If you experience a Windows Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) with the error
There are a few reasons this could be caused Either:
- You may have a conflicting driver
- There is a faulty memory chip
- There is a faulty motherboard
- Some other reason
While there’s a bewildering number of articles on what it could be (and some of them are as helpful as a chocolate teapot), this one hopefully cuts to the chase:
Resolve your drivers
Download SlimDrivers – https://www.slimwareutilities.com/slimdrivers.php . It will tell you which drivers are out of date and offer to download them for you. Regardless of if you have a BSOD issue, this isn’t a bad thing to do.
Do a memory test – The download-less, almost-helpful version
Click on the “Start” button and open the “Control Panel”
Type in “memory” in the Control Panel’s search bar located at the upper right hand corner.
Look for “Administrative Tools.” Click on “Diagnose your computer’s memory problems.”
- Choose “Restart now and check for problems” to run the scan immediately
- Wait for the computer to restart and then follow the instructions. When the scan finishes, the diagnostic tool will let you know if RAM is the cause of the blue screen error.
Well it kind of will – I got “There is a hardware problem. Contact your PC Vendor” – so I have a problem with my hardware but I don’t know much else. Not helpful
Do a memory test – the yes-this-works-but-requires-more-effort version
Download Ultimate Boot CD (https://www.ultimatebootcd.com/) – you could just download memtest+ but given Ultimate Boot CD gives you a myriad of tools that might come in useful one day, download and burn this CD and keep it for a rainy day.
Once you have burned the CD (read how to burn an ISO image to CD/DVD):
- Power down your PC and remove the power cable
- Open the case of the PC
STOP HERE – THIS IS IMPORTANT
You have now entered a world where static electricity is your enemy. You should remove any chance of static build-up (typically wearing socks on a nylon carpet on a really dry, humid-less day will not be a good idea). When you are working on your PC you should earth yourself. Some people just touch the case of their PC, other are more robust about it.
- Once you have earthed yourself
- Remove all but one of the memory by pushing on the clips that hold the memory in (on both sides) and pulling the memory chip(s) out. Some configurations mean you have to have the memory in pairs, so if this is you, leave two memory chips in. You’ll know this is you if on step 4 you hear a constant beeping and your PC doesn’t start up
- Place the pulled memory somewhere safe and static free
- Restart your PC
- Press F8 or F12 to get to the Boot Options
- Boot from your Ultimate Boot CD – if this doesn’t appear as an option you should adjust your bios to enable the CD as a bootable device (read how to do it here)
- From the menu that appears, pick “Memory” > “memtest +” (it will have a version number after it
- Let memtest do its magic
- If you start to see red lines of text appear then you likely have failed memory
- Confirm this by swapping out memory chips to test either those that were set aside, or to see if one of the already tested chips is the faulty one (e.g. if you are testing two chips at a time, swap out one chip and re-run the test).
If all your memory chips pass, move onto the “Something else” section
Something Else is Wrong
In the case of my own BSOD woes, i found out after the memory test that dust had entered the memory slots and was causing an issue. A quick blast of the air duster resolved it.
If you have made sure all your memory and cards (E.g. graphics cards) are properly seated in their respective slots, other issues can be harder to identify – for example if there’s a thermal fracture; this is where the circuit is broken (sometimes old solder can crack and will only make connection when warmed up – so a cold booting PC would fail but a warm PC might work).
Here’s some additional resources on checking
- Dell has a great article on how you can deep dive using the Microsoft debugging tools (but might be too technical for some) – http://www.dell.com/support/article/us/en/19/SLN115577/EN