Debug Windows XP BSOD crashes with minidumps?

Like many of you, my copies of Windows XP crash with the now-classic Blue Screen of Death (BSOD). When this happened a couple times recently to a new ThinkCentre A61 tower, I called Lenovo tech support. As the title of this posting suggests, it did not go well. When Windows XP crashes, the default behavior […]

Like many of you, my copies of Windows XP crash with the now-classic Blue Screen of Death (BSOD). When this happened a couple times recently to a new ThinkCentre A61 tower, I called Lenovo tech support. As the title of this posting suggests, it did not go well.

When Windows XP crashes, the default behavior is to create a Minidump, a small file (only 88K) with a summary of, hopefully, the most important information about the failure. I wrote about Minidumps back in November (see Dealing with software crashes, Part 2). If your copy of Windows has crashed (a.k.a. "blue screened") in the past, you may find a Minidump describing the problem in the C:\WINDOWS\Minidump folder. The format of the filename is MiniMMDDYY-99.DMP (the last two numbers are a sequence number).

Minidumps are in a binary format, opening them with Notepad is a waste of time. Windows XP doesn't include the necessary software (program Dumpchk.exe) to open a minidump file. The target audience for a minidump is a tech support person.

But, it seems Lenovo didn't get the memo.

When I spoke to a Lenovo technician on the phone, I was told they don't do that. That is, they aren't allowed to accept minidump files from customers. Instead, the debugging session is totally verbal. Been there, done that. Verbal debugging of computer problems over the phone is all but guaranteed to be a waste of time. It was in this case.

Although the minidump can be impenetrable, the Windows event log, specifically the System event log, also has information about Windows crashes. Shown below is the identifying information about the two Windows crashes I experienced.

Blue Screen Information From the Event Log
The computer has rebooted from a bugcheck.
The bugcheck was: 0x0000001a (0x00041284, 0xd7817001, 0x00003fde, 0xc0e00000)
A dump was saved in: C:\WINDOWS\Minidump\Mini021508-01.dmp