While the blue screen of death is much more common, getting a red screen of death (RSOD) on Windows isn’t unheard of. It can be brought on for a variety of reasons, but the most common causes are hardware damage/faults or BIOS and display driver issues.
I’ve compiled a list of things you can try to solve your red screen of death problem, sorted from easiest to most complicated.
Plug the Monitor Into Another Device
Your monitor or its cables could be damaged. The easiest way to check is to plug it into a different computer and see if the red screen of death reappears. It may not happen instantly, as the faulty hardware could still semi-work so try to keep it plugged in for at least 15 minutes.
This isn’t really possible with a laptop, but you could take the device to a professional so they can check it.
Reset the Monitor
Most monitors come with control buttons somewhere on the front or back. Look through your monitor’s settings to find the reset option. Select the Reset and if prompted, select yes. This will reset any custom settings you may have on your monitor as well.
Your screen should go black for a moment and will then turn back on again.
Roll Back to a Previous GPU Driver Version
Sometimes graphics driver updates unintentionally break something on your PC and you need to restore a previous update version to set things right again. At least until the developers fix the issue with another update. To roll back a driver update:
- Open up the Device Manager app.
- Find Display Adapters in the list and click on the arrow, then right-click on your GPU.
- Select Properties and go to the Driver tab in the new menu.
- Select Roll Back Driver–you may be required to choose a reason why you want to roll back to a previous version.
As you’ll see in the image above, sometimes this option is greyed out because the previous drivers weren’t retained. In that case, you’ll have to manually download the previous driver version from the driver’s website. You can see which version is currently installed in this menu.
Try Lowering Your Overclocking Settings
The red screen of death issue sometimes pops up because there’s a problem with your overclocked GPU or CPU. If either or both of these are overclocked in your PC, try lowering your settings to see if that solves the problem.
You can also disable the overclocking for a few days to monitor what happens or even try underclocking your GPU to check if that helps. It’s a long shot, but some people claim that it’s solved the issue for them.
Check Your GPU and Cables
There’s a big chance that some fault with your internal hardware caused the RSoD error. The problem is figuring out which component is the culprit and what, exactly, went wrong.
Your best bet for getting through this is to take a methodical approach and test each component. If possible, use a second PC and replace items as you go along to see which one causes the error.
I’d start with the graphics card and memory sticks (RAM) as they’re the more likely culprits and then work my way to the motherboard. Be sure to check the cables as well, especially those connecting your GPU to your motherboard.
Keep in mind that the cables may be internally damaged and look fine on the outside. If you have a laptop then you won’t be able to check this yourself and should take it to a professional.
Uninstall Recently Added Software
There’s a chance that a new app or software you recently installed has caused the malfunction in some way. Software like softOSD, a manager for hardware displays, has been known to do this.
- Head to the Control Panel and under Programs select “Uninstall a program”.
- Find the program in the list, right-click on it and select “Uninstall”.
Start with the app/software you installed last and uninstall each program. Make sure you back up any important files or save them first as this may delete them. Leave some time between each uninstall to see if the RSOD appears again.
Update your BIOS/UEFI and Drivers
If nothing is damaged, there’s a chance something went wrong with one of the drivers or the operating system. An out-of-date BIOS or driver conflict during the startup process can cause the red screen of death. To solve this problem, you will need to update your motherboard BIOS and GPU.
Updating the Motherboard BIOS
Start by identifying your motherboard model if you don’t already know it. You should also look for the motherboard’s revision number (usually displayed on the motherboard) to get the exact model. This is important because BIOS updates can differ between motherboards from the same brand so you want the correct one. For a laptop, you can just use your laptop’s make and model.
Next, head to your motherboard manufacturer’s website and download the BIOS drivers for your motherboard model. While here, also download the drivers for your motherboard so you can update that later. Next, unzip the BIOS update and copy the files to an external hard drive or USB.
Stay on your motherboard’s website page as it should have the exact instructions for updating your BIOS. The steps can vary between motherboards and some require that you configure settings before launching your BIOS settings.
After that’s done and you’ve restarted your PC, you can locate your downloaded motherboard drivers and follow the prompts on the installation program.
Updating the GPU
To update your GPU drivers, head back to the GPU driver properties tab like you did in “Roll back to a previous GPU driver version.” Click on the Update Driver button and follow the prompts.
Do a Factory Reset
If your red screen of death issue still hasn’t been solved, it may be necessary to do a complete factory reset. To reset your PC:
- Open the Settings app.
- Click on the Update and Security icon.
- Click on Recovery on the right-hand menu in the new window then click on Get started.
Back up all of the files on your computer to make sure you don’t lose anything.
Does the RSOD still appear after the factory reset? Then it might be time to visit the above step “check your GPU and cables”, as your problem is then likely hardware-related.