Crashing and freezes are an almost inevitable part of owning a PC or laptop. Nearly everyone will have experienced an unresponsive screen at some, while the infamous blue screen of death always seems to be just around the corner.

Once you do eventually get your device up and running again, it's important to know what actually  caused the issue in the first place. This helps you to prevent something similar from happening in the future.  

There are two tools we recommend for finding out why your PC crashed or froze, both of which are free and easy to use. 

Check the reliability history

All recent versions of Windows have a reliability monitor built directly into the OS, which helps identify any recent issues on your device. 

To launch it, just type 'reliability' into the search bar next to the Start Menu and click the first option. From here, you'll see an overview of the 'events' from the past few days, something like the screenshot below:

Windows 10 reliability monitor

The big difference if your device has frozen is that you should see a red X, although they behave in the same way here. Click either type of icon and you'll see a summary in the table below it. 

You have two options here. If you think it's that particular error, click 'View technical details'. To look through all recent issues to try and locate the guilty party, click 'View all problem reports' instead.

Windows 10 reliability monitor

The former will show details about that specific issue, while the latter displays a list for you to find the relevant one. If the problem has been caused by a driver, there may be an option to fix it there and then. Otherwise, it's worth copying the description and searching Google for a solution. 

Windows 10 issue details

Check memory files from blue screen crash

When your PC gets the so-called 'blue screen of death', it moves all the active memory files into local storage. Examining this can be a useful way of finding out what caused the issue. 

There is a way to do this natively, but for ease of use it's worth downloading BlueScreenView. While the program's design is a bit dated, it provides a great overview of the files that have been dumped when your device crashed.

The 'Bug Check String' and 'Bug Check Code' tabs should prove especially useful, as they show the same information as will have been displayed on your PC during a Blue Screen crash. We haven't been able to recreate a blue screen crash for the purposes of this tutorial, but the screenshot below gives you an idea what to expect. 

BlueScreenView app
Image: NirSoft

It's important to note that these are intended to be preventative measures, and won't help if you're having problems right now. The most common solution for an unresponsive is to manually restart via the power button, while for blue screen crashes, it's worth checking our fixes article.