I recently ran into a Blue Screen situation on a Dell Vostro 430 mini-tower computer running Windows 7 Professional. First, a bit of backstory . . . this is a computer that’s about seven or eight years old. While it’s clearly not current, it does the job it’s intended for. The computer originally came with a 250GB SATA HD. The SATA HD was experiencing performance issues and after running a series of diagnostics, it appeared that the SATA HD was at risk of potentially failing. Not surprising given the age of the computer. After reviewing several options, the first plan was to try and clone the SATA HD onto a solid state drive (SSD) and then replace the SATA HD with the cloned SSD. If the plan worked, the computer would be up and running with minimal downtime.
I won’t get into the details about the hard drive cloning process in this post, but if you’re interested in what I used to clone the SATA HD to a SSD, I’ll provide links at the end of this post.
After cloning the SATA hard drive to a solid state drive (took a couple hours), I replaced the SATA HD with the newly cloned SSD. The SSD booted into Windows without any issues and the cloned SSD worked perfectly like the original SATA hard drive, but with a significant performance boost. I ran a series of diagnostics on the cloned SSD and all diagnostics passed without any errors. I left the computer on overnight and would check on it in the morning.
The next morning, I noticed the computer had frozen. After restarting the computer, the computer appeared fine. The system logs did not show anything unusual that would have shed light on why the computer froze. After running a series of additional diagnostics, all of which passed, I began looking at the BIOS. The BIOS was out-of-date and I recall replacing a SATA HD with a new SSD in another Dell Vostro 430 mini-tower computer some years ago, but I recalled I had upgraded the BIOS when I replaced the SATA HD with a SSD.
In that scenario though, I did a clean installation of Windows rather than a clone of the hard drive. I’m generally not a fan of cloning hard drives and prefer to perform clean installations, whenever possible. To put it into perspective, I haven’t cloned a hard drive since the days of Norton Ghost. However, for the current scenario, cloning the existing SATA HD was preferable.
I went ahead and upgraded the BIOS to the latest version and for a few days the computer appeared to be stable. I continued to perform diagnostics and monitored the computer to make sure everything was running properly.
After a week or so, the computer began experiencing random crashing and Blue Screens. The Blue Screens indicated an issue with iastor.sys. With this information, I was able to isolate the issue to the Intel Storage Controller. Unfortunately, before I could take any actionable steps, the computer began to experience continuous Blue Screens. I was unable to sign-in via the Windows login screen without hitting a BSOD. Shutting down and booting up the computer didn’t help either. I checked the BIOS configuration to make sure the settings were correct, and I tried to run the Windows Repair Utility but still could not get into Windows without running into a Blue Screen. Fortunately, I was able to Safe Boot into Windows to uninstall the existing Intel Storage Controller located within Device Manager | IDE ATA/ATAPI Controllers.
After uninstalling the device driver, I restarted the computer. The computer booted into Windows and upon login, Windows detected the “new device” and began the process of locating, downloading and re-installing an appropriate Intel Storage Controller for the computer. After a couple of additional restarts, the computer was once again stable and running properly. I ran some additional diagnostics to make sure there were no other detectable issues and continued to monitor performance and stability in the following weeks.
While this Blue Screen situation ended on a positive note, not all BSOD situations will be the same, so remember to take steps to backup your computer to external storage frequently and when you do experience issues, don’t turn a blind eye. Look into the problem or contact an IT professional as soon as possible. Make note of any vital information displayed on the Blue Screen (ex: what file or files may have caused the Blue Screen) and any error codes which might be displayed. This information can be extremely helpful when troubleshooting the issue. Be proactive and not reactive!
If you’re interested in what I used to clone the SATA HD to SSD, check out the links below. For the SSD, I had an older model Samsung solid state drive lying around, which I used as the target drive, but I’m providing links to some of the current SSDs on the market from Crucial, a brand that I use frequently for drive replacements and in external hard drive enclosures. I've also used SSDs from Intel, Sandisk and Samsung. Please check for compatibility with your specific hardware.
Macrium Reflect 7 (Free Version) - https://bit.ly/2piJVWU
Instructions for cloning a disk with Macrium Reflect - https://bit.ly/2Q1RaRp
External Adapter for connecting SSD to computer via USB 3.0 for hard drive cloning
Anker USB 3.0 to SATA Adapter - https://amzn.to/2NiUx8i
Solid State Drives (SSDs)
Crucial MX500 250GB 2.5-inch SATA Internal SSD – https://amzn.to/2wGeefP
Crucial MX500 500GB 2.5-inch SATA Internal SSD – https://amzn.to/2MKd7qe
Crucial MX500 1TB 2.5-inch SATA Internal SSD – https://amzn.to/2M0jTmC
Crucial MX500 2TB 2.5-inch SATA Internal SSD – https://amzn.to/2NJm5Ay