So you just got your first Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) or maybe your twentieth? Whatever the case, most people don’t know how to fix BSOD problems themselves. If you have someone geeky in your family, they might be able to fix it for you, but there are a lot of times when you have to send the “dump” files to a technical person so that they can determine the cause of the problem.

The dump files are simply the log files created when the BSOD occurs. It has all the info related to the error and can be analyzed to determine what caused the error to occur. In this post, I’m going to tell you about a few free programs that will grab the dump files for you and either view them or create a nicely organized folder that you can zip and post to a forum, email to your IT department, email to a friend, etc. You can always search for the files and try to analyze them yourself and I’ve also gone through a little bit of that below.

If you want to try and view the crash reports yourself, you can try out another nifty program called BlueScreenView.

http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/blue_screen_view.html

bluescreenview

The program automatically scans all your minidump files, which are basically useful subsets of the crash dump file, and displays information about each crash in one table. The minidump files are meant to be smaller with only crucial information, so that it can be sent over the Internet more easily.

What’s cool about this program is that you can see the original blue crash screen that Windows displays and a whole bunch of other information including the time of the crash and the file name/description of each driver that may have caused the crash.

dump file viewer

Overall, BlueScreenView is very good, but there are times when it will give you the incorrect driver as the cause of the problem. The reason for this is because it assumes the last driver to load before the crash is the cause and therefore it gives a lot more blame to Microsoft drivers than third-party drivers that are the real culprits.

Windows Debugging Tools

If you really want to get your hands dirty without needing to become a technical guru, you can download the Debugging Tools for Windows, which requires downloading the Windows SDK. You also have the option to download a newer debug tool called WinDbg Preview. It’s got a better front-end and is faster than the original WinDbg tool that is in the SDK. You can download WinDbg here:

https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-hardware/drivers/debugger/debugger-download-tools

Otherwise, download the Windows 10 SDK from here:

https://developer.microsoft.com/en-US/windows/downloads/windows-10-sdk

When you go to install it, you will see a list of options with check boxes. You only need to install the Windows Debugging Tools. Everything else can be unchecked.

windows debugging tools

Once installed, you can go to All Programs and you’ll see a new folder called Windows Kits, which has the debugging tool inside (WinDbg).

windbg

Simply run the program and click on File and Open Crash Dump.

open crash dump

Now all you have to do is search your computer for files ending in *.dmp or *.mdmp. You can find all the minidump files here:

%SystemRoot%\Minidump

You’ll have to change your system settings to be able to view hidden and system files, otherwise they won’t show up. Once the dump file is opened, it will try to analyze it and tell you where the problem occurred. It’s a good idea to use BlueScreenView and WinDbg to analyze the dump file as they may give different answers.

This is definitely not a comprehensive guide to reading or analyzing dump files, but it hopefully gets you going in the right direction depending on what you want to do with the dump files. Enjoy!