Resolving stop (blue screen) errors in Windows 7

Applies to: Windows 7

Stop errors (also sometimes called blue screen or black screen errors) can occur if a serious problem causes Windows 7 to shut down or restart unexpectedly.
These errors can be caused by both hardware and software issues, and it can be difficult to troubleshoot the problem. The following tools and methods can often help get Windows up and running again.

If you can start Windows

These tools and methods can help you roll back your system to an earlier state, and help ensure your computer has the latest updates installed.

Undo recent changes using System Restore
System Restore is the easiest thing to try first. It can undo recent changes to your computer's system files that might have caused the problem. System Restore doesn't affect your personal files, such as email, documents, or photos.

Open System Restore

  1. Open System Restore by clicking the Start button Picture of the Start button
    The Start button
    . In the search box, type System Restore. Next, in the list of results, click System Restore.‌
    Administrator permission required
     If you're prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type the password or provide confirmation.
  2. Follow the instructions on your screen.

If you can't start Windows at all

The following tools can help you uninstall or roll back software changes, repair Windows startup files, and restore your system from an earlier backup. If none of those suggestions fix the problem, you can reinstall Windows 7.
Several of the following tools are located on the System Recovery Options menu. This menu is preinstalled on your computer's hard disk, and is also on the Windows 7 installation media.
When attempting to recover Windows:
  • If you use a Tablet PC or other computer with a touchscreen, you might need to connect a keyboard and mouse in order to use Startup Repair and the other tools in the System Recovery Options menu. For more information, see What are the system recovery options in Windows 7?
  • If Windows 7 came preinstalled on your computer, your computer manufacturer might have included other recovery options. For more information, refer to the documentation that came with your computer, or go to the manufacturer's website.
Try safe mode to start Windows
Safe mode starts Windows in a limited state. Only the basic files and drivers necessary to run Windows are started, which can help you troubleshoot software problems.
For example, if a corrupted video card driver is preventing Windows from displaying, or if a program runs as soon as you start Windows and can't be shut down, you can start Windows in safe mode before the driver or program starts and then try to fix the problem.

Start your computer in safe mode

  1. Remove all CDs, DVDs, and other media from your computer, then restart it. Click the Start button 
    The Start button
    , click the arrow next to the Shut Down button
    Picture of Shut Down button
    , and then click Restart.
  2. Do one of the following:
    • If your computer has a single operating system installed, press and hold the F8 key as your computer restarts. You need to press F8 before the Windows logo appears. If the Windows logo appears, you'll need to try again by waiting until the Windows logon prompt appears, and then shutting down and restarting your computer.
    • If your computer has more than one operating system, use the arrow keys to highlight the operating system you want to start in safe mode, and then press F8.
  3. On the Advanced Boot Options screen, use the arrow keys to highlight the safe mode option you want, and then press Enter. For more information about options, see Advanced startup options (including safe mode).
  4. Log on to your computer with a user account that has administrator rights.

When your computer is in safe mode, you'll see the words Safe Mode in the corners of your screen. To exit safe mode, restart your computer and let Windows start normally.