How to fix the blue screen of death error in Windows 10

Windows 10 blue screen of death

The blue screen of death is an error in Windows 10 that appears when the system hits an unexpected fault. In order to prevent damage to the operating system, all critical processes are halted and a blue error screen is displayed. Knowing how to fix the blue screen of death error is a useful skill to any Windows 10 user, as it will usually keep appearing unless the underlying problem is addressed.

Known for its blue splash screen, the infamous "blue screen of death" error halts all critical processes, including networks, platforms, and applications. Unfortunately, this can result in the loss of unsaved data.

What is the blue screen of death?

When a fatal error has been detected by your Windows system, your display will turn blue and show a picture of a sad face emoji and a short message that reads: 

"Your PC ran into a problem and needs to restart. We're just collecting some error info, and then we'll restart for you."

The message will also display a generic error code. Sadly, this will not be information on the cause of the problem, or what you can do to fix it, though the code itself will offer a surface-level understanding of the issue.

There are hundreds of stop error codes acknowledged by Microsoft. These range from harmless 'VIDEO_TDR_TIMEOUT_DETECTED' to more pressing issues like 'CRITICAL_PROCESS_DIED'.

What are the most common blue screen error messages?

These are the most common error codes you will see when encountering a blue screen of death on Windows 10


A screenshot of the Windows Blue Screen of Death error

(Image credit: Microsoft)

In addition to the generic code, users may also encounter a hexadecimal format of the stop error. Those with a trained eye can use the code parameters to reveal extra details about the problem, which they can use to research a fix.

For example, in the highlighted image above the Blue Screen of Death error is showing an error code: HAL_INITIALIZATION_FAILED. This error appears when there is an issue with the boot up process, usually indicating a driver conflict or hardware fault.

For non-IT professionals and basic users, though, the hexadecimal code can be hard to understand and will give little indication as to what has gone wrong or how to fix it.

What causes the blue screen of death?

Blue screen errors generally happen during an upgrade or after installing an app or updating a driver. However, it’s not uncommon to run into this error during general usage.

  • Insufficient space in system disk
  • Faulty device drivers
  • BIOS misconfiguration
  • Hard disk corruption
  • Unidentified bug of Windows 10
  • Outdated Windows operating system
  • Incorrect entries in the system's registry

In order to fix the Blue Screen of Death error on Windows 10, you need to determine whether you can access the desktop or if you’re locked out.

Fixing the blue screen of death with desktop access

If you see a blue screen error and still have access to the desktop, the problem likely stems from a recently installed app, outdated driver, or Windows 10 update.

To fix the Blue Screen of Death error, you will want to do the following:

  • Check what Windows updates and drivers are installed
  • Update to new drivers if required
  • Remove any recently installed updates and drivers
  • Remove any problematic peripherals

How to check for the latest updates and drivers

(Image: © ITPro)

  1. Open the Start menu and click “Settings.”
  2. Click “Update & Security.”
  3. Click “Windows Update.”
  4. Click “Check for updates.”
  5. Follow all prompts to install the latest Window update if needed.

How to update the drivers on Windows 10

(Image: © ITPro)

  1. Type “Device Manager” into the Windows 10 search bar.
  2. Click “Device Manager.”
  3. Click the device category you suspect is causing the problem to expand it.
  4. Right-click the suspected faulty device.
  5. Click “Update driver.”
  6. Click “Search automatically for updated driver software.”

If this doesn't fix the blue screen error, download and install a newer version of the driver from your device manufacturer's website.

Uninstall incompatible updates, drivers, and third-party apps

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For the following, we'll be using Windows 10's older Control Panel view to uninstall software, as we find it's easier to use when looking for installed updates:

  1. Open the Control Panel.
  2. Click “Uninstall a program” under the “Programs” headline.
  3. Click “Installed updates” in the left pane.
  4. Click the most recent update and click “Uninstall” above to delete the update.

Buggy drivers and Windows 10 updates can also cause the blue screen of death can. Uninstalling these bad updates will end the stop errors while also repairing potential malware vulnerabilities.

If the error appears after installing a specific driver, remove it using the following steps:

  1. Type “Device Manager” in the Windows 10 search bar and click on “Device Manager.”
  2. Click the malfunctioning device’s category to expand it.
  3. Right-click the malfunctioning device and click “Uninstall device.” Alternatively, you can roll back to the previous driver by selecting the “Properties” after right-clicking on the device. In the Properties window, open the “Driver” tab, click on the “Roll Back Driver” button, and click “OK” to confirm.

If the blue screen of death appeared after installing an app, this is the likely culprit. Uninstall the offending app using the following steps:

  1. Click the Start menu.
  2. Click “Settings”.
  3. Click “Apps”.
  4. Find the conflicting app in the list and click it.
  5. Click “Uninstall”.
  6. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the uninstallation.

Unplug incompatible peripherals

The blue screen of death can also occur if connected hardware isn't compatible with Windows 10. 

Visit your hardware manufacturer's support website to determine if it's compatible with Windows 10. If it’s incompatible, disconnect it and opt for a suitable replacement.

Fix the blue screen of death without desktop access

If you can't access the desktop, you can use features like System Restore and Safe Mode as workarounds. We will be going over the following:

  • Using System Restore to revert recent changes
  • Using Safe Mode to uninstall drivers and updates

Undo recent changes using System Restore

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  1. Launch the advanced startup settings by powering on your PC and pressing and holding the power button to interrupt the boot sequence.
  2. Repeat Step 1 two more times. After the third off-on power cycle, Windows 10 will automatically open in the advanced startup environment and display troubleshooting options.
  3. Click “Advanced options”.
  4. Click “System Restore”.
  5. Select the restore point created right before the blue screen appeared. Windows 10 usually creates a system restore point each time it installs an update, driver, or app.
  6. Click “Close”.
  7. Click “Next”.
  8. Click “Finish”.

System Restore rolls the system software back to its previous state. However, to access System Restore, you must launch Advanced Startup settings. From there. System Restore will remove all updates, drivers, apps, and changes you made after the restore point to fix the blue screen error.

Uninstall device drivers or Windows 10 updates in Safe Mode

  1. Launch the advanced startup settings by powering on your PC and pressing and holding the power button to interrupt the boot sequence.
  2. Repeat Step 1 two more times. After the third off-on power cycle, Windows 10 will automatically open in the advanced startup environment and display troubleshooting options.
  3. Select the “Startup Settings” option and click “Restart.”
  4. Press “F4” or the “4” once the reboot begins to select the “Enable Safe Mode” option.
  5. Uninstall Windows 10 updates or device drivers while in Safe mode.

Opening Windows in Safe Mode is another way to tackle the blue screen of death. Like System Restore, you can access Safe Mode through the advanced startup settings.

Blue screen of death errors are challenging but not impossible to fix

While stop errors can sometimes be overwhelming, Microsoft provides fixes for almost all types of errors that lead to a blue screen of death. 

Scanning for malware and backing up your data are other crucial steps you can take to minimize the impact of a sudden, unplanned downtime the blue screen error may cause.

Dale Walker

Dale Walker is the Managing Editor of ITPro, and its sibling sites CloudPro and ChannelPro. Dale has a keen interest in IT regulations, data protection, and cyber security. He spent a number of years reporting for ITPro from numerous domestic and international events, including IBM, Red Hat, Google, and has been a regular reporter for Microsoft's various yearly showcases, including Ignite.

With contributions from