Have you been using your computer as normal when suddenly the entire screen goes blue with white text and the computer restarts? If so, you’ve encountered a blue screen of death – although sometimes it’s easy to miss!
Blue screens are more than just something that appears when your computer crashes. They often contain “error codes” that tell you exactly what went wrong. If you’re lucky, it’ll tell you what file crashed it (if there is one), so you can better fix the problem. However, sometimes Windows machines are set to restart the instant they crash. It can be infuriating for those who actually want to read what the error code says so they can fix the problem.
If it’s happening very rarely, people often aren’t too bothered about this problem. If your computer is repeatedly crashing like this, you’ll want to know what is causing the computer to crash. Fortunately, you can find out what’s crashing your computer by changing some settings. Here’s how to do it.
Stopping a PC from Auto-Restarting After a Crash
First, go to your Control Panel. If you’re using the Small or Large Icon display, you should be able to find “System” right off the bat. If you’re using the Category display, you’ll have to select “System & Security” and then System.
You’ll be taken to a screen showing your computer’s statistics. At the far left is a bar with a few selections on them. Click the one that says “Advanced System Settings.”
The System Properties window will appear. It should be on the “Advanced” tab by default, but if not, switch to it. From here you want to click on the “Settings…” button under the “Startup and Recovery” category.
This will bring up a window with some information on it. Don’t worry too much; the only part of this window that we want is the bottom section shown below.
There are some elements in this section that aren’t very obvious at first sight, so let’s go through it step by step to see what each option does.
Write an event to the system log is a good option to tick. There’s an area of Windows called the Event Viewer which stores logs made by Windows and applications. Some are mundane, some are detailing minor errors, and some are about major crashes and failures. Ticking this box tells the PC to log crashes into Event Viewer. These logs can be used to pinpoint computer problems, so it’s a good one to tick.
Automatically restart, however, is very obvious as to what it does. It’s the reason you came here! Unticking this will allow you to note the error code and (if it’s displayed) the file that caused the crash to occur during a blue screen. You can then restart the PC and search the error code online to find solutions. It also means that when the computer crashes you have to manually restart it by holding down the power button until the computer turns off.
It’s a good step toward diagnosing a crash, but let’s take a look at what the final option is: the write debugging information option. This will tell the computer to make a log when a crash occurs. This is different from the above system log option, as it’s not something that appears in Event Viewer; it’s an independent log that better details what was happening when the PC crashed. When diagnosing blue screens on online forums, unless the cause is immediately obvious, people will ask for these debug logs to better diagnose what went wrong. But what do these dumps do?
Computer Memory Dumps
Let’s take a look at the options you get,
Small memory dump is a good option to pick. Small memory dumps don’t say an awful lot, but they’re also very small – only 256kb in size. This makes them easy to share with experts and on forums to people who can then diagnose what went wrong. If you’re a little intimidated by all the options, feel free to stick with this one for the time being.
Kernel memory dump is also a good choice. Kernel dumps cover more than a small memory dump. It comes with a cost, however; a kernel dump will be approximately one-third of the size of the RAM you have installed in your PC. For example, if you have 4GB of RAM, a kernel dump will be around 1.3GB in size. Perfect if you know what you’re looking for in a dump, but not ideal for sharing!
Complete memory dump is not advised. It’s essentially taking your entire RAM and sticking it into a log. It’s not something you can easily share!
Automatic memory dump is the same as a kernel dump, except that Windows makes sure there’s enough memory to write the dump after a crash. For four weeks after a crash Windows will boost the computer’s pagefile size to ensure that the next crash can be “caught” and written to a log.
Which One Is Right for Me?
So which one should you pick? Ideally, to diagnose a problem, you should have several crash logs which can be compared to spot a trend. For some, storing multiple gigabyte-sized logs and reading them using a program like BlueScreenView is perfectly fine, so they should pick “kernel” or “automatic.” For those a little tighter in disk space and/or wanting to easily share the logs with others, small dumps do the job the majority of the time. Either way, be sure to untick the “overwrite any existing file” option so the logs don’t overwrite one another!
Crashes can be a real pain to solve, especially when your computer seems adamant in not showing you what went wrong. With these steps, however, you’ll be far better equipped to tackle whatever issues your computer may be having. Good luck!
Image Credit: blue screen death windows 8/