Examining a BSoD error with the Watchdog Event Log

Troubleshooting Blue Screen of Death (BSoD) errors, or as Microsoft calls them, Stop messages, can be extremely frustrating due to the fact that, by default, Windows XP automatically restarts the computer as soon as a BSoD error occurs. There's not enough time for you to analyze, let alone read, the error code before the message disappears.

You could disable the Automatically Restart option in the Startup And Recovery dialog box, but doing so might lock your system into an unrecoverable error situation. As such, that's not an advisable solution.

Fortunately, Windows XP keeps a special log of all BSoD errors, called a Watchdog Event Log. Unlike a memory dump, whose creation is the result of a BSoD error, a Watchdog Event Log is a straight text file that is easier to read and understand.

Here's how you access a Watchdog Event Log:

Use Windows Explorer to access the C:\Windows\LogFiles\Watchdog folder.
Locate and right-click the most recently dated .WDL file.
Select the Open command from the context menu.
In the Windows dialog box, choose the Select The Program From A List option and click OK.
When you see the Open With dialog box, select Notepad and click OK.