Windows Blue Screen of Death: Causes and Fixes

Windows Blue Screen of Death: Causes and Fixes

The “Blue Screen of Death,” Microsoft Windows’ well-known error message, is more technically known as a “Stop error.” The BSoD has been around since the Windows 1.0 days, though it’s replaced in the upcoming Windows 8 with a friendlier version, complete with “sad face” emoticon. The stop error screen signifies that Windows has experienced an unrecoverable error and needs to restart. There are various reasons for the infamous BSoD. The top five are described here with their causes and possible solutions.

IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL

This is the most common Blue Screen error. It indicates a hardware-related problem, either with a buggy or corrupt driver or an actual hardware conflict. The best course of action with this Blue Screen of Death error is to reinstall drivers for any recently-added hardware or to uninstall the hardware itself. Running Windows update might result in newer, Microsoft-recommended drivers being installed as well. Another BSoD error along these lines is “KMODE_EXCEPTION_NOT_HANDLED,” and similar troubleshooting steps should be taken.

INACCESSIBLE_BOOT_DEVICE

This is the most self-explanatory of the BSoD errors. It means Windows can’t access the disk with the boot sector on it. To resolve this, first check the boot device selection in the BIOS to verify that nothing has changed. The next step is to check all hard drive cabling to make so nothing has come loose. If this problem persists, it could be indicative of a corrupted boot sector. This can possibly be repaired by booting to Windows Recovery Console and running the bootcfg and fixboot commands.

REGISTRY_ERROR

This error usually means the system registry is corrupt and unreadable. Before troubleshooting along these lines, though, it’s important to check cabling and disk access just in case this error is a “false positive” caused simply by an unreadable disk. For the most part, though, this error is unrecoverable and restoration from backups will be necessary.

NTFS_FILE_SYSTEM

NTFS, the file system used in Windows, is much more robust than FAT, the system it replaced. NTFS is not without its flaws, though, and it can become corrupted. The best choice here is to boot to a command prompt and run the chkdsk /f command to check and repair partitions. If this does not work, it may be possible to install Windows on a different partition and then edit the boot.ini file later.

BAD_POOL_HEADER

This error is as common as it is vague. It typically points to a memory error, but this memory error could be caused by almost any system component. The best course of action when this Blue Screen error happens is to roll back the most recent system change by uninstalling the latest program or piece of hardware.

There are many Blue Screen of Death error codes in Windows, but these five are the most common. They can be catastrophic or they can be fixed with simple tweaks. Like with any error, understanding the cause of a BSoD is the key to troubleshooting and ultimately fixing the problem.