How to fix a blue screen of death error in Windows 10

There’s a handful of ways to counter Windows 10’s most infamous system error

Windows 10 blue screen of death

A market share of 77.3% as of October 2020 makes Windows 10 the top-dog in desktop operating systems, beating the 9-year-old and still widely used Windows 7. Despite its growing popularity, Windows 10 isn’t without its glitches. 

Like kernel panics in macOS and Linux, and bug checks in OpenVMS, Windows also throws a stop error called the “blue screen of death.” In most cases, this stop error prevents you from moving past the error screen, thwarting your regular work activities. 

The error also halts all critical processes, including networks, platforms, and applications. At this point, you lose any unsaved data, and troubleshooting becomes inevitable. 

Read on to discover how to maneuver through a blue screen of death quickly and efficiently.

What is the blue screen of death?

A blue screen of death (BSoD) signifies Windows 10 has detected a fatal system error and must shut down immediately to avoid damaging the operating system. This process leaves you with a blue screen displaying a sad emoji and a cryptic message that reads, "Your PC ran into a problem and needs to restart. We're just collecting some error info, and then we'll restart for you." 

In addition to this message, Windows 10 displays a generic error code. Although not informative of cause and a potential fix, the code helps you gain a surface-level understanding of the problem. 

To date, Microsoft has acknowledged and listed hundreds of stop error codes, ranging from the benign VIDEO_TDR_TIMEOUT_DETECTED to the dire CRITICAL_PROCESS_DIED. 

Common blue screen error messages

Here are some frequently occurring stop error codes:

  • SYSTEM_THREAD_EXCEPTION_NOT_HANDLED
  • IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUALv
  • PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA
  • SYSTEM_SERVICE_EXCEPTION
  • BAD_SYSTEM_CONFIG_INFO

In addition to the generic code, users may also encounter a hexadecimal format of the stop error. For a trained eye, the code parameters can reveal extra details about the problem, which they can use to research a fix. 

To non-IT professionals and basic users, though, the hexadecimal code can be hard to understand and of little use. 

What causes the blue screen of death?

A host of software and hardware related issues can trigger a blue screen error, including:

  • Insufficient space in system disk
  • Faulty device drivers
  • BIOS misconfiguration
  • Hard disk corruption
  • Unidentified bug of Windows 10
  • Outdated Windows operating system
  • Incorrect entries in the system’s registry

Blue screen errors generally happen during an upgrade or after installing an app or updating a driver. However, it’s not uncommon to run into this error during general usage. 

Blue screen of death fixes

The first step toward solving a Windows 10 stop error is determining whether you can access the desktop or if you’re locked out. 

Fixing the blue screen of death with desktop access

If you see a blue screen error and still have access to the desktop, the problem likely stems from a recently installed app, outdated driver, or Windows 10 update. 

Here’s are some steps you can take to fix the blue screen of death issue.

Check for the latest updates and drivers

Check for and install the newest Windows using the following steps: 

  1. Open the Start menu and click “Settings.” 
  2. Click “Update & Security.” 
  3. Click “Windows Update.” 
  4. Click “Check for updates.”
  5. Follow all prompts to install the latest Window update if needed.

Update the drivers on Windows 10 using the following steps:

  1. Type “Device Manager” into the Windows 10 search bar.
  2. Click “Device Manager.”
  3. Click the device category you suspect is causing the problem to expand it.
  4. Right-click the suspected faulty device.
  5. Click “Update driver.” 
  6. Click “Search automatically for updated driver software.”

If this doesn't fix the blue screen error, download and install a newer version of the driver from your device manufacturer's website.

Uninstall incompatible updates, drivers, and third-party apps

Buggy drivers and Windows 10 updates can also cause the blue screen of death can. Uninstalling these bad updates will end the stop errors while also repairing potential malware vulnerabilities.

Remove recently installed updates using the following steps:

  1. Open the Control Panel. 
  2. Click “Uninstall a program” under the “Programs” headline. 
  3. Click “Installed updates” in the left pane.
  4. Click the most recent update and click “Uninstall” above to delete the update.

If the error appears after installing a specific driver, remove it using the following steps:

  1. Type “Device Manager” in the Windows 10 search bar and click on “Device Manager.”
  2. Click the malfunctioning device’s category to expand it.
  3. Right-click the malfunctioning device and click “Uninstall device.” Alternatively, you can roll back to the previous driver by selecting the “Properties” after right-clicking on the device. In the Properties window, open the “Driver” tab, click on the “Roll Back Driver” button, and click “OK” to confirm.

If the blue screen of death appeared after installing an app, this is the likely culprit. Uninstall the offending app using the following steps:

  1. Click the Start menu.
  2. Click “Settings.” 
  3. Click “Apps.” 
  4. Find the conflicting app in the list and click it.
  5. Click “Uninstall.” 
  6. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the uninstallation.

Unplug incompatible peripherals

The blue screen of death can also occur if connected hardware isn't compatible with Windows 10. Visit your hardware manufacturer's support website to determine if it's compatible with Windows 10. 

If it’s incompatible, disconnect it and opt for a suitable replacement.

Fix the blue screen of death without desktop access

If you can't access the desktop, you can use features like System Restore and Safe Mode as workarounds. 

Here’s how to do it.

Undo changes using System Restore

System Restore rolls the system software back to its previous state. However, to access System Restore, you must launch advanced startup settings. 

Access and activate System Restore using the following steps:

  1. Launch the advanced startup settings by powering on your PC and pressing and holding the power button to interrupt the boot sequence. 
  2. Repeat Step 1 two more times. After the third off-on power cycle, Windows 10 will automatically open in the advanced startup environment and display troubleshooting options. 
  3. Click “Advanced options.” 
  4. Click “System Restore.” 
  5. Select the restore point created right before the blue screen appeared. Windows 10 usually creates a system restore point each time it installs an update, driver, or app. 
  6. Click “Close.” 
  7. Click “Next.” 
  8. Click “Finish.”

System Restore will now remove all updates, drivers, apps, and changes you made after the restore point to fix the blue screen error.

Uninstall device drivers or Windows 10 updates in Safe Mode

Opening Windows in Safe Mode is another way to tackle the blue screen of death. Like System Restore, you can access Safe Mode through the advanced startup settings. 

Boot Windows 10 in Safe Mode and fix the blue screen of death using the following steps:

  1. Launch the advanced startup settings by powering on your PC and pressing and holding the power button to interrupt the boot sequence. 
  2. Repeat Step 1 two more times. After the third off-on power cycle, Windows 10 will automatically open in the advanced startup environment and display troubleshooting options. 
  3. Select the “Startup Settings” option and click “Restart.” 
  4. Press “F4” or the “4” once the reboot begins to select the “Enable Safe Mode” option. 
  5. Uninstall Windows 10 updates or device drivers while in Safe mode.

Blue screen of death errors are challenging but not impossible

While stop errors can sometimes be overwhelming, Microsoft provides fixes for almost all types of errors that lead to a blue screen of death. Scanning for malware and backing up your data are other crucial steps you can take to minimize the impact of a sudden, unplanned downtime the blue screen error may cause.  

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