What's causing these blue screen errors?

A couple weeks ago I was checking my e-mail when I had my first encounter with a blue screen error, something like IRQ not less than equal, whatever the hell that means. I did what I always do when my computer (a Toshiba Satellite laptop a couple of years old) acts up; I restarted. To my dismay this failed to fix the problem, even after several restarts. It told me to uninstall anything I’ve installed recently, but I haven’t installed anything in months. Finally, I tried using the recovery CD to bring everything back to out of box conditions. I don’t back up my harddrive; I’ve thought about it before, but I always come to the conclusion that I don’t have anything that important on it anyway. So windows starts up all shiny and new, but it crashed a couple minutes later. I gave up and decided to take my laptop to Best Buy. They checked the hardware and told me it was fine and that I just needed to reinstall windows. I was a little dubious since I tried that already, but I thought maybe this time would be different. At least I still had a gift card from the cable company that paid for the scan. I just finished reinstalling everything but got another blue screen error during set-up. I’m using my laptop right now and so far so good, but there must still be something wrong, right? And how expensive would it be to get fixed?

I’d really appreciate any insight anyone could bring to this, I’m clueless.

Windows version please? Blue screens aren’t common on XP but they were on older versions.

IRQ stands for interrupt request. All that means is that each piece of hardware you have on your system has a number that tells it how it can talk to the system and that number shouldn’t usually overlap with other components. There are various ways to check and fix that but we need the OS version.

Sorry, I’m using Windows XP Home edition.

IRQ Less Than or Not Equal To can happen because of a hardware device that is failing, bad memory, a hard drive that is failing or has its cable coming lose, a power supply that is failing or inadequate, corruption on the file system or disk partition, undetected bad sectors on the hard drive such as from a head crash, or a multitude of other potential problems.

A useful first step is to bring your PC down, turn it off, and unplug it.

Open the case, and with one hand on the power supply (which keeps you at chassis ground), gently touch the hard drive, processor fan, graphics card, and other expansion cards and see if anything is running way hot. It’s normal for some of these to run quite warm but you should be able to comfortably keep your finger on any of them. If they are hot, you may have found your problem.

Also while you’re in there gently reseat all of your cabling. A power or data cable coming loose can cause a world of problems, often ones that are difficult to diagnose.

Reassemble and bring your computer back up.

If problems persist, you may want to see if the manufacturer of your hard drive has a diagnostic utility you can download.

Be persistent–sometimes there isn’t just one problem, but many, and they don’t start showing up until a certain threshold is reached.

Best of luck with this!


The full error message (as with any problem involving computers) would be helpful. Make sure to include any filenames, and the complete hex readout.

Thanks for the advice but I’m using a laptop not a desktop. It doesn’t seem too hot though, from what I can tell by touching the bottom.

The error message that appears the most is 0x0000000A, which my google skills tell me indicates a problem with a driver. Can this still be a problem if I’ve reinstalled everything?

If you haven’t seen this MS KB article you may want to read it.

I’d start by installing the latest video, audio, IDE, chipset, etc. etc. drivers and see if the problem goes away. Unfortunately, this is an error code without a well-defined solution. On a desktop PC I’d check for bulging capacitors (a problem in the past few years), bad RAM, etc. On a laptop, your options for hardware troubleshooting are limited. If you have extra RAM installed, try removing it temporarily.

Hmm… If you feel up to it, you could try running some live CD Linux distro. If that too has problems, then you could be reasonably certain it’s a hardware issue.

When you get a BSOD, you want to note down what it says. Particularly the STOP text. Then go to Microsoft’s Knowledge Base and plug it in there. See what it says. Also note any files particularly listed - if you get a huge list, it’s only the last couple you want.

One more thing: right-click My Computer, select Properties | Advanced | Settings under Startup and Recovery and under System Failure, turn off Automatically restart and turn on Write an event to the system log.

Have you recently installed Anti-Virus software? I got this problem a lot when I had just bought Norton AV.

When the year subscription ran out, I declined to renew, uninstalled Norton, got AVG anti-virus instead, and the problem has only re-occurred once. I don’t know the exact cause, but no doubt Norton was involved somewhere.