The IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL error is one of the most common and frustrating Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) errors that Windows users encounter. This error occurs when a driver or piece of hardware attempts to access memory in a way that is not allowed by the operating system. While the technical details of this error may seem complex, fixing it is usually straightforward for most users. In this article, we’ll walk through the steps to diagnose and resolve the IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL BSOD in Windows 10 and 11.
What Causes the IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL Error?
There are a few common culprits for the IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL BSOD:
- Faulty or incompatible drivers: Outdated, corrupted, or incompatible drivers are the most common cause of this error. A driver may be trying to access memory it shouldn’t be or encountering issues after a Windows update.
- Failing hardware: Faulty RAM, storage drives, video cards, and other hardware components can trigger this error if they are corrupting memory.
- Damaged system files: Corrupted Windows system files that are essential for managing memory and hardware access can result in this BSOD.
- Software conflicts: Some software, security programs, and services may conflict with drivers and cause memory access issues.
So in summary, any application or hardware that incorrectly interacts with your Windows memory management leads to the IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL error.
How to Fix the IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL Error
If you see this intimidating Blue Screen on your PC, don’t panic. Here are some troubleshooting steps to resolve the issue:
1. Restart Your PC
The first step is the simplest – restart your computer. This will clear any memory issues and refresh any drivers or services that may have caused the issue.
2. Update or Rollback Drivers
If restarting doesn’t work, a driver is likely the culprit. You’ll want to update any outdated drivers:
- Open Device Manager
- Expand categories and right-click devices
- Select “Update driver”
- Search automatically for updated versions
If updating doesn’t fix the issue or breaks the driver further, roll back the driver:
- Open Device Manager
- Right-click the problematic device
- Select “Properties” > “Driver” tab
- Click “Roll Back Driver”
Updating or rolling back GPU, network, RAID, and other crucial drivers often resolves the error.
3. Run SFC and DISM System File Checks
Corrupted Windows system files can lead to IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL errors. Run scans of your system files to repair any damage:
- Open Command Prompt as admin
- Run “SFC /scannow” – This scans Windows files
- Run “DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /RestoreHealth” – This scans Windows image files
- Restart your PC after the scans complete
This will replace any corrupted files with a cached copy.
4. Update Windows
Make sure Windows is entirely up-to-date by checking for the latest updates:
- Open Windows Update settings
- Click “Check for Updates”
- Install all Important and Optional updates
- Restart your PC and install any other updates
This will install the newest fixes, patches, and drivers from Microsoft that may resolve your BSOD issue.
5. Test and Replace Hardware
If all else fails, it’s time to start testing hardware components. Faulty RAM, storage drives, video cards, and peripherals can cause this error. Here are a few tips:
- Test RAM with the Windows Memory Diagnostic
- Try removing 3rd party RAM and peripherals
- Update BIOS, chipset, and firmware for components
- Swap in known working parts one by one
If you isolate the faulty component, you can replace it or remove it as needed. In some cases you may need a fresh install of Windows 10 or 11.
Prevent Future IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL Errors
Following some general guidelines will help prevent and minimize this frustrating error:
- Keep all drivers updated, especially GPU, storage, network and chipset
- Don’t ignore Windows updates – install them promptly
- Only install trusted software from reputable sources
- Don’t overclock components beyond manufacturer limits
- Use reputable brands for critical components like RAM and GPU
Catching driver and hardware issues early is key to avoiding critical errors like IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL. Now you’re equipped to troubleshoot and resolve this BSOD if it pops up on your Windows 10 or 11 PC.