How to Fix a Kernel Security Check Failure Error in Windows

Is it a virus or something else?

Kernel security check failure errors in Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7 appear on the Blue Screen of Death when one or more data files have failed to pass an integrity or compatibility check.

The error message typically appears as follows.

  • Your PC ran into a problem and needs to restart. We’re just collecting some error info, and then we’ll restart for you.

Instructions in this article apply to Windows 10, Windows 8, and Windows 7.

Cause of Kernel Security Check Failure Errors

Kernel security check failure errors typically occur when booting, shutting down or putting a computer in sleep mode. Most often, the problem begins following a Windows update or RAM upgrade.

Several issues might be at the root of a kernel security check failure error. Although the most common include outdated drivers, hard disk or RAM corruption, or a virus or malware infection, the error could also be caused by damage to Windows OS files.

Two women looking at computer screen with serious expressions
Nick Karvounis / pxhere

How to Fix Kernel Security Check Failure Errors

In some cases, the solution is as simple as uninstalling an update or driver. In other cases, it takes a bit more time and effort to pinpoint and resolve this issue. Beginning with the most common and easily-resolved fixes and working up to more challenging ones if necessary could help you locate and repair it quickly.

  1. Remove any removable peripheral devices before beginning the troubleshooting process. Take out any other removable items, such as CDs or flash drives, as well. If any of these have loose or damaged connections, it could cause a kernel security check failure error, as Windows connects to these items first at startup. Restart the computer to see if this resolves the error. If not, continue troubleshooting.

    It is also a good idea to check other connections, such as the power cord and monitor, at this time.

  2. Scan for malware. A virus or other malicious software could be the root of the damage that is causing the error message. Using Windows Defender or other antivirus software, search for and remove any malware that might be harming your system. Reboot after finishing and continue troubleshooting if the error remains.

  3. Prevent Windows from rebooting automatically. Disable Windows automatic restart when the BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) appears so that you have the opportunity to dig in and start troubleshooting.

  4. Start Windows in Safe Mode. By booting up with only essential applications running, you might find that a recently installed application is triggering the error message. If necessary, use the power button to perform a hard reboot. Once in Safe Mode, uninstall programs added just before the kernel security check failure started to appear.

    Restart the computer and try again. If the error still appears, continue troubleshooting.

  5. Update your drivers. A corrupt device driver is one of the most common reasons this issue occurs. Using Device Manager, check for any available driver updates and install them, restarting the computer after you have done so. Keep troubleshooting if the error continues.

  6. Check for Windows updates. Although Windows updates are typically installed automatically, it is possible an update is available that you have not downloaded yet, which could resolve the issue. Windows will need to restart following any updates, so check to see if the error is gone once the computer boots up again.

  7. Perform a scan to diagnose possible RAM issues. Windows Memory Diagnostic (WMD) is a free tool that used to be available from Microsoft and is still available for download from a reliable source, but there are many other free memory tests you might want to use, as well. Restart the computer after using the tool. If the error still appears, continue troubleshooting.

  8. Scan the system to check for corrupt files. Using the System File Checker enables you to seek out any problems with protected Windows files. The tool will replace any damaged files that it finds. Restart the computer to see if this resolves the error. If not, continue troubleshooting.

  9. Check the hard disk for errors. Another tool built in to Windows is the Error Checking Tool, which you can run manually at any time to identify (and hopefully correct) hard drive errors. After using the Error Checking Tool, a reboot will be required. Hopefully, the error will no longer appear but, if it does, keep troubleshooting.

  10. Restore the system to a past working point. Using Windows System Restore will undo any changes that might be prompting the issue, essentially taking your computer "back in time" to a point when it seemed to be working just fine.

  11. Use the Startup Repair Tool if you are still seeing the BSOD when you boot up your computer. A Startup Repair (formerly called Automatic Repair) is an effective tool to fix a computer that is not starting up properly. Startup Repair is available from the Advanced Startup Options menu.

  12. If all else fails, you might decide to reset your computer. Using Reset This PC in Windows 10 or Windows 8 is a last resort to try if none of your previous troubleshooting efforts have panned out. You will have the option to keep your files, remove everything or restore the computer to factory settings, so take care with this option if you don't want to start over from scratch with your computer.