to see if the problem goes away. You can follow the instructions in our article on uninstalling programs on Windows 10.
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How to fix a 'Blue Screen of Death' on your Windows computer with 7 troubleshooting tips
Start by uninstalling any non-essential software and programs that always seem to be running when you get a Blue Screen.Dave Johnson/Business Insider

Because the problem might not be the program you were actively using when the BSOD occurred, you should also consider any other programs that were running in the background or that are currently idle, minimized to the taskbar, or running on a virtual desktop. Uninstall any software that seems to be running every time a Blue Screen occurs.

Run a memory checker

Defective memory – specifically, Random Access Memory, or RAM, could be causing a BSOD, and it's one of several possible culprits if you get frequent, rather than only occasional, Blue Screens. Thankfully, there's a memory-checking tool built into Windows. In the Start search box, type "Memory" and then click "Windows Memory Diagnostic" when it appears in the search results. Click "Check for problems the next time I start my computer" and restart your computer to run the test.
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After your computer restarts, you'll need to find the test result. In the Start search box, type "Event Viewer" and then click "Event Viewer" when it appears in the search results.

In the pane on the left, click "Windows Logs" and then click "System." In the pane on the right, click "Find" and search for "Memory Diagnostic." You should see the test results – if there were any problems reported, defective memory could be causing a BSOD.

How to fix a 'Blue Screen of Death' on your Windows computer with 7 troubleshooting tips
You can find your Memory Diagnostic results in the Event Viewer.Dave Johnson/Business Insider

Check for hard drive errors

Similarly, a problematic hard drive could be causing a BSOD. To check it for errors, type "this PC" in the Start search box and click it when you see it appear in the search results. Right-click your "C" drive and choose "Properties." Then click the "Tools" tab in the hard drive's Properties window. In the "Error checking" section, click "Check" and follow the instructions to manually check the hard drive.
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Remove non-essential peripherals

Blue Screen of Death is often caused by hardware issues rather than software problems – hence checking your memory and hard drive in the above troubleshooting steps. A fast and easy way to troubleshoot a recurring BSOD issue is to uninstall any external peripherals, such as printers, scanners, external storage, and so on. If these devices have special software installed, uninstall those as well.

Replace defective or incompatible expansion cards

It can be time-consuming and cumbersome to remove hardware from inside your PC, but if you have a recurring BSOD, this is sometimes the culprit. In particular, premium graphics cards and audio cards can be the root of the problem. For the graphics card in particular, try removing it and plugging your monitor into the motherboard's built-in graphics; you should see a separate HDMI port on the back of your PC for this. You should also uninstall the Nvidia or AMD graphics card driver software.

Run SetupDiag after a failed Windows update

If you are having problems with a BSOD specifically when trying to update your PC's Windows software, then a Windows tool called SetupDiag can help. This is a program that analyzes issues with your PC and can suggest why you are seeing a Blue Screen of Death when trying to update Windows.
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To get started, go to Microsoft's SetupDiag webpage and click "Download SetupDiag."

After the download is complete, install the program and then run it. The program will display any issues it encountered, which might help you resolve your BSOD issue.

How to fix a 'Blue Screen of Death' on your Windows computer with 7 troubleshooting tips
If you only get the BSOD when trying to update Windows, try SetupDiag.Dave Johnson/Business Insider

Perform a clean install

If none of these troubleshooting tips have resolved your recurring BSOD, there are still some other root causes, but you're generally faced with one of two primary possibilities: You have a software issue you haven't yet isolated, or you have a critical hardware problem with your computer that can't be easily repaired or replaced.
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To eliminate the possibility of a software problem, you can perform a clean install of Windows. This erases all the content from your hard drive, which means you will need to reinstall all your programs.

To do this, click the Start search box and type "reset." Click "Reset this PC" in the search results. In the "Reset this PC" section, click "Get started." Follow the directions to reinstall Windows, keeping your files if you desire. When it's done, you'll have a clean, fresh new version of Windows without any of the software or drivers that might be causing the BSOD. If possible, use the computer in this state – installing only the most absolutely essential software – until you determine if the problem is resolved.
How to fix a 'Blue Screen of Death' on your Windows computer with 7 troubleshooting tips
Perform a clean install as a last resort to root out your BSOD.Dave Johnson/Business Insider

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