The infamous Blue Screen of Death (BSoD) has plagued many Windows users since the dawn of the operating system. BSoDs, also known as stop errors, appear when a fatal system error causes the computer to stop working. The BSoD typically appears on the screen for no more than a second before the system attempts to restart, and it rarely offers much in the way of useful information. Windows 8 introduces an overhauled and slightly more user-friendly error screen which usually provides you with an error message which you can look up on the Internet to find out more information. Fortunately, such errors are a lot rarer than they used to be with modern operating systems.
Stop errors are typically caused by faulty hardware or device driver problems, but they do not necessarily indicate a broken device. This article takes a look at some of the most common reasons for the BSoD.
Often accompanied by the error message “IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL” or something equally unintelligible to the average computer user, hardware conflicts and related issues used to be the number one cause of blue screen error messages. Fortunately, due to greatly improved compatibility between different hardware devices, these error messages are now much rarer. This is because most modern hardware uses plug and play (PnP) technology, but you may still encounter such problems with older devices. If you have recently installed a new hardware device, try disconnecting it. If this does not help, try disconnecting all non-essential peripherals, such as external hard disks and printers, and you should be able to identify the offending device.
All of the processing work carried out by various components in your computer, particularly the central processing unit (CPU) and the graphics card, generate heat. Excess heat should be dissipated by adequate cooling, including heat sinks and fans. However, this is not always the case, and if your computer overheats, it will generate errors which will often cause random lockups accompanied by a blue screen error message. Try monitoring your computer’s internal temperatures using free applications such as CPU-Z and GPU-Z. If you have overclocked any components in your computer to run faster than they were designed for, this will likely be the cause of the problem. Revert any such settings to their factory defaults.
Memory errors are often reported with the message “BAD_POOL_HEADER” in the BSoD, but such errors could also be down to any malfunctioning component connected to your computer and not necessarily the memory itself. If you have recently made any major system changes, try reverting them back to their default settings or using System Restore to restore your computer back to an earlier time. If System Restore does not work, then you may have a faulty hardware component rather than a driver error or something else. Disconnect any non-essential devices in an effort to expose the offending hardware. If the problem still happens, it could lie with corrupted RAM sticks. Try removing all but one RAM stick from inside your computer to see if the problem goes away.
Problematic BIOS Settings
Many system BIOS utilities provide the user with a wide range of advanced system tweaks and settings. Some such setup utilities allow you to change things like clock speeds, memory timings and other important system settings which determine how your hardware operates. However, tampering with such settings unless you know exactly what you are doing is likely to lead to problems. If you have recently made any changes to the BIOS setup utility, be sure to revert the BIOS to its factory default settings.
Hard Disk Drive Faults
Hard drives do not last forever. Mechanical drives eventually wear out and solid state drives, including flash memory cards and USB pen drives only have a limited number of rewrites. If the computer runs into a problem due to a malfunctioning drive, a blue screen may appear, often accompanied with the “NTFS_FILE_SYSTEM” error message. However, before giving up hope and assuming that your hard disk or other disk drive needs replacing, try scanning the disk first using the chkdsk /f command in the command panel. If your computer won’t boot up, you can access the command panel by booting from your Windows installation DVD. Malicious software infections and not turning your computer off correctly are common causes for hard disk drive faults, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that the drive is nearing the end of its life.