What is the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD)?

The Blue Screen of Death is a warning you see when your computer interrupts operations.

For the uninitiated, “Blue Screen of Death” may sound like a mysterious and chilling upcoming episode of the Korean drama, Squid Game. But for Windows computer users, the term can be confusing and scary for different reasons. Although seeing the dreaded screen is less common than it was years ago, it can still rear its ugly head now and then.

What does the Blue Screen of Death mean?

The BSOD is a warning you see when your computer interrupts operations and displays this warning on a blue screen. Officially, it’s called a “Stop error.” The warning informs you of a critical issue that’s forcing Windows to reboot. Before rebooting, Windows usually saves a “minidump” file on your computer, carrying data about the error.

Windows 11: Black Screen of Death?

For many years, the BSOD featured a long series of intelligible or unintelligible text. The BSOD became a little friendlier with Windows 8 by featuring a simple message and a sad emoticon. In Windows 11, the BSOD is mostly black except for the blue QR code, but the message is generally the same.

What is the main cause of Blue Screen of Death?

Here are some common causes of a Blue Screen of Death on your Windows-powered laptop or desktop computer:

  • Drivers: Computer drivers are files, typically developed by a hardware manufacturer, that help the hardware work in an operating system. And according to this blue screen error resource from Microsoft, 70% of Stop errors are due to third-party driver code.
  • Software: Incompatible software like apps or programs may cause conflicts the result in the BSOD.
  • Hardware: Faulty memory (RAM), hard disk drive (HDD), solid-state drive (SSD), motherboard, processor, or a power supply unit (PSU) can all be responsible for the blue screen crashes.
  • Overheating: your computer may display the BSOD if it’s overheating due to dust, defective fans, or overburdened hardware.
  • Malware: Malware, like a PC virus that corrupts your critical files and folders, can be the reason for a Blue Screen of Death.

How to change how Windows manages BSOD

You can stop Windows from automatically restarting after a blue screen error with a few easy steps. Type “System Properties” in your Windows 10 search bar and hit enter. Look for Startup and Recovery under the Advanced tab. Click settings and uncheck the Automatically restart option under System failure to stop your PC from rebooting automatically after the BSOD. Here, you can also modify how Windows writes a System failure event to the system log.

How do you fix a Blue Screen of Death?

An occasional BSOD that you never see again could be harmless. However, regular blue screens can be problematic and frustrating because they may indicate a deeper malaise and force you to lose data upon every reboot. There are two things to consider after a BSOD:

  • Software issues, due to bad coding, incompatibility, or malware.
  • Hardware issues due to incompatibility or breakage from shock, aging, or voltage fluctuation.  

Drivers

Type “check for updates” in your Windows search bar to find Windows Update. Use this feature to update your drivers and software and improve stability. However, new drivers can rarely also cause system errors. You could try rolling back the changes if a new driver triggered BSOD problems.

Bad Software

Software that’s not playing well with other programs can cause blue screen crashes. Any recently downloaded or installed software could be the culprit. Type “add or remove programs” in your Windows search bar to find the Apps & features setting. Here, uninstall programs on top of your suspect list. You can also resort to Windows Safe Mode if you can’t remove software normally because of blue screen errors.

Alternatively, use the System Restore feature if your computer has some restore points. Type “recovery” in your Windows search bar and launch Advanced recovery tools from your Control Panel. Click Open System Restore to restore your system to a potentially more stable state.

Malware

Many different types of malware, like computer viruses, computer worms, some Trojans, and ransomware, can potentially create a BSOD by corrupting your essential files. Try our free virus and malware scanner to find and remediate all kinds of malware to clean your system.

Peripherals and new hardware

Remove any peripherals that may be causing the BSOD. Start by disconnecting printers, scanners, USB devices, and external storage from your PC. Next, remove any new piece of hardware. For example, if you bought a new stick of RAM, use your old one. Likewise, if you bought a new graphics card, revert to the previous one or use your onboard video options.

If there are no more blue screen errors after slimming your computer down to essential hardware, start adding the hardware back one by one to isolate the problem. Don’t panic if a fancy new piece of hardware is causing BSODs as it may not be faulty. For example, your new stick of RAM may not be compatible with your motherboard or your other stick of RAM. Likewise, a perfect graphics card may cause crashes due to conflicts, driver problems, or inadequate power.

Hardware tests

  • You can check your memory for errors through Windows or third-party tools. HCI Design’s MemTest is a popular tool for RAM tests. Alternatively, search for Windows Memory Diagnostic in your Windows 10 search bar.
  • Use your storage drive manufacturer’s software to check your Hard Disk Drive (HDD) or Solid-State Drive (SSD) for errors. Here are some quick links for Samsung, Western Digital, and Seagate.
  • Look for artifacts or computer slow downs when running video games to see if your GPU is faulty. You can also use video game benchmarking tools to check your graphics card for defects.
  • A faulty power supply can cause your computer to overheat, restart spontaneously, slow down, crash, or show the BSOD. The easiest way to test a power supply is to try a new one.
  • Overheating can cause blue screen errors. You can try a utility like Open Hardware Monitor to check your CPU and GPU temperatures. An Air Duster can clear up the vents and fans in a computer that’s running too hot. Your system should also be well-ventilated to stay cool.

Does a blue screen mean a virus?

As mentioned above, a computer virus or another type of malware can cause a blue screen crash. You can try our free virus and malware scanner in order to remove such unwanted programs. Also, learn about scareware that trick you into thinking you have a BSOD. For example, there’s a blue screen tech support scam that takes you to a fraudulent customer support operator.

Is a Blue Screen of Death bad?

A BSOD is certainly not good, but it’s not the end of the world either. Some BSODs only occur once and never appear again. For persistent blue screen errors, try the steps above to identify and remediate the issue.

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