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This topic, the Blue Screen of Death, has probably been written about a quadrillion times. This will make it a quadrillion + 1. This exercise is more for myself because I’ve experienced two blue screens in ten days on my Windows 7 laptop. The first I ignored, but this one I wanted to see through to the end to figure out the issue.

Sadly, I don’t know too much about fixing them. Sure, I’ve seen them before here or there on different machines, but in my experience they’ve never been consistent. Usually the system is fine after a reboot, and when there’s more important things to be done, troubleshooting a working system usually isn’t a priority.

Strangely enough (or maybe not), most blue screens I’ve seen happen on client operating systems which could be why I haven’t seen very many in the last five or six years working in a server environment. I can only recall one recent recurring BSOD on a very old 2003 server that had been upgraded from Windows 2000, and then it was P2V’d as well. Old + Upgraded + P2V = I would expect no less. Lucky for my team this was an SMS server in its twilight to make way for SCCM, so it was never a major concern.

I have to warn you, if you came here looking for a blue screen fix, I don’t think I can offer any definitive help. What I can do is show you what I did to get clues and hints and where I hit a wall. I think in the end I’m more confused than ever, but I’m hoping I’ll at least have some foundational steps to start with in diagnosing future blue screen problems.

The first thing I did for my own issue was to make note of the Files that help describe the problem from the initial pop up screen you see upon logging into Windows after the crash. I’m not sure if all operating systems say the same thing, but mine said Windows has recovered from an unexpected shutdown. If you check out the problem details in that message, you’ll find some helpful information there, specifically a file ending in .dmp. Remember the location of this file or move the file someplace more familiar.

My next step was to download the Windows Driver Kit. It’s an ISO file so I mounted it with Virtual CloneDrive and then from the Debuggers directory I installed the 64 bit (setup_amd64.exe) version. Once the set up completed, I launched WinDbg from the Debugging Tools for Windows folder where it was installed.

From the File menu, I selected Symbol File Path and inserted the following:

SRV*C:Symbols*http://msdl.microsoft.com/download/symbols.

(The path in between the asterisks is a folder on your local computer where you want the Microsoft Symbol Server to download a number of Symbol files that help in the debugging process. I created C:Symbols on my system to keep the url short. You can select whatever location you want)

Now it’s time to open your dump file in WinDbg. From the File menu, select Open Crash Dump. (Alternatively you can select Ctrl + D) Browse for your .dmp file mentioned earli

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