Windows, as an operating system, has its good, bad and ugly side. Not many mainstream software programs possess the capacity to transition from the beautiful to the frustrating like it does.

The latest clamor from users has been triggered by the PHASE0_INITIALIZATION_FAILED (BSOD 0x00000031) error, which started appearing on some Windows 10 PCs. Accompanied by a demoralizing blue screen, this error mainly shows up when the PC is started but fails to boot or after a sudden shutdown or restart.

If you’re looking for a way to escape from the blue screen and start using Windows normally again, you have come to the right place. This guide explains the main causes of the 0x31 error and provides tried and tested solutions.

What Does PHASE0_INITIALIZATION_FAILED Mean?

What is the Windows update error 0x00000031? This BSOD is certainly frustrating. But what does PHASE0_INITIALIZATION_FAILED actually mean?

According to Microsoft, that bug check message means that system initialization failed at an early stage. In order words, the system failed when trying to boot into Windows, hence the blue screen. The error is, therefore, the result of a failed attempt to initialize Windows startup. The system boot-up operation failed before it got to an advanced stage.

What Causes the Windows 10 Error 0x00000031?

There are several reasons why the blue screen error with the code 0x31 can occur on Windows 10. We present a few of the known causes below:

  • Insufficient free space. This applies to both the hard drive and memory. Windows needs sufficient space to work properly and also needs enough memory space to load applications into. Prolonged lack of either can cause system operations to break down.
  • OS damage. If the operating system is damaged in some way, this can lead to the PHASE0_INITIALIZATION_FAILED error. Damage can happen to system files, the core system image, a system driver, or another system component.
  • Driver issues. Incompatible drivers won’t work at all and cause errors when the OS tries to communicate with them. An obsolete driver can cause problems because it can’t keep up with the newest firmware. A corrupt driver, meanwhile, is basically unusable, leading to errors, including the 0x31 BSOD, when the system’s commands are ignored.
  • Registry errors. Tampering with the registry by an individual, virus or unauthorized application can lead to the error.
  • Windows updates. Installing corrupt update files can cause the error. An incomplete Windows update installation can lead to the same thing.

Now that you know the causes, it’s time to learn of solutions.

How to Get Rid of the Windows BSOD 0x00000031 Error

PHASE0_INITIALIZATION_FAILED is, like the rest of the blue screen errors in Windows 10, a very annoying bug. And that’s putting it mildly. Around half the users that encounter this error get stuck at the blue screen and can’t even access the system to carry out troubleshooting.

If you’re able to log into Windows amidst interludes between random reboots, you can still try out all the fixes here, and one will hopefully work for you. However, if you’re permanently stuck at the blue screen, you can use Windows Recovery or bootable installation media to boot into Safe Mode with Networking. From there, you can carry out the fixes from this guide. If that’s not possible either, you can still use the Command Prompt option in Windows Recovery to try out a few potential solutions.

  • Boot Into Safe Mode with Advanced Options

This method involves starting your PC a few times until Windows boots into Windows RE. Here are the steps:

  1. Press and hold the power button to shut down your PC.
  2. After a few seconds, press the power button to turn the PC on. Hold down the power button to turn it off again after a few seconds. Repeat the steps until you see the “Starting automatic repair” message.
  3. Go to Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Startup Settings and click Restart.
  4. On the Startup Settings screen, you have the option to press 4 to enable Safe Mode or 5 to enable Safe Mode with Networking. You should go with 5 so that the network drivers can be enabled in Safe Mode.
  • Boot Into Safe Mode with Recovery Media

If you have or can create a bootable flash drive, you can use it to achieve the same result. Here’s how:

  1. Use the Windows Media Creation Tool to create a bootable USB drive with a Windows 10 ISO. It is not recommended to use an ISO file of a Windows build older than the build of Windows on the PC having issues.
  2. Plug the USB flash drive into your computer and boot from it. You may need to enter your BIOS and select the USB drive as the first boot device.
  3. After booting with the USB drive, you will get to the Windows Setup screen. Click the “Repair your computer” link on the bottom left. The PC will reboot into Windows Recovery.
  4. Navigate to Troubleshoot > Advanced Options > Startup Settings and click Restart.
  5. On the Startup Settings screen, you have the option to press 4 to enable Safe Mode or 5 to enable Safe Mode with Networking. You should go with 5 so that the network drivers can be enabled in Safe Mode.

Now that you know how to boot into Safe Mode from a stuck BSOD screen, you’re all set to utilize the fixes for the PHASE0_INITIALIZATION_FAILED error.

  • Update or Reinstall Affected Drivers

If you connected a new device to the computer shortly before the PHASE0_INITIALIZATION_FAILED error started showing up, this could be the cause. Perhaps you installed a device whose drivers are incompatible with the operating system. This happens more frequently than you think. You see, Windows might have changed some things in a recent update, which rendered the drivers for some devices obsolete or incompatible. If you use an affected device on the newest version of Windows 10, this can cause a blue screen.

A related reason for the 0x31 BSOD is downloading unapproved drivers. Some devices are very specific in the choice of drivers they can work with. Anything but the approved drivers and they won’t work properly and start causing random glitches and shutdowns.

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For this reason, it is always best to install your drivers through Windows Update or Device Manager, as those only use drivers that have been vetted by Microsoft. However, Windows may not recognize some official drivers created by less popular manufacturers. To avoid a situation where you’re stuck looking for the right drivers, you can download Auslogics Driver Updater to download and install the approved drivers for you.

This tool makes sure you’re covered and don’t have to trawl the net for drivers whose name or version you might find it hard to remember. It also creates a backup of any driver before it updates it so that you can revert if the need arises.

With that said, if you’re sure that a specific hardware driver is causing the blue screen error with the code 0x00000031, you can update or reinstall the driver through Device Manager.

First, boot into Safe Mode with Networking, as explained above. Or, if you’re lucky, continue from the desktop:

  1. Right-click the Start menu and select Device Manager.
  2. In Device Manager, click the node under which the affected device is located. For example, if the problematic driver belongs to your graphics card, click “Sound, video and game controllers” to reveal the graphics hardware.
  3. Right-click the device and select “Update driver”.
  4. On the next screen, choose “Search automatically for updated driver software”.
  5. Windows will oblige. When the driver update is complete, reboot the machine and see if the error has gone away.

Sometimes, Windows won’t find any new driver and deliver the “The best drivers for your system are already installed” message instead. In that case, you may try reinstalling the current driver and see if that helps:

  1. Right-click the Start menu and select Device Manager.
  2. In Device Manager, click the node under which the affected device is located. For example, if the problematic driver belongs to your keyboard, click “Keyboards” to reveal the keyboard device.
  3. Right-click the device and select “Uninstall device”.
  4. Click Uninstall if a confirmation pop-up shows up.
  5. Reboot the PC. If the PC reboots into the BSOD, boot it into Safe Mode.
  6. Open Device Manager again, right-click your computer’s name at the top and click “Scan for hardware changes”.
  7. The uninstalled driver has been reinstalled.
  • Check for System File Errors with SFC and DISM

The PHASE0_INITIALIZATION_FAILED error on Windows 10 can be caused by damaged, corrupted, or altered system files. If some files used by the OS are modified by an unauthorized program or process, this can also cause the error. While some system files aren’t that critical to the OS’s operations, others are absolutely essential. Tampering with the latter type of system files can lead to fatal consequences, like the 0xc31 BSOD.

You can use the System File Checker (SFC) and Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) utilities in tandem to find and fix damaged system files. If these tools manage to detect and repair corrupted or modified files, this can cause the error to stop happening.

If you’re lucky enough and can still access your desktop after the BSOD happens, you can quickly use the Command Prompt to run scans with SFC and DISM, as required. However, even if Windows cannot load, you can launch Command Prompt from Windows Recovery and run the commands.

To open Command Prompt from the desktop, do the following:

  1. Press the Windows key and type “cmd”.
  2. Either click “Run as administrator” or right-click the app and select “Run as administrator”.

Here is how to open Command Prompt from Windows Recovery:

  1. Navigate to Troubleshoot > Advanced Options.
  2. Select Command Prompt.

When in the Command Prompt window, you can first run a scan with the Deployment Image Servicing and Management tool, as per Microsoft’s recommendation for Windows 10 users.

In the open command line window, type the following and hit the Enter key:

DISM.exe /Online /Cleanup-image /Restorehealth

You will have to wait a bit for the DISM utility to finish scanning the system for damaged Windows OS image components. If DISM discovers any corrupt elements, it tries fixing them through Windows Update. Hence, this method is best performed when you can log into the desktop or boot into Safe Mode with Networking. However, if neither of that is possible, you can skip DISM and just run an SFC scan.

After the scan is done and the tool has hopefully fixed the corrupt Windows ISO elements, you can run the SFC scan.

In the open command line window, type the following and press Enter:

sfc /scannow

The process generally takes anything from 15 minutes to an hour depending on the specs and condition of the hardware. You may have to wait around with a cup of coffee. It is absolutely essential not to interrupt SFC in any way while the scan is running. To this end, ensure that the PC’s battery is fully charged and plugged into a power source.

SFC will check your system for corrupted or modified files and replace any problematic files with a fresh copy that is located in the Windows cache directory.

When the scan is ultimately complete, you will be able to view the results on the screen. According to Microsoft, you can get one of these four results:

Windows Resource Protection did not find any integrity violations.

This means no missing or corrupted system files are present in your system.

Windows Resource Protection could not perform the requested operation.

To fix this problem, run System File Checker in Safe Mode and make sure that the PendingDeletes and PendingRenames folders are in %WinDir%\WinSxS\Temp.

Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files and successfully repaired them. Details are included in the CBS.Log %WinDir%\Logs\CBS\CBS.log.

To view detailed information about the system file scan and restoration process, go to How to view details of the System File Checker process.

Windows Resource Protection found corrupt files but was unable to fix some of them. Details are included in the CBS.Log %WinDir%\Logs\CBS\CBS.log.

To repair file corruption manually, view details of the System File Checker process to find corrupted files and then manually replace them with known good copies.

When you’re done with everything, reboot the PC and check whether the PHASE0_INITIALIZATION_FAILED BSOD keeps showing up.

  • Check for Disk Errors with CHKDSK

The 0x31 error may be caused by bad sectors on the disk or errors in the file system that Windows uses. To make sure that this is not the case, we recommend you run a scan with the CHKDSK utility — Check Disk.

Check Disk works a bit differently in Windows 8.1 and 10 than in earlier versions, but the general idea remains the same. However, you can only check one disk volume at a time. Usually, you would want to check the c volume since that’s where Windows is usually installed.

You can scan your hard drive with CHKDSK through File Explorer or Command Prompt. The latter option is useful for when you’re unable to boot into Windows. You just need to launch Command Prompt from Windows Recovery, as explained previously, and run the relevant commands.

To run the CHKDSK utility if you can access the desktop or Safe Mode:

  1. Hold down the Windows key and press E to open File Explorer.
  2. Click This PC in the left pane.
  3. Right-click your main hard drive and select Properties.
  4. Switch to the Tools tab.
  5. Click the Check button under “Error checking”.

What you see here depends on whether the system detects errors on the drive. If the system suspects there are errors, you will be prompted to check the disk. Otherwise, you will see the “You don’t need to scan this device” message with the option to scan the drive anyway.

  • Run the scan and wait for a few minutes. It should take around 5 minutes to completely check the disk.

To run the CHKDSK utility from Command Prompt, launch a command line window and type or paste the following command: chkdsk c: /f /r.

This command will make the utility attempt to fix any errors with the file system and also locate and repair any bad sectors on the drive.

Upon completion of the scan, you will be notified of the results. If no errors were found on your drive, you will be told that “your drive was successfully scanned”. Then you can move on to another fix.

  • Run the Program in Compatibility Mode

Unbelievable as it may sound, some blue screens are caused by program compatibility issues. Did you start getting the blue screen error 0x00000031 after launching or failing to launch a program? In that case, running the program in Compatibility Mode can help. That is, if you don’t uninstall it altogether. That sounds like a nice idea, but some of us would like to keep some old programs for occasional use. Then, making sure they always run in Compatibility Mode can stop them from making the system throw a BSOD error every time.

Here is what you should do:

  1. Look for the offending program’s executable shortcut (it doesn’t matter which) and right-click it.
  2. Select Properties from the context menu.
  3. Switch to the Compatibility tab.
  4. Check the “Run this program in compatibility mode for” checkbox.
  5. Select the Windows version that the program launched with and click Apply and then OK.
  6. Try running the program again and see if it works without causing a blue screen error.

If you’re unsure what version of Windows the program is most compatible with, the Program Compatibility Troubleshooter can help you out:

  1. Right-click the program and select “Troubleshoot compatibility” from the context menu.
  2. When the Program Compatibility Troubleshooter window opens up, make your choice from two options:
    • “Try recommended settings”. Choose this option to test-run the program using settings chosen by the OS.
    • “Troubleshoot program”. Choose this option to test different settings based on the issues you’ve run into.

When you’ve tested the program with settings that work for you, save the settings and Windows will open the program with the saved compatibility settings henceforth.

  • Scan the System for Malware

What if we tell you that the PHASE0_INITIALIZATION_FAILED 0x00000031 error can be caused by malware as well? Well, this error has so many potential causes that it isn’t even funny.

In any case, if your troubleshooting up to this point hasn’t yielded any permanent results, it is worth scanning the PC for malware, assuming you can boot to the desktop or into Safe Mode with Networking.

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Microsoft’s own Windows Defender is pretty handy for most routine checks. However, you may want the additional insurance of a comprehensive anti-malware tool like Auslogics Anti-Malware that can discover dangerous items in places you may never suspect.

If you can boot into Safe Mode with Networking, you can download Auslogics Anti-Malware and run a full system scan with it. Delete every discovered piece of malware and reboot your PC. We are confident this will help you with the error if malware is behind it.

  • Disable Unnecessary Startup Items

If the Windows 10 error 0x31 is caused by an incompatible, corrupt or malicious startup item, disabling it will stop it from causing the PHASE0_INITIALIZATION_FAILED blue screen whenever Windows is loading.

But what if you have zero idea about which particular startup item is the cause? You can disable all the third-party startup items through Task Manager and see what happens. If that resolves the issue, one of them is definitely at fault. You can enable one at a time, reboot your system, and check the results. This way, you should be able to find the culprit.

After isolating the problematic startup item, you can either disable it permanently or delete its parent program so that it doesn’t disturb you anymore.

To disable startup items via Task Manager from the desktop or Safe Mode, you should do the following:

  1. Right-click the Start menu and select Task Manager.
  2. Switch to the Startup tab.
  3. Right-click a startup item and select Disable. You can also select a startup item and click the Disable button in the lower right corner of the window.
  4. Repeat Step 3 for every third-party startup item.

If disabling startup items doesn’t prevent the error 0x31 from occurring again, try Fix 7.

  • Test Your System Memory

System memory or RAM is absolutely essential to the system. Without RAM, programs cannot be loaded, never mind used.

If the RAM sticks on a desktop or laptop PC are slotted too tight or incorrectly, this can cause them to have difficulty in receiving or retaining program data, leading to random blue screens.

You can try removing your RAM sticks and slotting them back again in the correct manner. If you have a spare memory stick lying somewhere, you may use it instead and see if it makes a difference. Before you replace your RAM, make sure to clean any accumulated dust particles as those can hinder functionality. Don’t forget to also inspect it for signs of physical damage that may warrant a replacement.

Finally, once you’ve done everything in the previous paragraph, you can use the Windows Memory Diagnostic to check the health of your RAM.

To run the Windows Memory Diagnostic to fix the error 0x31, boot into Safe Mode and do the following:

  1. Press the Windows key and type “control panel”. Press Enter to launch the applet.
  2. The “View by” mode should be set to Category.
  3. Navigate to System and Security > Administrative Tools > Windows Memory Diagnostic.
  4. Run the program and select “Restart now and check for problems (recommended).

The memory diagnostic tool will check your RAM. If it finds irreparable errors, you will have to replace the memory stick.

  • Update the Operating System

If the blue screen error with the code 0x00000031 occurs after downloading or installing a Windows 10 update, it might be because of corrupt update files.

Updates can cause bugs in the system in several ways. A Windows update might contain some corrupt files. Perhaps the files became corrupt in the process of being downloaded. In any case, when installed, these files can cause random glitches, shutdowns and blue screens.

Updates can also render some drivers obsolete as they become incompatible with the new firmware. This can lead to critical driver errors when the devices related to these drivers are in use.

To solve the 0x31 error caused by a bad update, you can either roll back the update or install a newer update.

Here is how to install a fresh update:

  1. Open Settings and go to Update & Security > Windows Update.
  2. Click “Check for updates” and install any available updates.
  3. Reboot the PC.

To roll back a bad minor update, follow the instructions below:

  1. Open Settings and go to Update & Security > Windows Update.
  2. Click “View update history”.
  3. On the next screen, click “Uninstall updates”.
  4. You’re taken to the Control Panel. Select the update you wish to uninstall and click Uninstall. You can also right-click the update and select Uninstall.

Note: You may not be able to uninstall some of the listed updates.

Going back to a previous major update is easy if it has been less than 10 days since the new update was installed. After 10 days, the option to roll back to the previous Windows 10 build disappears from Settings and you’ll have to clean install Windows using an ISO of the earlier build.

  • Talk to Microsoft Customer Support

One great thing about using Windows is that, subject to your country of residence, you can contact Microsoft Support for help regarding some technical issues with your PC, such as the PHASE0_INITIALIZATION_FAILED blue screen.

You can also use the Microsoft support online help site to find a solution to your problem.

Additionally, there is a vibrant and helpful community of Windows users, anchored by certified moderators and system administrators, where you can learn about how other people fixed the same or a similar issue.

  • Reinstall the Operating System

If you keep getting random shutdowns at boot due to the PHASE0_INITIALIZATION_FAILED error in Windows 10, the ultimate solution is a clean install of the operating system. This wipes the slate clean and lets you start afresh without having to deal with whatever hidden bug is making your life miserable.

If you already have a bootable USB flash drive with Windows 10 installation files on it, clean-installing Windows is easy. You can create one with the Windows Media Creation Tool for free.

Once you’ve succeeded in booting to the USB flash drive on your computer, the rest is easy. In no time, you’ll get Windows up and running on your PC again and set up your files, programs, etc. for work or play.