Troubleshooting STOP Errors (BSODs)

What are BSODs?

BSOD is an acronym for “blue screen of death,” which is a nickname for the STOP errors Windows is famous for having that are displayed with a blue background.  Windows shows a STOP error when it encounters a system failure.

Why am I getting them?

There are many reasons why you might get a BSOD. Common causes include bad memory, failing hardware, incompatible software, faulty device drivers, etc.

How can I narrow the possibilities down?

Sometimes there will be a driver or file listed in the error message. Make sure to write it down, since it may help you troubleshoot. If the file and/or name is different each time, it may be harder to determine the cause. If you recently installed a new driver or new software, that could be the cause.

What should I write down when I get a BSOD?

When you get one, you should definitely write a few things down including:

  • The name of the error, such as PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA
  • The hexadecimal number, such as 0x00000050, which can be abbreviated as 0x50
  • The parameters (in hexadecimal format), which follow the hex number and are in parenthesis
  • The file or driver listed, if present

Common BSODs:

IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL 0x0000000A

This BSOD is probably the one I've seen most often.  It is generally caused by drivers or incompatible software.  Look on the error to see if there is a driver listed.  If so, look the driver up on Google to see which program it belongs to, then try to update or uninstall that program.  If you have two or more programs that perform the same function, such as two antivirus programs, uninstall one to see if that helps.

DATA_BUS_ERROR 0x0000002E

This error is most often caused by bad memory.  Follow the instructions here to test your RAM.  Make sure that the memory installed is supported by your motherboard (listed on the vendor's website, or look on the memory manufacturer's site) and that you installed it properly.

INACCESSIBLE_BOOT_DEVICE 0x0000007B

This can occur if your hard drives are inconfigured correctly.  If you have PATA (IDE) hard drives, make sure that the jumpers are in the correct location.  Certain viruses or installing the incorrect driver for your hard drive controller can also cause this.

MACHINE_CHECK_EXCEPTION 0x0000009C

Regrettably, this error is often caused by the CPU.  If it is overclocked, return it to its normal clock speed.  Make sure that all of the fans in the case are spinning and that the CPU isn't overheating.  It may also be caused by a faulty power supply.

NTFS_FILE_SYSTEM (0x00000024)

0x24 errors are related to your hard drive.  With your computer turned off, make sure that all cables leading to and from your hard drive are secured and unplug them and plug them back in.  You may want to try a different cable if you have an extra.  You might want to run CHKDSK (tutorial here).  If none of that works, try updating the drivers for your serial ATA (SATA) or paralell ATA (PATA) controller.

PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA 0x00000050

This error is usually caused by bad memory.Follow the instructions here to test your RAM.  However, the bad memory may be on your graphics card or CPU.  Try to swap video cards if your RAM is not the culprit.

PFN_LIST_CORRUPT 0x0000004E

Again, this is generally caused by bad memory.  Follow the instructions here to test your RAM.  Also try to disable all of your security and backup software, make sure that your hardware is compatible with your operating system, and

What else can I do?
Research the problem up with a search engine, such as Google, or, if you cannot solve it yourself, ask for help on a Tech Support Forum (several links in the Helpful Links Page). Please include as much detail as possible and make sure to list all of the information you wrote down.  Many computers come with diagnostic tools.  Run these (refer to your manual for instructions) to see if they find anything wrong.

 Here's a general method of attempting to troubleshoot blue screen errors. 

1.  Last Known Good Configuration

If you recently installed hardware or software, try pressing F8 when your computer is starting and choose “Last Known Good Configuration."  This rarely works, but it is worth a shot.

2. Test your Random Access Memory (RAM)

Please see my tutorial here for testing procedures and suggestions on how to proceed.

3.  Recent software, hardware and/or driver changes

If you just installed software, uninstall it if you are able to load XP and restart. Update the most important drivers, such as the drivers for your network card, chipset, graphics card, sound card, and more. If that doesn't work, remove any newly added hardware and uninstall the driver and software that came with it. Additionally, if you installed a new driver recently, you can "Roll back" the driver to a previous version from within the Device Manager.  Go to Start | Run and type devmgmt.msc.  Right-click the device and click Properties.  Go to the Driver tab and click "Roll Back Driver."  Restart your computer.

4.  Safe Mode, System Restore, and Clean Boot

Try to boot in Safe Mode.  To do this, press F8 after the initial screen a few times before the XP Boot Screen appears.  Choose Safe Mode and press Enter. When prompted, use System Restore to go to a previous point before you had this problem. If that doesn't work, try Safe Mode again, but don't use System Restore. If you can be in Safe Mode for a while without getting a BSOD, you can try a "Clean boot."  Microsoft has some instructions here.  Basically, this starts XP without loading anything but the essentials.  From here, you can slowly re-enable items until you narrow it down.

5.  Advanced Hardware-related troubleshooting techniques

Here are some additional troubleshooting techniques if you think that it may be caused by failing hardware:

  • If you recently installed any new hardware or devices, uninstall them.
  • Remove all unnecessary hardware. All you really need is your motherboard, your hard drive, power supply, CPU, fans, one stick of RAM and either a graphics card or your integrated graphics.
  • If you have any spare components (besides a motherboard and hard drive), try swapping them one at a time. Especially try to switch the power supply if possible. Look on the motherboard for burn marks or leaking capacitors.
  • There are also stress tests that you can run. These use different parts of your computer (often the CPU) to make sure that they are not overheating or have problems. The Ultimate Boot CD has these and other useful tools.