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The computer crashed, and upon reboot, gets a blue screen of death. It shuts off immediately so there's no time to read it.

Time to get the camera. Looking at bootup frame by frame, I find the blue screen IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL message. Under "techincal information" there is no information, just empty space.

The advice of everyone from the screen message itself to the answers on the Web, says, "Hardware Problem". I attack this in several ways:

  • Run a Linux session (Knoppix live CD). Browse Web. Look at files on hard drives. No problems.
  • Run memtest for about 1/2 hour. An error like this should be a hard error and easy to catch. No errors.
  • Examine BIOS for any unsettling settings. Last summer I had memory errors and found one voltage setting that wasn't "using let BIOS set it". That fixed the memory.
  • Unplug everything; all USB, even the keyboard and let it time out to boot. Still crashes. I can't unplug the video card as there's no on-board video port.
  • Remove video card, remove memory, reinsert.

Nothing made a difference. Not only will it not go into safe mode, it won't even do "safe mode with command prompt"!

My last guess is a corrupted file, and so now it's Last Resort time. A repair-install from the Windows XP CD. EDIT: This procedure ran without any problems. But it did not fix the problem. It now reports Stop error 0x0000007E, which still seems to be about hardware, and there are no driver names or other useful information displayed. I can get more options from pressing F8, including "don't shut down on a crash", which at least lets me read the error.

Did I miss anything?

Progress report 1 week later....Bought another box last week as emergency replacement. Victim now gets to learn Windows 7 :-) (She kind of likes it.) As to the problem:

  • Backed out patch 977165. I really liked the looks of this, and I learned something about all those blasted $NtUninstall.. directories. did not fix the problem. Perhaps I will try backing out some of the others, but success seems unlikely here.
  • Bought another drive, put it in the box, and installed XP SP2 without a hitch. This appears to discredit those who didn't believe the memory was OK per running Memtest.

Thinking about cloning the drive (IDE) to the new one (SATA) but suspect XP may bluescreen just based on the drive change anyway. Nothing to lose, though.

Here's another question: If I tell it to log the startup, where will I find the results? Recovery Console "dir" command is very...dumb. Can't sort by date, or recurse directories.

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did you recently install any updates? can you boot to recovery console with an XP install CD? update KB977165 seems to blame, there are a couple of routes to fixing it:… ..… – quack quixote Feb 13 '10 at 20:58

Yes, you did not test the hard drive for having problems. If a sane computer crashes, the hard disk can be the problem. Boot from linux and get the correct data checking software for your hard drive from the manufacturer. Then let it run tests for bad blocks.

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Does the XP disk allow you to configure it to generate a full kernel dump? If so, you could extract the dump file using your live CD and use another computer with WinDbg to get a stack trace which could point you in the direction of which kernel component is involved.

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Good tip! <padding> – Alex Budovski Feb 14 '10 at 1:57

Just a tip: You can prevent the computer from auto-rebooting on bluescreen, if you hit F8 during boot and use the Disable Auto Restart option in the advanced boot menu.

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Did you run memtest with a RAM card at a time? If not, remove all your RAM cards, leave just one installed in you motherboard and run memtest. Do that again for every RAM card you have.

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