Your First 5 Steps for the Blue Screen of Death
If you use Windows, you've seen this blue-screened error. Here's what to do.
If you have worked within the IT field at any capacity for any length of time with Microsoft Windows computers, you have certainly had to fix a computer that suffers from “The Blue Screen of Death.” It has caused so many people headaches as it comes about when a student is typing up a 20-page paper the night before they have to turn it in, and loses all of the progress they had made or corrupts and ruins software and hardware to the point that it will start to cost money to fix the problem.
This notorious computer failure has made the phrase “just restart your computer” famous because of how easy it is to fix it. Unfortunately, many times that solution simply will not fix it and further steps are needed, so we want to offer you a simple guide to correctly navigating the blue screen of death with the best possible chance for success. Please do know that every computer failure is unique and we only offer this as a guide and not a foolproof solution for you.
Step 1: Boot In Safe Mode
One of the first things that you want to determine is if this issue is a software or hardware problem. The easiest and most effective way to do that on a Windows machine is by turning your computer off, waiting five seconds, and then turning it back on while holding down the F8 key as it boots. If done successfully, you will come up to a boot-command prompt that asks you which way to load the computer. (If not, jump to step three.) Select the “Safe Mode” option. What this does is launches Windows with the bare bones applications running. If you can successfully load a computer this way, the problem may very well be software. It is suggested that you backup your hard drive with all of the critical documents that you have. (We offer backup solutions in step four.) If the next step of updating the BIOS does not work, you will need to reformat your hard drive and reinstall all of the software. It may be time consuming, but at least you will not have to replace any hardware.
Step 2: Update Your BIOs and Drivers
Assuming that booting in safe mode was successful, you may want to try one option before completely reformatting the hard drive and starting all over. Many times, the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) software and hardware drivers are not up to date and you need to log into your computer in Safe Mode with Networking. To update the drivers for your computer, Windows offers a demo for you here. To update your BIOS, follow the step-by-step PCWorld.com solution. After doing so, turn the computer off, turn it back on in normal boot mode, and see if your computer is operating properly. If not, put in your Windows operating system and start over.
Step 3: Check If It Is The Hard Drive
At this point, we need to find out if the hard drive is working properly and we can safely recover the data, or if we will need to replace the hard drive altogether. Depending upon the hardware you have in your building, you can do this many ways, but all will require that you remove your hard drive from the computer. The optimal way is to use an external hard drive casing, connect your computer’s hard drive, and plug it into a separate computer to see if you can access the data on it. If you need the hardware to connect it, I would suggest the StarTech Sata Docking Station for $45. If you do not feel comfortable tinkering with the hard drive after you have it connected, I would recommend downloading Recuva which is free and only available on Windows. If the hard drive works, then proceed with steps four and five. If not, you will be needing to purchase a new hard drive, reinstall Windows and start from scratch.