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Blue screens are bad enough, but they're further complicated by the fact that capturing the information presented is nearly impossible without a trick.

When I get an error it takes up the whole screen, and I lose my ability to print. How can I print the actual page with all the error information? There are a lot of numbers and it's very hard to copy them all down.

Yep, that's a problem. How do you print when you can't print? How do you copy to the clip board when there's no more clipboard?

It's a real, and honest problem that has no elegant solution. Sometimes Windows has an error so severe it simply cannot continue running at all.

From the description of your problem, I'm assuming that what you're seeing is the "BSOD" or "Blue Screen of Death". Here's one example:

Windows XP Blue Screen of Death

"Because Windows is no longer running, all support for ... well, for anything is no longer available."

It's gets the name "of death" because it appears in those cases where Windows has encountered an error so severe that it cannot continue to run; in a sense, Windows has died.

Because Windows is no longer running, all support for ... well, for anything is no longer available. Naturally, that means there's simply no way to actually print the screen, or copy it to the clipboard. At this point, the printer and clipboard, along with the rest of Windows, simply no longer exist.

There are various approaches to capturing this information.

Pencil and paper come to mind, but as you've indicated that's painful, and often error prone work.

I'm sure that there's special hardware out there that you can use in lieu of your display connection that would somehow allow the display itself to be captured in some way. It's probably expensive, cumbersome, and totally overkill for this kind of problem.

Then there's a more practical, though much less elegant approach, which is the approach that I recommend.

Get your digital camera, and take a picture of the screen.

It's the technique I used to capture screen shots of the administrator password tool for a previous article I've lost the password to my Windows Administrator account, how do I get it back? Here's an example:

Example screen shot taken with a digital camera

No, it's nowhere near as "pretty" as the first example, but that actually doesn't matter. You can easily read the text, even in this version of the image that was resized down from the much larger original.

It's quick, it's easy, and it captures all the information without error.

Hopefully, then, you'll have someone that can help diagnose what the error means.

Article C3572 - November 23, 2008 « »

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Leo Leo A. Notenboom has been playing with computers since he was required to take a programming class in 1976. An 18 year career as a programmer at Microsoft soon followed. After "retiring" in 2001, Leo started Ask Leo! in 2003 as a place for answers to common computer and technical questions. More about Leo.

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6 Comments
Chris Buechler
November 23, 2008 5:13 PM

Recording what it shows on the screen via any method is of limited use. The number following "STOP" will tell you the general cause, but not remotely enough information to find the specific cause. Generally it's a driver problem, and that's all the STOP code will tell you. You might have 60+ drivers on your system - which is it? You need to configure your system to leave at least a minidump file so you have something worthwhile to analyze after the reboot. That'll tell you more specifics about what happened, otherwise you can't possibly find the resolution.

Lots of info out there on debugging blue screens, here's one place to start.
http://support.microsoft.com/kb/315263

Eli Coten
November 25, 2008 2:01 PM

Very often these errors are reported in the Windows System event log as "Save Dump" or "System Failure" and the error codes are available from there.

Additionally there is a program that you can download called Windbg, which can be used to examine the crashdump files (saved in Windows\Minidump folder) which will tell you which error occured and a guess as to what caused the error.

chris faulkner
November 27, 2008 3:43 AM

just had a need to find out the bsod message, what you do is hit f8 just before the windows logo comes up, you should get a menu of start choices, select the one which says something like disable automatic restart on system failure, this will hold your blue screen message.
If you dont get that option from the menu hit 'start windows normally' then immediately hit f8, you should then get another choices menu which this time will show the disable auto restart.
On another computer type your error message into google, you will get lots of info.

Gary
January 3, 2009 7:03 PM

A proactive measure for dealing with the BSOD is to disable automatic starting in control panel, system, advanced tab, and in the startup and recovery section select settings, and under system failure uncheck automatically restart.

peter clarke
November 6, 2009 10:29 AM

the blue email addresses on my address book will not print...help!!!what do I do?????

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