How to Diagnose a PC that Crashes, Freezes and/or Blue Screens

We created this guide to help train and be used as a reference for our new technicians. It’s a bit simplistic for our experienced techs, but it may be skimp over details for less technical people. What we’re trying to say is – everyone is at a different level of device troubleshooting. Nevertheless, we decided to post these online in case they can help you. Some companies closely guard their diagnostic processes and call them ‘trade secrets’. We think that’s silly, so we posted them online.

Diagnostic Flowchart


Commonly: Bad OS, Bad HDD, Viruses, Bad Drivers, Bad RAM
Also Possible: Bad Motherboard
Rare: Bad GPU, Bad BIOS Config

Pre-Testing notes:

If the problem is caused by software, the solution is typically a reinstall. It’s sometimes possible to troubleshoot the issue down to a particular driver, security patch, windows update, corrupt registry file, etc. but this is typically time consuming and unnecessary. Once it’s diagnosed down to the software level, it’s usually irrelevant what specifically caused the problem because a OS reinstall always fixes it.

Diagnostic Procedure:

Run a hard drive test. If the HDD is bad, replace the hard drive and reinstall Windows on the new drive. Backup the data from the old hard drive first if necessary. Follow all standard protocols for a reinstall with data.

If the hard drive is fine, test the RAM (memory). Frankly, this step is optional because RAM rarely goes bad, and when it does fail it typically makes the machine not turn on instead of generating errors or crashes. If the memory is bad, replace the bad RAM chip. Did that solve the crashing? If not, it could be coincidental. Continue down the checklist.[Advanced] Some error messages are specific, others are generic. Do you get a specific error message that you can solve? Does the error message indicate either a specific driver or hardware component is bad? If yes, try that. But be warned, this rabbit hole could be never-ending, so don’t go down it too far.

Do the crashes seem virus related? If so, run a virus scan. If the scan reveals viruses – remove them. However, keep in mind that plenty of “working” machines have viruses so this may not be the underlying cause of the issues you’re seeing. In addition, even if the viruses are the underlying cause, removing them might not fix the problems they have already caused. So a virus removal is a worthwhile step if the error messages look virus related, but won’t always resolve the problem.

Reinstall the Operating System. This should fix the problem. In rare cases, the crashing may persist. If it does, rest the BIOS settings and try a different HDD (even if it tested good), then a different motherboard and/or GPU.


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