Keep Getting Blue Screen Errors? Use Windows Debug Tools For Crash Analysis


minidumpDo you use windows XP/Vista and keep getting blue screen error messages and don’t know why? With a little super sleuthing of your own you can find the cause of most windows crashes yourself.

It’s not that hard but if you have any software experience (engineering, programmer, etc) it will definitely help if you’ve never seen the output of a memory dump before.

If you have your windows error reporting settings set at their defaults in either Windows XP or Windows Vista, when the OS halts and you receive a blue screen of death it will produce a minidump file (ie. Mini012509-03.dmp) we can use for later analysis of what was in memory at the time of the crash and will give us a good idea on how to solve them for good.

To find out if the cause of your crash is driver related or a hardware fault of some kind for example you’ll need something that can analyse your crash dump files.

The best tool to use is Microsoft’s own debug tools for windows which can be downloaded for free.

How do you use this software to analyse crash reports? Here’s how:

1). Once you have downloaded Microsoft Debug Tools for Windows run the application WinDBG which can be found in the start menu under ‘Debugging tools for Windows’.

2). Next you’ll need to set the symbol file path by clicking File—>symbol file path.

To make it easier you can use the symbol files directly from the microsoft site:

srv*c:symbols*http://msdl.microsoft.com/download/symbols

Once you have the symbol file path set in the debugger its time to load the minidump file created during the crash. Windows stores crash dump files here:

C:WindowsMinidump

3). Click File –>Open Crash Dump and browse to the above directory and choose your dump file. They will be labelled with the date they were created.

Once its done you will need to analyze the file to generate the full crash report which will tell you everything you need to know:

type: !analyze –v

The debugger will start loading the crash dump file and start interpreting it for you. Have a look through the report. The first few lines should give you a good idea what the problem was whether it was a driver, piece of hardware which faulted, software crash, etc.

If you’re still stuck and not really sure what you should be looking for or just want a little more information regarding how this tool is used take a look at the Microsoft KB article on this procedure here.

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