Paul Watson, PC Technician
On a Windows computer, nothing is more frustrating than the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD). Seemingly, they come from nowhere, and could occur when the user is doing something relatively innocuous, like surfing the Web. So could Windows drivers cause BSODs, and how can you stop them?
Windows drivers could be at fault
Windows drivers aren’t always the root causes of BSODs, but they can be the cause of specific kind of crashes. Some users have their computers set to restart automatically after a crash. In this mode, you tend to miss the information on the BSOD screen, which can reveal the cause of the crash.
Now, to be fair, most people don’t know what “DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL” means, and that’s the kind of message you’ll find on a BSOD. So what does this mean, and what can you do about it?
First, if your computer crashes regularly and seemingly randomly, and you want to get a better handle on what’s happening, you can configure your computer to stop on a crash, instead of restarting right away. This first step isn’t much, but it can give you a clue as to where to start debugging your crashing computer.
To configure your computer to bypass the automatic restart, go to the Control Panel and select System and Security. Under System, choose Advanced Settings. Under Startup and Recovery, uncheck the “Automatically Restart” option. “Ok” your way out of the control panel. After opting out of automatic restarts, a BSOD screen will stay in place until you manually restart the computer.
If you don’t want to manually restart, but you still want to know what the apparent cause of your crash was, you can retrieve log files and related splatter from the C:\Windows\Minidump file. You could find several files here, depending upon how often your system crashes. The files will contain, among other things, information about the root cause of your problem.
If you receive the “DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL” message, however, you can be sure that one of your drivers is not playing nice with the Windows kernel. Debugging driver failures can be challenging, but the log files should be able to identify which applications or services were running at the time of the crash. In some cases, software like anti-virus suites can cause kernel-level driver problems. Generally, these are well documented. Resolving these kinds of crashes may require you to uninstall your current anti-virus software, apply updates or patches, or switch products.
Windows includes a built in firewall and security option called Security Essentials. In many cases, this built in software will enable you to keep your system protected while you debug your crash problem and decide how to fix it.
You can also use Driver Detective to keep your drivers updated. Using outdated drivers can cause problems, especially after system updates have been applied. Driver Detective is one of the most often-downloaded, trusted Windows driver maintenance programs on the market today. Download your copy and automate the tasks of driver updates!
Photo Credit: stevenafc, via FreeImages.com