If your Dell laptop is crashing with a blue screen — sometimes called the blue screen of death (BSOD) — this will go over several common occurrences. The BSOD has changed over the years, including a :( face in Windows 8, and changing the crash screen to black in Windows 11. However it’s caused, the problem is caused by either software or hardware, so read on to determine the right solution for you!
This may seem trivial but a restart of your computer is the first thing you should try. This tends to fix some innocuous issues.
- Press and hold the power button for 15 seconds to force restart it.
Check for updates. Newer versions of Windows — like Windows 10 and 11 — do a good job of updating drivers and firmware. It’s worth checking if there are any updates to the drivers, USB firmware, etc.
- Right-click on the Start Menu and go to Settings > Windows Update on the left > Check for updates.
The blue screen could be an error with the video or other drivers. The graphics card drivers may need to be updated or reinstalled.
- Search online for your exact model of Dell laptop to find out what graphics card it has (sometimes referred to as a graphics processing unit or GPU).
Sometimes when using a webcam or other device that is not using the proper driver will cause the computer to crash and show the blue screen of death. If you are using a dock, does the laptop crash when not docked?
- Use Device Manager to check for driver updates.
- Open Device Manager by right-clicking on the Start Menu and selecting Device Manager.
- From there, find the webcam or device and uninstall the driver.
- Download and install the recommended driver from the vendor’s website.
BlueScreenView is a program that helps figure out the cause of the blue screen. The program identifies the specific cause of the crash, down to the individual .dll used when your laptop crashed.
- Download and run BlueScreenView. Finding out what driver or service is causing the crash helps to isolate the problem and troubleshoot further!
A corrupt OS means that there are files critical to the operating system that has become invalid or messed up in some way (the computer was powered off during an update, the computer died while sleeping, etc). This leads to weird glitches throughout the computer. Windows provides access to repair tools that correct these corruption issues.
- Right-click on the Start Menu and select Command Prompt, Powershell, or Windows Terminal (Windows 8, 10, and 11 will provide different options).
- Type sfc /scannow and hit Enter.
- Wait for the command to finish. If there were corrupt files to repair, it will repair them.
Check for viruses. Some forms of malware affect the ability to use the computer.
- Scan your computer with Malwarebytes or ESET Online Scan. These are free programs that provide some good malware scanning techniques.
Reinstall Windows. A full Windows reinstall may be necessary to restore the laptop’s normal function as malware infections aren’t always fully cleaned out post-quarantine.
- Use a known good and “clean” computer to download the Windows operating system to create a bootable flash drive.
- Back up any files, bookmarks, pictures, etc. you wish to keep onto a cloud platform like Google Drive or Dropbox after you have run antivirus scans. This can lessen the transfer of existing malware onto your fresh install of Windows compared to plugging in a flash drive and infecting multiple computers.
- Boot from the Windows bootable flash drive. Erase all partitions in the setup wizard and install the fresh OS to your drive.
- Transfer the data back onto your laptop.
Corrupted Storage Drive
If you continue to experience problems and aren't able to load a fresh install of your operating system, or if you are getting a "No Bootable Device" or "Operating System Not Found" error on the BIOS screen, the problem likely resonates from your storage device.
You can try reformatting the drive to start, but you'll need to remove it from the computer, mount it to a functioning computer, and use Disk Management to reformat the drive. Then you'll want to install a new Windows partition on the drive before reinstalling it in your laptop.
If reformatting doesn't work, you can replace the drive with a new one. Navigate to the page for your model of Dell Laptop to find a hard drive or solid state drive replacement guide that works for you. If you can't find your particular model, following a guide for a similar model may still be able to help you with the process.
The RAM in your laptop may be faulty causing the laptop to crash. Test the memory first before swapping it out.
- Run Windows Memory Diagnostic from the Start Menu.
- Choose Restart now and check for problems (recommended). Make sure to save anything you were working on as this automatically restarts the computer.
- The computer will restart and run the test. Keep an eye out for the results as this lets you know if your RAM is faulty.
- Replace the memory — either increasing the overall size or keeping the same amount.
Capacitors are tiny electrical power storage devices. The act of draining power out of them alleviates prolonged issues. A hard reset is necessary to fully drain the capacitors.
- To do this, remove all peripherals, laptop charger, and laptop battery. If your laptop battery is not easily removable, search our site for your exact Dell laptop model.
- Once everything is removed, hold the power button down for 60 seconds. This makes the computer attempt to power on and drain the capacitors and as a result, the built-up static charge.
- Sometimes, you will need to unplug the BIOS battery (CMOS battery) and drain all the laptop's power.