The Blue Screen of Death: Causes and How to Fix It

The blue screen of death means that your PC has a critical error and isn't functioning properly. But there are ways to troubleshoot the problem and fix it.
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The blue screen of death (BSOD) sounds ominous, and it sort of is. The BSOD appears when your PC has a system failure. It doesn't mean that death is looming for your computer though.

There are a few causes for the BSOD, but there are also plenty of options to fix the issue and get your computer running smoothly again. Sometimes it can be as easy as choosing one of the best antivirus programs for Windows and running a virus scan. Let's dive into finding the cause of the BSOD and what you can do to resolve it.

In this article
What does the blue screen of death (BSOD) mean?
What causes the blue screen of death?
Troubleshooting the blue screen of death
How do I fix the blue screen of death?
Blue screen of death FAQs
Bottom line

What does the blue screen of death (BSOD) mean?

The BSOD indicates a critical error in the computer system. To cope with it, Windows initiated a shutdown to prevent damaging the computer. It displays the BSOD along with an error code to help you resolve the issue.

The BSOD is technically called Blue Screen errors by Windows. Its moniker stems from its infamous blue colored background with information containing the "fatal" error in your system.

What causes the blue screen of death?

Screenshot of error message on blue background

There are several reasons for the BSOD to appear. Hardware or software issues can cause it. Your device could also have viruses or malware which would set off the BSOD. With so many potential sources, it can make it difficult to determine the initial problem and resolve it.

Luckily, Windows does provide error codes explaining why the BSOD appeared. There are also a few ways to troubleshoot the problem.

Troubleshooting the blue screen of death

When your device displays the BSOD, it also shows an error code to identify the problem. Microsoft makes this available for programmers. The official list of error codes is long, but you can view it to determine if there's a way to resolve your specific problem.

Screenshot of bug codes

Error codes are a bit complicated for the average internet user, so you might want to use the Microsoft Help Center instead. Type "Troubleshoot BSOD error" in the search box, and Microsoft will help you find and resolve the problem step by step.

If you get a blue screen error after adding hardware, you'll want to shut down the computer. That allows you to safely remove the hardware, and then you can restart the device. You may want to restart in safe mode (see steps under “Uninstalling Problematic Software” below) if you initially have trouble with turning on your computer.

How do I fix the blue screen of death?

There are a few different ways to fix the blue screen of death, depending on what is causing the problem. Using the Microsoft Help Center can help you pinpoint the exact actions you need to take to resolve the issue. It may ask you to do one or more of these tasks.

Restarting your device

Hold down the Power button to turn off the device. Forcing a shutdown is sometimes necessary to safely proceed with troubleshooting the problem.

Removing problematic hardware

If you installed hardware and then got the BSOD, it's fair to say that it's the culprit. After shutting down your device, you can safely remove the hardware. Restart your device to see if the BSOD disappears.

Running System Restore

System Restore lets you go back in time and restore your system to a previous and more stable state. It will remove recent system changes but leave your personal documents alone. Here is how to do a System Restore.

  1. Select the Start button and open the Control Panel.
  2. Search Control Panel for Recovery.
  3. Click Recovery, choose Open System Restore, and then select Next.

    Screenshot of system restore

  4. Choose a restore point and then click Next and then Finish.

Uninstalling problematic software

If it’s newly installed software that’s causing the BSOD, you will need to remove it. If you can't access the main desktop, then you need to restart into Safe Mode, which opens the device in a basic state. You can open Safe Mode by doing the following.

  • Restart your computer.
  • Under Choose an option, select Troubleshoot.
  • Click Advanced options.
  • Choose Startup Settings.
  • Select Restart.
  • Choose Safe Mode with Networking.

Once you have opened Safe Mode or accessed the main desktop, you can start to remove recently installed software. You can do this by following these steps.

  • Select Start.
  • Choose All apps.
  • Press and hold (or right-click) on the app you want to remove.
  • Click Uninstall.

Rolling back driver updates

It's rare for a driver update to cause issues, but it can happen. How to fix the issue will depend on if your computer gives you access to the desktop.

If you have access to your desktop, follow these steps.

  • On the taskbar, locate the search bar and type “View installed updates” and select it.
  • Expand the window to view installation dates.
  • Uninstall the most recent update. You may need to uninstall more than one update to find the one causing the BSOD.

If you don't have access to your desktop, follow these steps.

  • Your computer may do an automatic repair. Afterwards, click on Choose an option.
  • Select Troubleshoot.
  • Click Advanced options.
  • Select System Restore.
  • Choose a restore point from before you began to experience errors.
  • If this fixes the issue, block the update from automatically installing.

Scanning Windows for viruses and malware

A computer virus or type of malware can corrupt your files and cause a blue screen error. To fix it, you'll need to remove the virus. The best way to do this is by completing an antivirus scan. It will look at every file on your computer and locate any viruses.

We conducted several tests, and this is what we found to be the best antivirus software for Windows.

Reinstalling Windows

If nothing is working, then you may have to resort to reinstalling Windows. It's not ideal though, since it can wipe all of your data. If you don't have a backup in place, you'll lose all of your files.

Windows recommends trying to remove disk space before attempting to reinstall it. Low disk space can make it difficult for Windows to function properly. Try deleting some files first to see if it helps remove the BSOD. It also recommends trying to reset Windows before reinstalling it as it's possible to preserve your files while removing downloaded apps.

The exact process to reinstall Windows will depend on if you are using Windows 11 or 10. You can view specific instructions to determine which option is best for you.

Blue screen of death FAQs


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What is the main cause of the blue screen of death?

The main cause of the blue screen of death is usually hardware or software issues. It's also possible that a computer virus has infected your computer and corrupted essential files. When you see the blue screen of death, an error code usually appears to help you find the root of the problem.


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Does a blue screen mean my computer is dying?

A blue screen doesn't mean your computer is dying. There is a critical error though, and it needs correction. Otherwise, your computer won't function properly. Sometimes the solution is as easy as uninstalling recently added hardware or software.


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Can my computer recover from the blue screen of death?

Your computer can recover from a blue screen. It does involve some troubleshooting to figure out the problem and resolve it, so look for the error code listed on the screen. It should reveal what is causing the issue and potential steps to take to recover your device.

Bottom line

Despite the doomsday name, the blue screen of death is fixable. It just takes some troubleshooting and patience to resolve the issue. By following Microsoft's advice on resolving a blue screen error, you can go back to using your device as normal.

Once you've been through the BSOD experience, you definitely don't want to do it a second time. One easy, proactive measure you can take to avoid future issues with your device is by using antivirus software. It can help detect viruses and malware and even remove them from your device. We conducted several tests to find the best antivirus software for users like you, including TotalAVBitdefenderMcAfee and more.

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Author Details
Sara J. Nguyen is a freelance writer specializing in cybersecurity. She aims to help people protect their data while enjoying technology. She has written about online privacy and tech for over 5 years for several organizations. When she's not writing about the latest cybersecurity trends, you can find her on LinkedIn.