How to Fix a Blue Screen of Death

The Blue Screen of Death is real - but definitely fixable

A Blue Screen of Death (BSOD), also called a STOP Error, will appear when an issue is so serious that Windows must stop completely.

A Blue Screen of Death is usually hardware or driver related. Most BSODs show a STOP code that can be used to help figure out the root cause of the Blue Screen of Death.

Did your PC restart after the BSOD? If the blue screen flashed and your computer rebooted automatically before you had time to read anything, you may need to disable the 'automatic restart on system failure' setting.

Person tearing their hair out because of a Windows
Lifewire / Tim Liedtke

Below are general Blue Screen of Death troubleshooting steps. Please reference our List of Blue Screen Error Codes for individual STOP code troubleshooting steps. Come back here if we don't have a troubleshooting guide for your specific STOP code or if you have no idea what your STOP code is.

Some of these steps may require you to start Windows in Safe Mode. If that's not possible then skip those steps.

How to Fix a Blue Screen of Death

This troubleshooting guide will apply to any version of Windows, including Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP.

  1. The most important Blue Screen of Death troubleshooting step you can take is to ask yourself what you just did before the device stopped working.

    Did you just install a new program or a piece of hardware, update a driver, install a Windows update, etc.? If so, there's a very good chance that the change you made caused the BSOD.

    Undo the change you made and test again for the STOP Error. Depending on what it was that changed, some solutions might include:

  2. Check that there's enough free space left on the drive Windows is installed on. Blue Screens of Death and other serious issues, like data corruption, can occur if there's not enough free space on your primary partition used for the Windows operating system.

    Windows 10 showing free space on C

    Microsoft recommends that you maintain at least 100 MB of free space but you'll regularly see problems with free space that low. It's usually advised that Windows users keep at least 10% of a drive's capacity free at all times.

  3. Scan your computer for viruses. Some viruses can cause a Blue Screen of Death, especially ones that infect the master boot record (MBR) or boot sector.

    Make sure your virus scanning software is completely up to date and that it's configured to scan the MBR and boot sector.

    If you can't get far enough to run a virus scan from within Windows, use one of the programs we've highlighted in our Free Bootable Antivirus Tools list instead.

  4. Apply all available Windows service packs and updates.

    Microsoft regularly releases patches and service packs for their operating systems that may contain fixes for the cause of your BSOD.

  5. Update drivers for your hardware. Most Blue Screens of Death are hardware or driver related, so updated drivers could fix the cause of the STOP error.

    Update driver menu item in Windows Device Manager
  6. Check the System and Application logs in Event Viewer for errors or warnings that might provide more clues on the cause of the BSOD. See how to start Event Viewer if you need help.

  7. Return hardware settings to default in Device Manager.

    Unless you have a specific reason to do so, the system resources that an individual piece of hardware is configured to use in Device Manager should be set to default. Non-default hardware settings have been known to cause a Blue Screen of Death.

  8. Return BIOS settings to their default levels. An overclocked or misconfigured BIOS can cause all sorts of random issues, including BSODs.

    If you've made several customizations to your BIOS settings and don't wish to load the default ones, then at least try returning clock speed, voltage settings, and BIOS memory options to their default settings and see if that fixes the STOP error.

  9. Make sure all internal cables, cards, and other components are installed and seated properly. Hardware that's not firmly in place can cause a Blue Screen of Death, so try reseating the following and then test for the STOP message again:

  10. Perform diagnostic tests on all hardware you're able to test. It's highly likely that the root cause of any given Blue Screen of Death is a failing piece of hardware: If a test fails, replace the memory or replace the hard drive as soon as possible.

  11. Update your BIOS. In some situations, an outdated BIOS could cause a Blue Screen of Death due to certain incompatibilities.

  12. Start your PC with essential hardware only.

    A useful troubleshooting step in many situations, including BSOD issues, is to start your computer with the minimum hardware necessary to run the operating system. If your computer starts successfully it proves that one of the removed hardware devices was the cause of the STOP message.

    Typically, the only necessary hardware for starting your PC through to the operating system includes the motherboard, CPU, RAM, primary hard drive, keyboard, video card, and monitor.

  13. If you haven't corrected the cause of the BSOD yet, continue below with either the software or hardware steps, depending on the direction your troubleshooting went above.

Software is Likely the Cause of the BSOD

If your troubleshooting has led you to believe that a particular software program is probably causing the BSOD, walk through this troubleshooting to get it taken care of:

  1. Check for and install any available program updates. Most software programs let you check for updates via some menu option so dig around until you find it.

    If you can't, or you think it's not working, you can try one of these dedicated software updater programs instead.

  2. Reinstall the software. If updating doesn't work, or isn't an option, simply uninstall the program and then install a clean version of it all over again.

  3. Check with the developer for support information. It's possible that this particular BSOD is an issue the software maker has seen before and has already documented a specific solution for.

  4. Try a competing program. If there's simply no way to make this program work (and uninstalling it proved that this program is the cause of the BSOD) then using a different but similar program might be your only course of action.

Hardware is Likely the Cause of the BSOD

If you believe at this point that a piece of hardware is causing the Blue Screen of Death, here are your options:

  1. Make sure the hardware is on the hardware compatibility list.

    While it's probably unlikely, it's possible that the hardware simply isn't compatible with your version of Windows.

  2. Update the hardware's firmware.

    Just like you might update software to fix a problem it's having with Windows, updating the hardware's software, called firmware, if there's any available, is a smart idea.

  3. Check with the manufacturer for support information. Their knowledge base could have information on this issue that could be of help.

  4. Replace the hardware. At this point it's pretty likely that the hardware itself simply no longer is working properly and should be replaced. Assuming this piece of hardware really was the only reason for the BSOD, it should go away after you do this.