How to fix BlueScreen (STOP) errors that cause Windows Vista to shut down or restart unexpectedly

Version 1 of this content is now published here. You can continue to provide feedback here or in the KB comments, and we will update the content as needed.

Comments (9)

  1. Draft consumer support content for feedback.

  2. I sent this draft to one of our Senior Supportability PMs here at Microsoft, and one of his comments was "The steps should be numbered, so as to provide a clear indication to the customer what steps are involved in the troubleshooting process."

    So why didn’t I do that here? Probably because I was in a hurry! But another reason is that the "steps" or "methods" are not sequential in the case where you cannot start Windows.

    For example, let’s assume I numbered the steps:

    1. Check for solutions to problems

    2. Install Windows updates

    3. Install updated drivers

    4. Use System Restore

    5. Install a new, or clean, version of Windows

    6. Additional troubleshooting

    That sequence works fine if you can start Windows. However, if you can’t the steps would be:

    7. Use Startup Repair

    4. Use System Restore

    5. Install a new, or clean, version of Windows

    6. Additional troubleshooting

    Note that you can also have issues sometimes with "Next steps" in content like this. Since you have two cases going through some of the same methods, the next steps can vary based on your case. Looks like this problem is avoided here, but  numbering the methods (or uber-steps) might be confusing for Case 2? 😉

  3. Another great comment from our Supportability PM on the missing (linked actually) sub-steps for all the methods: "can we put the steps in the article, and then provide the link to Windows Help for more information?"

    So why didn’t I include detailed sub-steps for each method? Just in a hurry again? Well, maybe. But consider the following:

    1. More detailed steps would make the content very long. This might be a good argment for using a different format (ex.

    2. Some of the steps for the methods can vary quite a bit depending on your environment. For example, if WinRE is preinstaled then the steps to run it are different than if you need to boot from the Windows DVD. The linked Windows Help and How-to topic covers both of these cases, but the steps might also be different than what is documented there. If Windows detects a problem that Start Repair can fix, it should just run it automatically. And of course the user might have already done this method for that reason.

  4. rioj says:

    Is this content going to be professionally translated? If not, it will present an MT problem with linking to English only H&H2.

    Some H&H2 articles are not "grandma" friendly. The Installing and reinstalling Windows topic, for example, is a nightmare topic for grandma–much too long and includes stuff she should never even be exposed to. H&H2 is frequently not very consumer friendly in many other topics. For example, what should grandma make of the "fat discussion" for system restore as follows:

    Why doesn’t System Restore protect FAT32 disks?

    System Restore doesn’t protect FAT32 and other FAT disks because FAT disks don’t support the use of shadow copies. Shadow copies contain information about changes to documents and system files. Shadow copies require the NTFS file system. In this version of Windows, System Restore uses shadow copies to create restore points. If you store system files on a FAT disk, you cannot use System Restore to undo changes.

    Content also doesn’t account for cases where user has already done something. For example, if you know you already have Windows Update installed and have the latest updates, why do it again?

    Users are told that "if this resolved/or not" your problem, do so and so. How do they know that the problem is resolved? What if the bluescreen shows up every few hours or days?

    I’m afraid that to make this content "grandma" friendly, we need to take the most likely solutions from H&H2 and rewrite them. Then we can link to H&H2 for the intermediate audience and tell them to go here for more information. Pain in the (*&*&^^$^%$#SS. But to have grandma read through all that H&H2 is not a great option. She will be lost and give up in no time.  

    For grandma, this content will need a lot of empathetic language. My biggest fear is that grandma will give up

  5. MSDN Archive says:

    These are all "Grandma" comments. I use computers a lot, but I don’t know much about how they work. So, here goes:

    I think you need to define "unrecoverable." A sentence will do, but it’s one of those words that means something to computer gurus and not so much to us grannies.

    Fix the passive voice. Change from, "A blue screen is displayed" to "Vista displays a blue screen."

    Is there a faster way to determine whether the problem is hardware or software other than going through all these steps? I can remember being very annoyed with Verison because every time the internet service died, they made me basically disassemble my computer and rebuild it. And sometimes the tech’s didn’t know how to put it back together again. This dispite my telling them repeatedly that the problem occurred only after a heavy rain and that their equipment was sitting in the middle of a deep puddle. But I digress. Is there a way to just cut to the chase?

    In more than one case, there is an internal link that links to text that’s only two or three lines down the page. I think you should delete these links. They don’t add any value and can be confusing. For example, the links "install updated drivers" and "install a new version of windows."

    Also, there are a couple of instances where the text is the same for two links, but the links go to different places. The first "check for solutions to problems" that goes to another place in the document where there is a link to "check for solutions to problems" that goes to another Web page. The same thing happens with "install Windows updates."

    There are also some broken links, or at least links that didn’t do anything when I clicked them:

    * System Restore

    * Additional software and hardware troubleshooting

    The links all open in the same window as the document. Can you set them to open in a separate window or at least a new tab? I think that would help people who are trying to go back and forth between this article and the information in the links. Otherwise, there is a real danger of getting so deep in multiple links that they’ll never find the way back.

    In general, for a granny, I think this article needs more background explanation. Not a lot, but a paragraph or even a couple of sentences in the appropriate spots could make this much easier to follow.

    For example, there is an instruction to send a problem report to Microsoft automatically. If it’s really automatic, why mention it? If it’s not automatic, what does the user need to do?

    Drivers are another topic that could use some background. A beginner, and possibly and intermediate user, is not going to know what a driver is or why they need to update them.

    This is a good framework, but it needs more padding to make it comfy for the granny to rest on while trying to fix her problem.

  6. Becky K says:

    After a bluescreen, if I can start windows, and I follow the steps in Check for solutions to problems, and I get no results how will I know if I still have the problem or not? The fact that it hasn’t shut down again doesn’t necessarily mean the problem is solved. But it might not ever happen again, right?  Do you recommend installing Windows updates in any case? Ditto for the next steps. If the bluescreen problem is repetitive, then by following these steps the problem may be solved. But if it happened only once, how do I know if the problem is solved or likely to occur again? Do I keep following all the steps thru reinstalling windows? I hope not! This solution seems like overkill for a single instance of the problem, especially for granny.


    “Startp Repair: Frequently asked questions” should be “Startup Repair

    “Additional software and hardware trobleshooting”  should be “

    The link to “System Restore” and “additional software and hardware trobleshooting” not go anywhere.

    What do I do if System Restore does not work?

    It would be helpful to force the links open a new window or tab.

  7. Great feedback! Keep it coming. I fixed the typos and updated the links to the Windows Help and How-to content to open in new windows. Still some broken bookmark links, but hopefully you can figure out where they should go for now 😉

  8. Soleil09 says:

    Whenever I try to install anything [including updates] the problem occurs. It also happens whenever I try to uninstall things. When I went through the first step listed [searching for problems] it showed an issue with updating my apple software but of course when I tried to fix it my computer went to blue screen.

  9. Hi Soleil09,

    If you can post more details in the Answers Forums, someone will be able to help:

    Please post the details of the BlueScreens that you are getting. Open Problem Reports and Solution, and then click View Problem History in the left pane. Now if you double-click the Windows Errors (Shut down unexpectedly) you will see the details. Click the "copy to clipboard" link at the bottom for a few of these (if they are different), and post these details in the forum.

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