BSOD’s (Blue Screen of Death) are nearly always caused by problems with your computer’s hardware or issues with a hardware device driver software incompatibility or bug. Sometimes BSOD’s can be caused by issues with (custom) low-level software running within the Windows kernel (OS). Your regular apps will not usually cause blue screens. If an app crashes, it will do so without taking the operating system out with it. That is the way modern operating system operate.
So a BSOD occurs when Windows encounters a “STOP Error” fault. This is a critical failure that causes Windows to enter into a crash handler and cease working. The only “sane” operation that Windows can do at that point is to report a BSOD and force you to restart the computer. This can lead to data loss, as your programs will not have had a chance to save any work in progress.
At the point of Windows entering a BSOD state,Windows will automatically create a “mini-dump” log file that contains information about the crash. You can view the information in these mini-dumps to help identify the reason for the blue screen.
BSOD views vary somewhat with different versions of Windows.In Windows 7 and older Windows versions, the blue screen BSOD looks more like a terminal screen, displaying various information.
Windows 8 and Windows 10 have much simpler BSOD reports
By default, BSOD reports can happen fast enough that reading the information is often difficult, in the short time they are displayed. There are easier ways to gather and read the details you need for troubleshooting the problem.
Why do BSOD’s Happen?
There is not a simple explanation for the cause of BSOD’s (also known as bug check errors). Many different factors can be involved. However, past studies indicate that Stop errors usually are not caused by Microsoft Windows components. Instead, such BSOD’s errors are generally related to malfunctioning hardware drivers or drivers that are installed by third-party software. This includes video cards, wireless network cards, security programs, and so on.
- 70 percent are caused by third-party driver code
- 10 percent are caused by hardware issues
- 5 percent are caused by Microsoft code (faults)
- 15 percent have unknown causes (because the memory is too corrupted to analyze)
Change Whether Windows Restarts When a BSOD Appears
By default, Windows 7, 8, and 10 will automatically restart the computer when a blue screen of death occurs.
To change this you can disable the default automatic restart on a BSODs from the Windows Control Panel section.
Viewing the BSOD Information
Using NirSoft’s free BlueScreenView application offers one way to view the blue-screen report held in a BSOD mini-dump file.
Another Microsoft method is also available in the Windows Event Viewer, where you can find BSOD messages stored along with various application crashes and other system log messages.
The standard Windows Event Viewer will let you view a log of application and system messages, including errors, information messages, and warnings. This can be a helpful troubleshooting tool for all kinds of Windows problems. It will take some time to read and understand all the reports. Focus on the most recent reports, particularly for a recent BSOD condition.
Warning: This is a good time to clarify that even a healthy computer system will show various warnings and errors in the logs as you browse through with Event Viewer. Phone scammers use this “not-so-well-known” fact to deceive people into believing their system has a problem only the scammer can fix – for a large sum of money – beware!
Generally, you should mostly ignore the “common” errors and warnings that appear in the Event Viewer. That being said, it is good to point out that the standard Windows Event Viewer tool, can be a useful aid when needed to narrow down various issues.
Launching the Event Viewer
To launch the Microsoft Windows Event Viewer, go to Start, enter “Event Viewer” into the search box, and then click the result.
Events placed in the Windows Event Viewer are filtered into different categories, each of which is related to a log that Windows keeps on events related to a specific category. There are three main categories that van focus on:
- Application: The Application section stores events related to Windows drivers and built-in interface elements.
- System: The System log records events related to programs installed on the system.
- Security: When security logging is enabled (it’s off by default in Windows), this section stores events related to security, such as logon attempts and access.
Notes: The Event Viewer is designed to help system administrators and IT support to gather forensics and troubleshoot problems. If you are not experiencing a problem with your computer, any errors shown here are unlikely to be important to you.
An example of a Event View on a healthy computer might look like this:
Now that we have understood that, when you are experiencing a BSOD or the computer is randomly restarting, Event Viewer will help you with giving information about the cause. As a example, an error event in the System log section of the Event Viewer may inform you that a hardware driver crashed, which can help you identify which driver is at fault or perhaps a faulty hardware component. Simply match the error message associated with the time your computer did the BSOD. For this condition the entry will be marked as Critical.
Once you have a clue about the fault, you can look up specific event ID online, which will provide more information specific to the error. Simply double-click the error in Event Viewer to allow a new window to open and then look for the “Event ID” entry.
For computer users, Microsoft offer a “Troubleshoot Blue Screen Error” page which will step you through a simple process to help identify the possible problem.
I can also recommend that you (also) install the latest Windows updates, cumulative updates, and other updates. To verify the update status, refer to the section Start > Settings > System > About.