How to Decode the Blue Screen of Death Errors

Written by john walker
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How to Decode the Blue Screen of Death Errors
The blue screen typically means a fatal error that can be readily corrected by rebooting the computer. (error digital image by UBE from

The blue screen of death (BSOD) became synonymous with Windows operating systems in the 1990s. Windows has improved the systems to where you almost never come across the screen, but it can pop up on occasion. The blue screen is a complete system failure notice typically generated by a corrupt or damaged file or piece of hardware. Troubleshooting the blue screen is the easy step. The hard part is repairing. You should take the computer to a professional once you have identified the cause of the error.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Pencil
  • Paper

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  1. 1

    Reboot the computer, and disable the automatic restart during a BSOD error. Right-click "My Computer," then "Properties" and then the "Advanced" tab. Click "Settings" under "Startup and Recovery." Uncheck the "Automatically Restart" under the "System Failure" section. The process applies to most versions of Windows, including XP and 7.

  2. 2

    Recreate the issue. Open the programs you were using and attempt to generate the issue. A majority of the time, you will be unable to recreate the issue. The next BSOD error that occurs will not reboot your computer automatically, giving you time to write down the technical information.

  3. 3

    Write down the first aspect of the error. The second section will have a sentence without spaces, such as "PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA." This is what caused the computer to crash. The page fault error implies a possibly damaged memory module. "INACCESSIBLE_BOOT_DEVICE" indicates that the drivers for a storage device or hard drive were incorrectly installed. Most other common errors involve the word "DRIVER" pointing at a faulty driver.

  4. 4

    Copy down the impacted file name. The section under "Technical Information" lists the exact error in coded message. The first section is programming language. The second section will list a file. The standard file listed will be a combination of letters and numbers followed by ".dll" which is a device driver data file. For example, "ati3diag.dll" may be displayed.

  5. 5

    Open the "Search" engine for the computer. Click "Start" and "Search" for Windows XP. Click "Start" for Windows 7. Type the file name into the search engine to locate the file folder that holds the file. Some files will be in a "win32" folder which is a generic Windows folder. The majority will be housed in file folders specific to a program. The program will need to be uninstalled and reinstalled.

Tips and warnings

  • Errors that point towards a data file or ".dll" file can often be corrected by restoring your computer to a previous restore point. Most BSOD errors occur due to improperly loaded hardware or software. Restoring typically corrects this.
  • Fatal exemption errors typically mean hardware failure. Memory modules refer to the RAM chips and hard-drive partitions. You may consider doing a full backup of your system in Safe Mode before troubleshooting the error message. A hard drive failure means all of your information is gone.

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