Troubleshooting Crashes

You often begin seeing blue screens after you install a new software product or piece of hardware. If you’ve just added a driver, rebooted, and gotten a blue screen early in system initialization, you can reset the machine, press the F8 key when instructed, and then select Last Known Good Configuration. Enabling last known good causes Windows to revert to a copy of the registry’s device driver registration key (HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services) from the last successful boot (before you installed the driver). From the perspective of last known good, a successful boot is one in which all services and drivers have finished loading and at least one logon has succeeded.

During the reboot after a crash, the Boot Manager (Bootmgr) will automatically detect that Windows did not shut down properly and display a Windows Error Recovery message. This screen gives you the option to attempt booting into safe mode so that you can disable or uninstall the software component that might be broken.

If you keep getting blue screens, an obvious approach is to uninstall the components you added just before the first blue screen appeared. If some time has passed since you added something new or you added several things at about the same time, you need to note the names of the device drivers referenced in any of the parameters. If you recognize any of the names as being related to something you just added (such as Storport.sys if you put on a new SCSI drive), you’ve possibly found your culprit.

Many device drivers have cryptic names, but one approach you can take to figure out which application or hardware device is associated with a name is to find out the name of the service in the registry associated with a device driver by searching for the name of the device driver under the HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services key. This branch of the registry is where Windows stores registration information for every device driver in the system. If you find a match, look for values named DisplayName and Description. Some drivers fill in these values to describe the device driver’s purpose. For example, you might find the string “Virus Scanner” in the DisplayName value, which can implicate the antivirus software you have running. The list of drivers can be displayed in the System Information tool (from the Start menu, select Programs, System Tools, System Information. In System Information, expand Software Environment, and then select System Drivers. Process Explorer also lists the currently loaded drivers, including their version numbers and load addresses, in the DLL view of the System process. Another option is to open the Properties dialog box for the driver file and examine the information on the Details tab, which often contains the description and company information for the driver. Keep in mind that the registry information and file description are provided by the driver manufacturer, and there is nothing to guarantee their accuracy.

More often than not, however, the stop code and the four associated parameters aren’t enough information to troubleshoot a system crash. For example, you might need to examine the kernel-mode call stack to pinpoint the driver or system component that triggered the crash. Also, because the default behavior on Windows systems is to automatically reboot after a system crash, it’s unlikely that you would have time to record the information displayed on the blue screen. That is why, by default, Windows attempts to record information about the system crash to the disk for later analysis, which takes us to our next topic, crash dump files.

Source of Information : Microsoft Press Windows Internals 5th Edition

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