How to Fix: CRITICAL_PROCESS_DIED Error - Step by Step

Dennis Faas's picture

Infopackets Reader 'Lee' writes:

" Dear Dennis.

I have done a clean install of Windows 10 and downloaded all updates; however, I keep getting a blue screen error message that "CRITICAL_PROCESS_DIED". Prior to that I was running Windows 7 - but also had the same error CRITICAL_PROCESS_DIED. I have done several clean installs, but no luck. I've run chkdsk (check disk) and did a memory check - but neither report any errors. I did the 'sfc /scannow', but receive an error that 'windows resource protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some of them'. Can you please help? "

My response:

Based on what you are telling me, I believe you have a hardware problem. I say that because you've done a clean install of Windows multiple times, and you keep getting the same error. In a nutshell: if you cannot run a bare-bones copy of Windows without getting the CRITICAL_PROCESS_DIED error, then that indicates to me that you have a hardware problem. The reasoning is that if you are running Windows and nothing but Windows, then nothing else should be interfering with the operating system.

As for the 'windows resource protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some of them' error - that is likely related to the fact that you keep crashing from the CRITICAL_PROCESS_DIED error. Every time you get a CRITICAL_PROCESS_DIED error, the system may not shut down properly and therefore corrupts system files. You certainly should not have corrupt files from a clean install of Windows - this is especially true if you format your hard drive before installing Windows clean.

How to Fix: CRITICAL_PROCESS_DIED Error - Step by Step

Here's how I would go about resolving this issue:

  1. Disconnect everything from the computer.
  2. Open up the computer and take a look inside. Do you see a lot of dust inside the case? Are are fans which cool the computer (such as: video card, CPU, power supply) caked with dust? If so, you will need to blow the computer with compressed air. I personally have an air compressor in the garage to do just that, though another alternative is to purchase compressed air in a can from an electronics or computer store. Blow the compressed air all over the entire computer so that no dust remains. Pay special attention to any fan intakes that might have a filter on them as they usually clog very easily.

    Tips: ALWAYS ground yourself when opening the computer case; you can ground yourself by touching the middle screw on a 3-prong outlet wall plate inside the home - the middle screw should be grounded. Be very careful not to touch any components inside the computer if you can help it (fan blades excluded). If you're using a can of compressed air, do not tilt the can or it will blow extremely cold fluid and possibly damage components. When you blow the air, do not let any fan blades move, otherwise you may break the fan if it spins too fast. You can often place a pencil between fan blades to prevent them from moving, or place your hand on top of the center of the fan.
  3. Next, remove all RAM chips and then re-seat them. Sometimes RAM isn't seated properly (or becomes loose) and can cause strange computer errors. Re-seating the RAM will fix this problem.
  4. Put the computer back together; attach only keyboard, mouse, power cables, and monitor cable. Boot the computer and backup your hard drive drive. Next, insert the Windows install media, reboot, format the C drive and install Windows fresh. Do not download any updates or install any drivers. It is important to have a completely blank slate as this point (I.E.: a clean install of Windows) in order to rule out any software that may be causing the CRITICAL_PROCESS_DIED error message.
  5. When you get to the Windows desktop, go to My Computer or This PC; right click the C drive, go to Properties, then tools, then scan the drive for errors. I also suggest downloading Macrorit Disk Scanner to check the hard drive for bad sectors. If you have bad sectors then you will need to replace the hard drive at this point.
  6. Next, download, install, and run Prime95 and let it run for 6 hours; do a torture test with "In-place large FFTs".

    Tips: if any of the workers crash during the Prime 95 torture test (pic), then you have a hardware error. If that is the case, then download, install and run the memtest ISO, burn it to CD, reboot the computer, and boot from the memtest disc. You can use CDBurnerXP to burn the ISO (in ISO format) to disc - it's free.

    Let memtest run for 6 hours. If you have any memtest errors (pic), then the problem may be that you have a bad RAM module. In that case remove 1 module and test again. Keep testing until you have no more errors; replace any modules if necessary. Note that it is also highly possible at this stage that your motherboard is bad. You can test this theory by testing your RAM modules on another motherboard. If you don't have one, place your RAM into an anti-static bag and take it to a computer store and have them test it. If all modules pass the test, then the problem is your motherboard. The only solution at this point is to replace the motherboard - get one that uses the same RAM and CPU.

    It's also worth noting - though very rare - it is possible that the CPU or heat sink is not seated properly. For example, the heat sink may not be flush against the CPU and is causing the CPU to overheat. Or, there isn't enough thermal compound between the heat sink and CPU; too much thermal compound can leak onto the motherboard and short it out. It is recommended to inspect these issues, especially if you made recent changes to this area.
  7. Assuming the computer passed Prime95 and memtest, it's time to install your video card driver. After that, run Prime 95 and do another torture test; at the same time, download, install, and run Furmark and let it run for 6 hours. If your computer crashes at this stage then most likely it is your video card. Try replacing the card to see if it makes any difference.
  8. Assuming the video card passes, it's time to update another driver. Go to Windows Device Manager and see which device needs a driver (this can be a bit tricky). Go to the Device Manufacturer's website and download the latest driver, then run Prime 95 and Furmark and stress test for another 6 hours. Repeat until all devices on the system have their appropriate driver installed and make sure you run the torture tests in between installing a driver. If it crashes at any point during the system, then it is most likely the last device you updated the driver to which caused the crash; in that case, delete the device under device manager to see if that helps (this will uninstall the driver). Keep testing until you find what is causing the crash; if no crashes, then move on to the next step.
  9. Attach any external devices one at a time to the computer; download any necessary driver; test with Prime95 and Furmark using the same method as above. When I say "attach external devices one at a a time," I mean attach one device, download one driver for that device, then torture test the system for 6 hours. If it seems stable, then attach another device, download another driver, test again for 6 hours, rinse, wash and repeat. We're using the same methodology throughout this test, and yes - it's going to take a great deal of time to try and figure out which device or component is causing you the grief. There is no other definitive way to test the system.
  10. Download windows updates and then run Prime 95 and Furmark. By this point the system should be stable. If not then I would suspect the motherboard at this stage. Try another motherboard.

Of course, other people may offer different advice. I've been using computers for over 30 years and have troubleshoot issues like this many times. That said, I really think there are only 5 programs you need to use when fixing a vexing error like CRITICAL_PROCESS_DIED, namely: Prime 95 - which test RAM and CPU; memtest which tests only RAM and nothing else (with no operating system loaded); Furmark which is going to test the graphics card; chkdsk is going to check your hard drive for file system errors; and, Macrorit Disk Scanner will test for bad sectors. Anything else really isn't necessary.

Did You Add New Hardware Recently?

Lastly, I would also like to say that if you've recently made some hardware changes - try undoing those changes temporarily to see if that fixes the problem. For example: some folks will buy an SSD (solid state hard drive) and then get random blue screens. In this case, make sure that your SATA settings in the BIOS is set for AHCI. If that option is not available, try going back to a regular hard drive just to see if that fixes the problem.

I hope that helps.

Additional 1-on-1 Support: From Dennis

If all of this is over your head and you need additional support - I can help using my remote desktop service. Simply send me an email briefly detailing your problem and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

Got a Computer Question or Problem? Ask Dennis!

I need more computer questions. If you have a computer question - or even a computer problem that needs fixing - please email me with your question so that I can write more articles like this one. I can't promise I'll respond to all the messages I receive (depending on the volume), but I'll do my best.

About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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jamies's picture

I'd add some small considerations to the process:

Before even moving the system, check that the air being expelled from the system is not being guided straight back into the system - systems against walls, cupboards, under desks can get overheated by recycling the heated air - out 1 fan, in the other.
As Dennis states check that the air intakes are reasonably clear of dirt - fluff, pet hair and some dust debris can cake onto intake grills and fan blades.
If the blower doesn't work, a paintbrush - (proper bristles rather than artificial fibres to avoid static), can be used to clean caked on debris from fan blades housings, and the casing - but NOT on the electrical components or connections - avoid the inside of unused Sata and other ports, that's what the airblower is for, and don't use a 'hoover' or similar blower/sucker where the air is driven using an electric motor - the airflow can transfer static charge.

However - a cleaner nearby to suck the dirt out of the air is a better idea than you breathing it in - no air extractor - then use a face mask, or a cloth over your mouth and nose.

If the system is dirty - before cleaning it - check for any particularly dirty or clean areas - it could be that the airflow is obstructed within the system. and remember to check on-top, and around the sides and interface end of the hard drive.
Simply retying (or twisting) flat cables (PATA CD drive?) can make a substantial difference to airflow inside a system case.

Static - properly setup engineer's workbenches will have built-in earthing and the engineers will wear an earthing link. Many home locations have the PC on a plastic coated shelf, and you could be on a nice man-made fibre carpet so just walking to the door and back may build up a charge - earth yourself on the system case every time you come back to the PC - also, if possible earth the pc case - but NOT using a mains plug even if the power switch is turned off.

And - before starting on things like the memory - check the cables connecting to the PC - the connection into the PC, and the wiring to the connection block(s).

Also look at any capacitor 'pots' checking for any bulging tops or sides - sort of like looking as the tins when you check the old ones in the food cupboard - or when buying from a small store.

Backup of the hard drive - use a program from a booting CD - avoid booting up the OS from the hard drive if you can.

If you get to the point of a replacement motherboard - why not consider a brand new PC - warrantee - new faster components - new OS - then again if you have some OEM software than cannot be transferred to the new system ...

Doccus's picture

It also seems like a hardware problem to me. You might want to fix just ONE thing at a time, however, then check to see if it solved the issue, or else you'll NEVER know what was causing the problem and if it happens again you won't know where to look..
I would *definitely* start with the RAM. Make sure it;'s not covered in dust, and if it's well seated, you might have a bad stick. It may work well enough when running windows, but required tolerances are much higher during installs, so try installing with the bare minimum of ram. If one bank doesn't work, try the other. I wouldn't be surprised if that doesn't solve the problem. It usually turns out to be imperfect memory...Afterwards you can put the less than perfect RAM back in.. although if that's the problem, I'd replace it anyways..