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 causes so many people headaches as it comes about when a student is typing up a twenty page paper the night before they have to turn it in and lose all of the progress they had made or corrupted and ruined software and hardware to the point that it will start to cost money to fix the problem.

Blue Screen of Death

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, wait five seconds, and then turn 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 3) 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 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 4 and 5. If not, you will be needing to purchase a new hard drive, reinstall Windows, and start from scratch.

Step 4: Backup Hard Drive

So we know that you can access the data on your hard drive and while the news maybe exciting that your computer is salvageable without much cost, I would recommend not proceeding with fixing the computer until a full backup of the device is made. One of the best online solutions out there is Carbonite that has an amazing set of options that may fit your budget and you never have to worry about backing up again. If you do not like the cloud option and want to buy an external hard drive, I would suggest getting a Seagate hard drive. Maybe the Seagate 1 terabyte portable hard drive currently at $89 would be just what your church needs. Regardless of how you backup your computer, ensure the data is saved elsewhere before continuing so that if something goes horribly wrong, you can simply reinstall Windows and get the data again.

Step 5: Check Newly Installed Hardware

At this point, things may seem pretty grim and you may not know what is wrong with the computer. While the blue screen of death is typically a broken hard drive or software that has crashed the computer, another common point for repeatedly seeing this screen is because newly installed hardware was not fully put in correctly. Many times someone has installed new RAM, but when putting it in, they did not fully set the stick into the dock. Double check that the RAM is completely set in. If that is not the case. double and triple check any other hardware components that may have been recently added to your computer, including graphics cards, new processors, and potentially even power sources. Any of these problems can cause your computer to fail without more details.

Again, this article should be seen as but a guide to fixing your computer, but others have seen reoccurring solutions to fix their computer. Some would even say that you should Google the computer hex codes as they may refer to memory corruption, but that would get too specific for this guide.

What other general steps would you offer in fixing the blue screen of death (or even preventing it)?