If your PC gets a blue screen, in this guide, we’ll guide you through the steps to troubleshoot and fix the issue on Windows 10.

On Windows 10, a Blue Screen of Death (BSoD) — also referred to as “blue screen,” “stop error,” or just “system crash” — will eventually happen after a critical error and the system is unable to process and repair automatically.

Usually, you may see a blue screen when upgrading to a new release of Windows 10, during startup, or randomly as you actively use the computer. The most frustrating part is that you’ll only see a screen with a blue background and a sad character face without enough information to determine the problem.

The screen will give you a hint message, such as “Your PC ran into a problem and needs to restart. We’re just collecting some error info, and then we’ll restart for you.” Or general stop error codes (such as VIDEO_TDR_TIMEOUT_DETECTED, PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGE_AREA, CRITICAL_PROCESS_DIED, SYSTEM_SERVICE_EXCEPTION, or IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL) or hexadecimal code (such as 0x000000D1, 0x0000000A, or 0x0000007B), but they’re just hieroglyphics for most users.

Although stop errors don’t have a simple answer since many factors can play a role, it’s almost always a problem with a quality or feature update for Windows 10, buggy driver, incompatible software, or hardware related issue.

In this Windows 10 guide, we’ll walk you through the steps and possible solutions to fix your device after a blue screen error.

How to fix blue screen problems during upgrade on Windows 10

When you start the upgrade process to a new version of Windows 10 (such as the May 2020 Update), there’s a good chance of coming across blue screen errors, which can be caused by many reasons. For example, an old program, third-party security software, or corrupted installation files.

Typically, when an error occurs during an upgrade, the setup will undo the changes returning your device to its previous installation without reason.

If you’re getting errors during the upgrade process, you may be able to fix the problem by uninstalling non-essential apps, clearing out a corrupt download, disconnecting non-essential peripherals, or performing a clean installation of Windows 10.

Uninstall blocking apps

To uninstall a blocking app that isn’t required during the installation on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Apps.
  3. Click on Apps & features.
  4. Select the app that may be causing issues and click the Uninstall button.

  5. Click the Uninstall button again.
  6. Continue with the on-screen directions (if applicable).

Once you complete the steps, you may need to repeat the steps to uninstall additional apps, and then you can try the upgrade one more time. After the update, you can reinstall the apps again.

Redownload installation files

A Blue Screen of Death can also occur because of a damaged installation file. If this is the case, you can use the Settings app to clear the previous files allowing Windows Update to redownload them again.

To allow Windows Update to download the Windows 10 upgrade files, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on System.
  3. Click on Storage.
  4. Under the local disk section, click the Temporary files item.

  5. Clear the preselected options.
  6. Check the Temporary Windows installation files option.

  7. Click the Remove files button.

After you complete the steps, try to upgrade to the latest version of Windows 10 using Windows Update.

If the same problem continues, you can either use the Update Assistant utility to perform an in-place upgrade. If the utility doesn’t work, use the Media Creation Tool to create the bootable media to install the new version.

Analyze upgrade problem

Microsoft also provides the SetupDiag, a freely available tool to diagnose and determine why an update or upgrade failed to apply, which you can also use to troubleshoot blue screen errors.

To use SetupDiag after the upgrade of Windows 10 failed with a blue screen, use these steps:

  1. Open SetupDiag download page.
  2. Click the Download SetupDiag button.

  3. Select a destination to save the file.
  4. Click the Save button.
  5. Open File Explorer.
  6. Browse to the downloaded location.
  7. Right-click the “SetupDiag.exe” and select the Run as administrator option.

  8. Right-click the SetupDiagResults.log file and select the Open option.

Once you complete the steps, the log file will open with the default text editor app, and it’ll display the results the tool was able to identify based on the known rules specified by Microsoft.

Depending on the error, the logs will detail the necessary information to determine why your device blue screened during the update and steps to resolve the problem.

In the case a recommendation isn’t provided, follow the available link (if applicable), or use the error code, or any information available, to research the problem online. (Use this guide for more detailed instructions.)

Disconnect non-essential peripherals

You may also see a system crash problem as a result of a hardware related problem. You can minimize the chances of errors, before proceeding with a Windows 10 installation by disconnecting all non-essential peripherals, including external hard drives, printers, secondary monitors, phones, and other USB or Bluetooth devices.

The upgrade process only requires a keyboard, mouse, monitor, and an internet connection.

After the upgrade, you can reconnect the peripherals to your computer. If the problem reappears, it could be a compatibility problem that may require downloading and installing the latest device driver from your manufacture support website.

In the case that you’re using the most up-to-date driver, and the problem persists, then it could be a compatibility issue with the new version of Windows 10, or the hardware may no longer work.

You can always visit the Windows 10 health dashboard to check for known issues causing the problem during the upgrade process.

Perform clean installation

Typically, the best way to avoid Blue Screen of Death errors during an upgrade is not to perform an in-place upgrade. Instead, you should consider to erase everything and start from scratch with a clean installation of Windows 10.

If you’re planning to use the clean install option, make sure the computer can boot from USB. This means that you may need to change the boot order inside the Basic Input/Output System (BIOS) or Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) firmware.

The process to change firmware settings requires hitting one of the function keys (F1, F2, F3, F10, or F12), the ESC, or Delete key as soon as the device starts. The only caveat is that these settings will be different per manufacturer, and even by computer model. It’s best to check your device manufacturer’s support website for more specific instructions.

While in the firmware interface of the device motherboard, find the “Boot” section, and configure the boot order to start from the USB bootable drive, and save the new changes.

To perform a clean installation of Windows 10, use these steps:

Warning: This is a friendly reminder that you’ll be making changes to your current setup, which can cause problems and even data loss if you don’t do it correctly. It’s recommended to make a temporary full backup before proceeding.

  1. Start PC with Windows 10 installation media.
  2. On “Windows Setup,” click the Next button.

  3. Click the Install Now button.

  4. Click the I don’t have a product key option to continue (assuming that your PC was already properly activated).

  5. Select the edition of Windows 10 (if applicable).

    Quick note: This selection must match the edition of your license activates. Otherwise, the product key won’t work.

  6. Click the Next button.
  7. Check the I accept the license terms option to continue.

  8. Click the Next button.
  9. Click on the Custom: Install Windows only (Advanced) option.

  10. Select the partition with the current installation of Windows (usually “Drive 0”), and click the Delete button to remove the partition from the hard drive.

    Quick tip: If you have multiple partitions, on the primary hard drive (Drive 0), select and delete each one. The setup will recreate the required partitions automatically during the installation process. You don’t need to delete partitions from secondary drives.

  11. Select the empty drive labeled “Drive 0 Unallocated Space.”
  12. Click the Next button.

Once you complete the steps, the setup will install a clean copy of Windows 10, reducing the chances of getting a blue screen error. After the installation, you’ll need to continue with the on-screen directions to finish setting up the installation creating a new account, and selecting your preferred settings. You can refer to this guide to perform a complete installation of Windows 10.

How to fix blue screen problems with desktop access on Windows 10

If you see random Blue Screen of Death messages and still have access to the desktop, then the problem could be caused by an old driver or the computer is missing critical updates. Also, it could be an issue with a recently installed app, driver, or update for Windows 10.

Update Windows 10 and drivers

You can resolve this problem by ensuring that the device has the latest updates for Windows 10 and drivers.

Install Windows 10 updates

Windows 10 downloads and installs updates automatically, but sometimes, you may still need to check for updates manually.

To install the latest updates on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Update & Security.
  3. Click on Windows Update.
  4. Click the Check for updates button.

If there’s an update available, but it’s not downloading, then try to download and install the missing quality update manually.

Install driver updates

In the case that you’re getting a stop error due to an outdated driver, you’ll need to download a newer version of the driver.

To update drivers on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Device Manager and click the top result to open the console.
  3. Expand the device category with the problem.
  4. Right-click the device and select the Update driver option.

  5. Click the Search automatically for updated driver software option.

If there’s a newer version of the driver, it’ll download and install automatically. However, it takes time for new drivers to appear through Windows Update. If the instructions don’t fix the blue screen error, the next step would be to check your device manufacturer’s support website to download and install a newer (or beta) version of the driver using their instructions.

Remove problematic updates, drivers, apps

BSoD can also happen when manufacturers or software companies like Microsoft release buggy updates for drivers or Windows 10.

Uninstall system updates

If the device received a buggy system update, and you still have access to the desktop, use these steps to remove it:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Update & Security.
  3. Click the View update history option.

  4. Click the Uninstall updates option.

  5. Select the most recent update (refer to the “Installed On” column).

  6. Click the Uninstall button.

After you complete the steps, the buggy update will be removed, fixing the Blue Screen of Death error on your computer. You can also use these steps to prevent Windows Update from downloading and installing the same update again.

Although the above steps will help you deal with problematic updates, Windows 10 should now be able to detect and remove buggy updates automatically, and it should even block the same update for a month until a replacement update releases fixing the problem.

Uninstall device drivers

If the error appears after installing a specific driver, you can remove it with these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Device Manager and click the top result to open the console.
  3. Expand the category with the problem.
  4. Right-click the device and select the Uninstall device option.

  5. Click the OK button.

Once you complete the steps, you should no longer see the bug check error on the device.

Rollback driver

Alternatively, it might also be possible to roll back the previous version of a driver instead of removing and installing another version.

To roll back a device driver on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Device Manager and click the top result to open the console.
  3. Expand the category with the problem.
  4. Right-click the device and select the Properties option.

  5. Click the Driver tab.
  6. Click the Roll Back Driver button (if available).

  7. Select an option to answer the question.
  8. Click the Yes button.

After you complete the steps, the current driver will be replaced with an older version, which might fix the computer’s system crash problem.

Uninstall conflicting apps

Sometimes, you could end up installing an app that isn’t compatible with your version of Windows 10, and as a result, blue screens at random times could occur or every time you try to start the app.

When this happens, you can resolve this issue by downloading and installing the latest update for the application from the software support website. If there’s not an update available, it’s recommended to remove the application to mitigate the error.

To uninstall a conflicting app on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Open Settings.
  2. Click on Apps.
  3. Click on Apps & features.
  4. Select the app that may be causing issues and click the Uninstall button.

  5. Click the Uninstall button again.
  6. Continue with the on-screen directions (if applicable).

Once you complete the steps, the app will be removed from the computer, hopefully fixing the stop error issue.

Disconnect non-essential peripherals

Occasionally, you may see a Blue Screen of Death message after connecting new hardware (such as a graphics card or USB device). Usually, when this happens, it’s one of three things: the hardware isn’t compatible with the version of Windows 10, the hardware is broken, or for some odd reason, the system is trying to install the wrong driver.

If the hardware isn’t compatible, contact your manufacturer to determine a workaround or check if there’s a newer model or a suitable replacement.

Finally, if the system is trying to install wrong drivers, use the above steps to remove the driver and download and install the latest compatible driver from your manufacturer’s support website (and use their instructions).

Run DISM and SFC tools

In the case that Windows 10 is experiencing a blue screen problem, you can also use the System File Checker (SFC) combined with the Deployment Servicing and Management (DISM) tool in Command Prompt to repair damaged system files, which may help you to resolve the bug check problem.

When using this approach, you must use them in this specific order. First, use DISM and then run the SFC tool. For more detailed instructions, you can use this guide.

Repair image files with DISM

To repair the locally available image with DISM, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Command Prompt, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.
  3. Type the following command to repair the Windows 10 image and press Enter:

    DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth

Once you complete the steps, DISM will connect to the Windows Update servers to download and replace any damaged files in the local image for Windows 10, and you can proceed to use the SFC tool.

Repair blue screen error with SFC

To use the SFC command tool to repair the installation, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Command Prompt, right-click the top result, and select the Run as administrator option.
  3. Type the following command and press Enter:

    SFC /scannow

    Quick tip: If errors are found, you may want to run the command about three times to make sure that everything is fixed correctly.

After you complete the steps, SFC will scan your device and repair any system files using the good files from the local image to restore the health of Windows 10, potentially fixing the blue screen problem.

How to fix blue screen problems without desktop access on Windows 10

Although when a Blue Screen of Death error occurs on Windows 10, you can force a restart to continue using the device. Other times, you may not be able to access the desktop to troubleshoot and fix the problem.

If you can’t access the desktop, you can use features, such as System Restore, Safe mode, or the Advanced startup environment, to resolve the issue.

Quick tip: When your device refuses to start with a blue screen message after installing new hardware, disconnect it to determine if the device is causing the problem.

Resolve BSoD with System Restore

If System Restore is enabled and configured, you can use a restore point to undo changes that may be causing a stop error.

On Windows 10, there are at least two ways to access System Restore through Advanced startup, including via boot potion or USB installation media. Select one of the options below, and continue with the steps to resolve the bug check.

Advanced startup access from boot

To launch the Advanced startup settings to access System Restore, use these steps:

  1. Start your PC.
  2. As soon as the Windows logo appears on your screen, press and hold the power button to interrupt the boot sequence.

  3. Repeat steps No. 1 and 2 two more times.

After the third interruption, Windows 10 will open into the Advanced startup environment, and then you can continue with the steps below to use a restore point.

Advanced startup access from USB

You can also use a Windows 10 installation media to open Advanced startup to access System Restore using these steps:

  1. Start your PC using a USB installation media.

    Quick tip: If your device isn’t starting from USB, you’ll need to change your system’s BIOS settings to make sure it can boot from USB. You can usually access the BIOS by powering up your device and pressing one of the functions, Delete, or ESC keys, but make sure to check your manufacturer’s support website for more specific details.

  2. Click the Next button.
  3. Click the Repair your computer option in the bottom-left corner.

Once you complete the steps, continue with the Restore Point instructions below.

Select Restore Point to fix bug check

To use a Restore Point to fix a blue screen error, use these steps:

  1. Click the Advanced Startup option.

    Quick note: If you’re accessing Advanced Startup from a USB media, you’ll see the Troubleshoot option instead.

  2. Click the Troubleshoot option.

  3. Click the Advanced options button.

  4. Click the System Restore option.

  5. Click the Next button.
  6. Select the most recent known working restore point you think will resolve the the blue screen problem.

  7. Click the Scan for affected programs button to determine the apps that will be affected after the restore point was created.
  8. Click the Close button.
  9. Click the Next button.
  10. Click the Finish button.

After you complete the steps, System Restore will remove updates, drivers, apps, and changes configured after the restore point was created without affecting your files to fix the error.

Resolve BSoD with Safe Mode

You can also start your computer in Safe mode to uninstall updates, drivers, and undo system changes that may be causing blue screen errors on Windows 10 using Safe mode.

Like System Restore, you can access the Advanced startup environment to select the Safe mode option via the boot option or using a Windows 10 installation media. Select one of the options below and continue with the steps to troubleshoot and fix the system crash.

Advanced startup access from boot

To launch the Advanced startup settings to access Safe mode, use these steps:

  1. Start your PC.
  2. As soon as the Windows logo appears on your screen, press and hold the power button to interrupt the boot sequence.

  3. Repeat steps No. 1 and 2 two more times.

After the third interruption, Windows 10 will open into the Advanced startup environment, and then you can continue with the steps below to boot in Safe mode.

Advanced startup access from USB

You can also use a Windows 10 USB bootable media to open Advanced startup to access Safe mode using these steps:

  1. Start your PC using a USB installation media.
  2. Click the Next button.
  3. Click the Repair your computer option in the bottom-left corner.

Once you complete the steps, continue with the Safe mode instructions below.

Use Safe Mode to fix bug check

To boot in Safe mode to resolve a blue screen error on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Click the Advanced Startup option.

    Quick note: If you’re accessing Advanced Startup from a USB media, you’ll see the Troubleshoot option instead.

  2. Click the Troubleshoot option.

  3. Click on Advanced options.

  4. Click the Startup Settings option.

  5. Click the Restart button.

  6. After your computer reboots, press the F4 (or 4) key to select the Enable Safe Mode option.

While in Safe mode, depending on the issue, the steps below will help you to uninstall Windows 10 updates and device drivers.

Remove problematic system updates

To uninstall a Windows 10 update causing a blue screen, use these steps:

  1. Open Control Panel.
  2. Click the Uninstall a program option.

  3. Click the View installed updates option from the left pane.

  4. Right-click the most recent update (refer to the “Installed On” column).
  5. Select the Uninstall option.

After you complete the steps, restart your computer to finish the task and confirm the error is no longer happening.

Remove problematic drivers

To uninstall a buggy or incompatible driver, use these steps:

  1. Open Start.
  2. Search for Device Manager and select the top result to open the console.
  3. Expand the branch with the device causing the problem.
  4. Right-click the device and choose the Uninstall device option.

  5. Click the OK button.

Once you complete the steps, reboot your device and determine if the problem has been resolved.

If your computer is no longer showing a BSoD message, you can temporary block the same update or driver from reinstalling automatically.

Resolve BSoD with Advanced startup

Alternatively, Windows 10 also includes a feature that allows you to remove problematic updates from the Advanced startup environment without the need to use System Restore or Safe mode.

Select the option to access the Advanced startup environment, and continue with the instructions to remove quality or feature update causing the Blue Screen of Death.

Advanced startup access from boot

To launch Advanced startup with the boot option, use these steps:

  1. Start your PC.
  2. As soon as the Windows logo appears on your screen, press and hold the power button to interrupt the boot sequence.

  3. Repeat steps No. 1 and 2 two more times.

After the third interruption, Windows 10 will open into the Advanced startup environment, and then you can continue with the steps below to boot in Safe mode.

Advanced startup access from USB

To launch Advanced startup with a USB installation media, use these steps:

  1. Start your PC using a USB installation media.
  2. Click the Next button.
  3. Click the Repair your computer option in the bottom-left corner.

Once you complete the steps, continue with the Safe mode instructions below.

Uninstall quality or feature updates

To uninstall the most recent quality or feature update causing blue screens on Windows 10, use these steps:

  1. Click the Advanced Startup option.

    Quick note: If you’re accessing Advanced Startup from a USB media, you’ll see the Troubleshoot option instead.

  2. Click the Troubleshoot option.

  3. Click on Advanced options.

  4. Click the Uninstall Updates option.

  5. Click the Uninstall latest quality update or Uninstall latest feature update option.

    Quick tip: If you select the Uninstall latest feature update option, you can continue with the same steps to remove the recent upgrade of Windows 10 (as long as it’s been less than ten days since the installation).

  6. Sign-in with your credentials after the computer restarts.
  7. Click the Uninstall quality update button.

  8. Click the Done button.
  9. Click the Continue option.

After you complete the steps, Windows 10 will remove the latest quality update or feature update potentially fixing the Blue Screen of Death on your device.

A Blue Screen of Death error is always a sign that something isn’t working as expected, and while there are many troubleshooting steps you can follow, sometimes, you’ll need additional assistance, such as from your manufacturer, but you can also consult other sources like the Windows Central forums or the official Microsoft forums.

In addition to the blue screen messages, you can also stumble upon a black screen, which is usually a problem with the graphics driver, connection issue, or installation. If you’re experiencing screen flickering, you’re likely seeing a problem with a video driver or application.

More Windows 10 resources

For more helpful articles, coverage, and answers to common questions about Windows 10, visit the following resources: