How to fix Stop errors on a blue screen that cause Windows Vista to shut down or restart unexpectedly

Introduction

When your computer experiences an unrecoverable hardware or software problem, Windows Vista shuts down or restarts your computer. When this occurs, Windows Vista may display a blue screen. This blue screen contains a message that states that "Windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your computer." At other times, Windows Vista displays a message after you log on that indicates that Windows has recovered from a serious error or an unexpected shutdown. Then, Windows Vista prompts you to check for a solution to the problem. These errors are known as "blue screen errors" or Stop errors, and they can be caused by several things.

Step-by-step instructions for a beginning to an intermediate computer user

Before you begin

Errors that occur on a blue screen may be caused by a software problem or by a hardware problem. This article contains only steps that you can take to try to resolve software problems. If you cannot resolve the problem by following these steps, you might be experiencing a hardware problem. In that case, you have to contact your computer manufacturer or a computer hardware technician for help with hardware issues.

To start troubleshooting, do one of the following:

Check for solutions to problems

When a program stops working, Windows can check for a solution for you. Even if Windows didn't find a solution when the problem first occurred, Windows may have found a solution since the problem first occurred. Therefore, you should try this method first. 

To check whether Windows has found solutions, follow these steps

Check for and install all required Windows updates

Windows updates help protect your computer's security and reliability. If you want to, you can set Windows to automatically install recommended updates at a time that you specify. Or, you can manually check for updates.

To run Windows Update manually and check for updates and new drivers when you are using the Windows Vista Start menu, follow these steps

Check for and install updated drivers from your computer manufacturer

A driver is software that enables your computer to communicate with hardware or devices. Without drivers, the hardware that you connect to your computer (for example, a video card or a webcam) will not work correctly. Computer manufacturers revise their drivers periodically to allow for changes in software and hardware. If your computer is not using the latest version of a driver, it may have a problem communicating with some hardware or software that is installed. To update drivers for your computer hardware, go to your computer manufacturer's website, and follow their steps to locate, download, and install updated drivers.
Here is a list of support sites for popular computer manufacturers

Use Startup Repair

Startup Repair is a Windows Vista recovery tool that can fix certain problems, such as missing or damaged system files that might prevent Windows from starting correctly.
Solution

Use System Restore

System Restore is a Windows feature that helps you restore your computer's system files to a point in time before a problem might have started. This is a way to undo system changes to your computer without affecting your personal files such as email messages, documents, or photos. To restore your computer to a previous restore point, follow these steps:
  1. First, save any open files and close all programs. You have to do this because System Restore will restart your computer when it finishes.
  2. Open System restore. To do this, click Start, and then click All Programs (or Programs).
  3. Click Accessories, click System Tools, and then click System Restore.
    •  User Account Control permission  If you are prompted for an administrator password or confirmation, type your password, or click Continue.
  4. When the System Restore Wizard opens, click the Choose a different restore point button.
  5. Click Next.
  6. Select a restore point that you estimate was created before the problem started.
  7. Click Next, and then click Finish.
  8. Wait while System Restore restarts your computer.

Next steps

If there were no restore points that you could use or if using System Restore does not fix the problem, unfortunately you will have to perform a clean installation of Windows Vista to fix the problem.

Install a new or "clean" version of Windows

If you have a restore or recovery disc (CD-ROM or DVD) from your computer manufacturer, you can use it to quickly restore Windows and all the software that came preinstalled with your computer. However, you must reinstall any software that was not already installed by the computer manufacturer if you use this method. In most cases, you can insert the disc and then restart your computer to start the restore process.
Solution

References

For more information about how to troubleshoot Windows startup issues, go to the following Microsoft website:
For more information about advanced software troubleshooting, or to troubleshoot a hardware problem, contact your computer manufacturer or a qualified hardware technician.
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Article ID: 958233 - Last Review: Jul 12, 2013 - Revision: 1

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