Page Fault in Nonpaged Area – How to Fix the Frustrating BSOD Error on Windows 10

As a seasoned developer with a passion for troubleshooting, I‘ve seen my fair share of Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) errors over the years. One of the most perplexing and frustrating ones is the "Page fault in nonpaged area" stop code. This cryptic message doesn‘t reveal much about the underlying problem, leaving many Windows users scratching their heads and unsure how to proceed.

In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll shed some light on what exactly causes this error, provide a deep dive into Windows memory management, and walk you through the step-by-step process of diagnosing and resolving the issue. Whether you‘re a power user, an IT pro, or a casual Windows user, by the end of this article you‘ll be equipped with the knowledge and tools to tackle this BSOD head on. Let‘s get started!

Understanding the "Page Fault in Nonpaged Area" Stop Code

To effectively troubleshoot this error, it helps to first understand a bit about how Windows manages system memory. When a program needs memory, Windows allocates it a chunk of the paged pool. This region of memory can be swapped out to the pagefile on disk when system RAM is running low or that memory isn‘t being actively used.

However, Windows also reserves a portion of memory called the nonpaged pool. This is a special region for data that is accessed so frequently that swapping it to disk would significantly impact performance. The nonpaged pool contains critical operating system data structures and code that must always be available.

According to Microsoft, the page fault in a nonpaged area BSOD occurs when a running program generates an exception that indicates it tried to access an invalid memory address in kernel mode. In other words, some code attempted to read or write to a portion of the nonpaged pool that was not allocated to it or was otherwise invalid.

Some common causes of this critical error include:

  • Faulty or incompatible device drivers
  • Defective RAM modules
  • Corrupt system files
  • Malware or virus infection

With those potential culprits in mind, let‘s walk through the troubleshooting process to isolate and resolve the issue.

Step 1: Restart Your Computer

While it may seem obvious, fully restarting your PC should be the first thing you try. In some cases, the error may be due to a temporary glitch or a specific program that was running at the time. A simple reboot clears out the memory and gives your system a clean slate to start from.

If the BSOD was a one-time occurrence and your computer is back up and running normally after a restart, you‘re all set! Feel free to skip the remaining steps. However, if you find yourself face-to-face with the error screen again, it‘s time to dig deeper.

Step 2: Test Your Computer‘s RAM

Since defective RAM is a leading cause of memory-related BSODs, your next step should be to check your computer‘s memory modules for issues. Faulty RAM can result in data corruption, which in turn could be triggering the invalid memory accesses that cause the nonpaged area BSOD.

To test your RAM, you have a few options. One of the easiest is to use the built-in Windows Memory Diagnostic tool:

  1. Press the Windows key and type "memory"
  2. Click on "Windows Memory Diagnostic" in the search results
  3. Choose whether to restart now and check for problems or wait until later

I recommend saving your work and restarting now to run the scan immediately. Your PC will reboot and the memory test will begin automatically.

The diagnostic tool will run a series of patterns designed to uncover problems. These tests include MATS+, LRAND, Stride6 and others. Each one stresses the RAM in different ways to flush out any underlying issues.

According to data collected by Microsoft, memory hardware issues cause approximately 10% of all Windows crashes. So while faulty RAM may not be the most common cause of the nonpaged area BSOD, it‘s prevalent enough to warrant ruling out early in the troubleshooting process.

If the Windows Memory Diagnostic finds errors, you‘ll see a notification on your desktop after the system reboots. In that case, you‘ll likely need to replace the defective RAM module(s).

However, if the tool gives your memory a clean bill of health, don‘t celebrate just yet. You should perform a more thorough test using a stand-alone memory testing utility like MemTest86. This tool boots from a USB flash drive and performs a more comprehensive scan that may uncover intermittent issues the Windows diagnostic missed.

Step 3: Update Outdated Device Drivers

Assuming your RAM checks out, the next most likely culprit behind the BSOD is a buggy, outdated, or incompatible device driver. In fact, Microsoft estimates that 70% of all Windows crashes are caused by driver issues.

Drivers are small pieces of software that allow your operating system to communicate with the various hardware devices connected to your machine. Over time, these drivers can become obsolete, corrupt, or fall out of sync with Windows updates.

Some notorious drivers that are known to cause the nonpaged area error include:

  • nvlddmkm.sys – NVIDIA graphics card driver
  • ntfs.sys – Default Windows NT file system driver
  • NETIO.SYS – Network I/O subsystem driver
  • hal.dll – Hardware abstraction layer DLL
  • atikmdag.sys – AMD graphics card driver

To check for and install driver updates:

  1. Right-click on the Start menu and select "Device Manager"
  2. Expand each device category and look for any warnings next to the device names
  3. If you see a device with a yellow exclamation mark, right-click it and choose "Update driver"
  4. Select "Search automatically for updated driver software"
  5. If a new driver is found, follow the prompts to install it
  6. Repeat this process for any other flagged devices

Even if you don‘t see any warnings in Device Manager, it‘s still a good idea to visit your computer manufacturer‘s support website and check for new driver packages, especially for your graphics card and chipset. Sometimes Windows Update can lag behind the latest releases.

Step 4: Run a System File Check Scan

Another potential cause of the nonpaged area BSOD is corrupt or missing Windows system files. These critical files include the kernel, HAL, boot drivers, and other components that are required for the OS to run properly.

Malware infections, improper shutdown, disk write errors, and botched updates can all cause system file corruption. Thankfully, Windows 10 includes a handy built-in tool called System File Checker that can scan for and repair damaged system files.

To run an SFC scan:

  1. Open an elevated Command Prompt by right-clicking the Start button and choosing "Command Prompt (Admin)"
  2. Type sfc /scannow and press Enter
  3. The scan will start and take some time to complete. Be patient!

If SFC finds any corrupt files, it will automatically replace them using cached copies from the %WinDir%\System32\dllcache folder. After the process finishes, restart your computer and see if the BSOD reappears.

In some cases, SFC may not be able to fix the problem due to missing repair files. If that happens, you can try running the DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth command to download fresh copies of the system files from Windows Update. After that completes, run SFC again to see if it‘s able to patch things up.

Step 5: Scan for Malware

Malicious software is another frequent cause of system instability and BSODs. Viruses, spyware, and rootkits can all cause mayhem in the kernel and trigger the nonpaged area error.

To check your system for malware, you‘ll need a reliable antivirus scanner. Windows 10 comes with the built-in Windows Defender Antivirus, which offers decent basic protection. However, for more robust scanning and removal capabilities, I recommend Malwarebytes.

Download Malwarebytes and run a full system scan. If it finds any threats, use the software to quarantine and remove them. You may need to restart your system to complete the cleanup.

Even if your antivirus doesn‘t find any infections, there could still be sneaky rootkits lurking on your system. These tricky bits of malware embed themselves deep in the OS kernel, making them invisible to regular scans. To hunt down rootkits, use a specialist tool like GMER or Kaspersky TDSSKiller.

Step 6: Use Driver Verifier to Identify Problematic Drivers

If you‘ve ruled out RAM issues, patched your drivers, scanned for malware, and the BSOD persists, it‘s time to bring out the big guns. Driver Verifier is an advanced diagnostic tool from Microsoft that stress tests driver code to flush out bugs.

Enabling Driver Verifier will deliberately put your drivers under pressure to make flaky code more likely to crash. This makes it easier to identify which driver is responsible for the nonpaged area fault.

Here‘s how to set up and use Driver Verifier:

  1. Press Windows key + R to open the Run dialog box
  2. Type verifier and press Enter
  3. Select "Create custom settings (for code developers)"
  4. Check the boxes next to "Special Pool", "Pool Tracking", and "Force IRQL checking"
  5. Click Next, then select "Select driver names from a list"
  6. Click the Provider heading to sort all the drivers by manufacturer
  7. Check the boxes next to your graphics card and chipset drivers, then click Finish
  8. Reboot the system when prompted

Now use your computer as normal and wait for the BSOD to reoccur. When it does, the crash screen should include the name of the problematic driver that caused the fault.

Once you‘ve identified the bad driver, disable Driver Verifier by opening an elevated Command Prompt and running verifier /reset. Then update, roll back, or uninstall the offending driver and see if that resolves the issue.

Step 7: Analyze the Crash Dump Files

If you‘re still stumped as to the cause of the crash, it‘s time to dive into the nitty gritty of debugging. Each time Windows encounters a BSOD, it writes debugging information to a special crash dump file. You can analyze this file to determine the exact driver or process that triggered the nonpaged area fault.

First, ensure that Windows is set to create crash dump files:

  1. Open the Control Panel and search for "View advanced system settings"
  2. Under the Advanced tab, click "Settings" in the Startup and Recovery section
  3. Make sure the "Write debugging information" dropdown is set to "Automatic memory dump"
  4. Click OK and reboot if prompted

After your next BSOD, grab the most recent crash dump file from C:\Windows\MEMORY.DMP or C:\Windows\Minidump and open it in the Windows Debugger (WinDbg) tool.

In WinDbg, run the following analysis commands:

.sympath srv*
!analyze -v

The !analyze -v output will include the faulting module name and a stack trace that shows the exact sequence of function calls leading up to the crash. You can Google parts of the stack trace along with the BSOD error name to find similar crash reports and pinpoint the root cause.

Step 8: Test Your Hardware

If you‘re still seeing the nonpaged area BSOD after exhausting all the software troubleshooting steps, you may be dealing with a hardware issue. Faulty RAM, overheating CPUs, dying hard drives, and flaky power supplies can all cause random crashes that are tricky to diagnose.

To test your hardware components:

  • Run Memtest86 to thoroughly test your RAM for defects
  • Use Prime95 or Intel Processor Diagnostic Tool to stress test your CPU
  • Check your motherboard capacitors for any sign of leaking or bulging
  • Inspect your power supply voltages and rails with a multimeter

If you suspect a particular component is failing, try swapping it out with a known-good spare and see if the problem persists. Sometimes, the only way to identify flaky hardware is through trial and error.

When All Else Fails

If you‘ve meticulously followed every troubleshooting step and the nonpaged area BSOD keeps coming back, you may need to call in some backup. Consider these last-resort options:

  • Restore your system from a previous image backup or System Restore point
  • Perform a clean install of Windows using the "Reset this PC" option
  • Contact Microsoft Support or post on the official Microsoft Answers forum for personalized assistance

Wrapping Up

Phew, that was a lot of information! I tried to cover every angle and technique I‘ve learned over the years for tackling the dreaded nonpaged area BSOD. I hope you found this deep dive helpful and feel empowered to face this error head-on.

Remember, troubleshooting is often a process of elimination. Work through the steps one at a time, and don‘t get discouraged if the first few attempts don‘t pan out. With persistence and a methodical approach, you‘ll eventually get to the bottom of even the most stubborn BSOD.

If you‘re eager to learn more, I recommend the following resources:

  • Microsoft‘s official debugging guides for Windows
  • The Sysinternals tools for advanced troubleshooting
  • The /r/techsupport subreddit for community-driven troubleshooting help

As always, I‘m here if you have any questions! Leave a comment below and I‘ll do my best to point you in the right direction. Now if you‘ll excuse me, I have some BSODs to hunt down. Happy troubleshooting!

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