When Windows detects a problem that is so serious that the computer can't continue to run, but it can still display information on the monitor screen, it halts all other activity and produces a detailed error message on a blue background. Microsoft officially calls this a stop message, but everybody else calls it a blue screen error, or the "blue screen of death."
Many blue screen errors occur during the Windows startup routine because Windows has failed to find a working hardware component (such as a disk drive or a memory module). Others might appear when a component fails after Windows has already started. Still others occur when there's a fatal bug in a program or driver's code, but you probably won't see those errors unless you're testing unreleased software.
Stop messages always present information about the problem that caused them in the same order. Starting at the top of the screen, they include these elements:
At the top of the screen, a unique stop error number or bugcheck code identifies the specific problem that caused the computer to break down, such as:
***STOP: 0x00000024 (0x00000000, 0xF73120AE, 0xC0000003, 0xD00000000)
The first part of the number identifies the type of failure; in this case a 0x00000024 failure is a problem in the NTFS file system. The numbers inside the parentheses provide more details about the problem. This code is often a pointer to the cause of the failure.
The next two lines of the error message contain generic text:
A problem has been detected and Windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your computer.
After Windows tells you that it has detected a problem, it displays a symbolic name that corresponds to a specific stop error number. For example, the symbolic name for a 0x00000024 failure is always:
The Microsoft Knowledge Base contains articles that explain each error, so you can usually find a solution by searching the Knowledge Base for the symbolic name or the stop error number that appears in the message.
The next part of the blue screen message is one or more paragraphs that contain Recommended User Action. The quality of these recommendations is uneven; some tell you exactly what to do to fix the problem, but many others were written by people who already understood why the failure happened, so the messages are unintelligible to the rest of us.
Under the Recommended User Action, a line of driver information provides the name and address of the device driver or other file that generated the blue screen. If a tech support person can use this address to identify a specific object or program, that can be a good start toward repairing the problem that caused the failure.
*** FILENAME.SYS - Address D62449BD base at B0000001D, DateStamp 35bo72a3
Finally, the last few lines of the screen contain Debug port and status information. If a kernel debugger was enabled when the failure occurred, it may be able to use this information to help find the source of the problem. Kernel debugging can be useful when a stop error occurs while a software developer is testing new code, but it's not particularly helpful for fixing an error condition caused by a hardware problem or code that has been distributed to real-world users.
Read the Recommended User Action section carefully and follow its instructions, if you can. But before you restart the computer, be sure to copy the entire stop code, the symbolic name, and the driver information onto a piece of paper or a text file on another computer, or use a digital camera to take a picture of the whole screen.
If you see a blue screen again after you perform the Recommended User Action, or if the message doesn't offer any useful suggestions, use another computer to search the Microsoft Knowledge Base for the stop code or the symbolic name, exactly as it appears in the blue screen message. The knowledge base article that applies to your problem almost always includes a more detailed set of instructions for solving the problem.
However, sometimes the Knowledge Base articles don't tell you very much except "this is a hardware problem." If your search points to one of these articles, try these steps:
Look for obvious signs of damage: broken or missing parts; loose expansion cards, cables, or memory modules; black stains on a circuit board caused by overheated or burned components; or any other indication that something has gone seriously wrong. If something looks bad, test it or replace it.
Clean the accumulated dust and dirt from the motherboard, the CPU, and all other components.
Check for blocked fans and air vents that interfere with air flowing through the computer.
Confirm that all the internal and external cables are solidly connected to their sockets.
Make sure the CPU, memory, and graphics controller are not overclocked beyond their capacities. If you are intentionally overclocking, restore the settings to the factory specifications and test them.
Test the output voltages from the computer's power supply.
If you continue to see stop errors, copy the complete Stop code (the top line of the screen) and use Google or another search tool to search for that code. If somebody has found a solution to the problem or an explanation of its cause, you can probably find information about the problem someplace on the Web.