Linux Mac Technology Explained Windows

Don’t Panic! Everything You Need To Know About Kernel Panics

Andy Betts 03-06-2015

If you’ve used a computer for any length of time, you will have no doubt encountered the Blue Screen of Death, or a kernel panic, where the computer restarts without warning Windows 8 Crashing? How to Easily Troubleshoot Blue Screen & Other Issues Windows 8 isn't perfect. That said, most blue screens and application crashes aren't Windows' fault. Our tips will help you identify exactly what's wrong with your PC and fix it. Read More , costing you all your work.


What causes this to happen, and is there anything you can do to prevent it in future? Let’s take a look.

What Is a Kernel Panic and What Causes One?

A kernel panic, or its equivalent in the Windows world of a stop error or the dreaded Blue Screen of Death How To Analyze A Windows Blue Screen Of Death With WhoCrashed Read More (BSOD), happens as the result of an unspecified low level error that an operating system cannot recover from.

The error is regarded as being more serious than a simple crashing app, and potentially damaging to the system or data.

As a result the operating system takes the decision to close everything down as a safety measure, and output error codes containing information about what exactly happened.

From the user’s perspective, all it means is that one minute you’re working as normal, and the next, your computer is restarting, and you’ve lost everything you’ve done since you last saved.


Windows — The Blue Screen Of Death

On Windows, you’ll know one has happened because the whole screen will turn blue, with a message stating that the computer needs to restart.



On OS X versions 10.8 and later. the computer simply restarts without any warning, followed by a brief message explaining what has happened. On 10.7 and earlier, the screen fades to black in a rather more alarming manner, with a message telling you to restart.

mac kernel panic



On Linux computers How to Install Ubuntu on Windows 10: 3 Simple Methods to Try There are many ways in which you can try Ubuntu. One of them is to install Ubuntu on Windows 10 using one of these methods. Read More there’s also something called a kernel oops, where a serious error occurs that the operating system is able to deal with. The system will continue running, although it may cause instability and even lead to a full kernel panic, shown as a black screen full of code.

A kernel panic on Linux is not always preceded by a kernel oops.

kernel panic linux

The causes of a kernel panic or BSOD are many and varied, and they can be hardware or software-related.


Common causes include things like faulty RAM or malfunctioning peripherals, drivers or software plugins, or even badly written programs.

What To Do When You Get One

When you experience a kernel panic or BSOD, there’s not a lot you can do about it other than restart your computer and get back to work.

The kernel panic generates a log containing data that can help an engineer decipher what exactly has happened. Upon restarting, and depending on your operating system, you should be given the option to send this to the OS developer. You won’t get personalised support for the issue, but it will help them prevent kernel panics in future versions of the operating system.



It’s important to remember that a kernel panic is only a sign that an error occurred, not that there’s anything fundamentally wrong with your PC. Everyone will get them from time to time, and you can happily forget about it.

However, if you start to see them on a more regular basis — such as every couple of weeks — then you should try and identify what is causing them.

Troubleshooting A Kernel Panic

Each time a kernel panic occurs, a log will be created containing information about what happened. It’s mostly incomprehensible to the regular user, although a scan of the data can sometimes reveal a particular app that was at fault.

To view the log on Windows, you may need to download and install the Debugging Tool for Windows.

Mostly, though, you’ll just need to investigate some common causes to see if they are to blame.

Hardware Issues

When looking for possible causes of your kernel panics, the key is to try and identify any changes you’ve made to your system recently. Undoing these changes, and then re-enabling them one at a time, helps you to isolate a possible cause.

macbook ram


Software Issues

If software is the cause of your kernel panic or Blue Screen of Death, you will tend to pick on which program it is over a period of time. Sometimes, though, applications running in the background, such as security software, may be the cause.

To diagnose software problems, boot into Safe Mode How To Boot Into Safe Mode In Windows 8 In Safe Mode, you can troubleshoot and fix Windows issues. When you enter Safe Mode, Windows loads a minimal environment that ensures a stable system. Read More on Mac or Windows. This loads only the core elements of the operating system. Do this on Windows by holding F8 when you restart, and on Mac by holding the Shift key after you hear the startup chime. Linux doesn’t have a safe mode as such, only the recovery partition.

  • Check Software and Startup Items: Check all your software is up to date, and also look at which programs are launching on boot. Disable any that you installed shortly before you started to experience kernel panics, then re-enable them in turn.

startup items

  • Update the System: Download and install the latest updates for your operating system, as well as drivers for your hardware on Windows. If you’re testing a beta or preview versions of your operating system, these may not be stable so may be a cause of the problem.
  • Use System Restore: If you make a lot of changes to your system, consider using System Restore or Time Machine to roll back to a time before the kernel panics occurred.

Can You Avoid Them in the Future?

Kernel panics and the Blue Screen of Death are pretty rare. You will inevitably experience them from time to time, but they aren’t usually indicative of a wider problem.

If you do start to see them on a regular basis, it’s almost always a direct result of a recent change you have made to your system. As such, they’re often relatively easy to diagnose and deal with.

There’s no way to avoid kernel panics, but so long as you’re prepared should you ever need to deal with them, there’s no need to worry either.

What are your experiences with the dreaded Blue Screen of Death? Have you found any hardware or software that has caused a kernel panic on your Mac? Let us know in the comments.

Image credits: Lots of BSOD via Edouard, BSOD via Aaron, Mac kernel panic via Haruhiko Okumura, Kernel panic Linux via waferboard, Macbook RAM via Yutaka Tsutano, Peripherals via VIA Gallery

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  1. Henry
    March 5, 2017 at 10:33 pm

    I was having multiple kernel panics daily on my MacMini and I was sure I would have to replace it. Turns out it was a defective (wired) mouse. Bought a new mouse and the problem was solved.

  2. Kevin
    October 6, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    I once had a linux notebook run into a repeated kernel panic.
    The reason was, that I used an old windows 7 notebook as access point in the garden, for temporary wifi coverage. For some reason the windows AP decided to not send his MAC address to the linux notebook, which caused the linux to panic

  3. shante
    August 8, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    Been using a windows mouse on my macBook Pro and recently experiencing weird lags and cursor jumping around erratically on screen. This past two month I have had at least two Kernel Panic issues. Wondering if the issue is a dying Windows muse? Both times also I have noted that both times it has happened I was on-line using Firefox. Wonder if that is the problem...a Firefox issue?

    July 24, 2016 at 2:45 pm

    I get a BSOD like twice a day

  5. Arnaud
    December 9, 2015 at 8:33 am

    A defective motherboard may also be the culprit. In my case, I've had the “NVIDIA problem” where my MacBook Pro would no longer start because of a bad component. Of course, this can hardly be repaired unless you have solding skills or can afford to buy another motherboard.

  6. Anonymous
    June 14, 2015 at 10:08 am

    Using a program like UXTheme can cause a BSOD