IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL is the more prevalent Windows stop codes. This cryptic-sounding name refers to an Interruption Request Line (IRQL) used by PCs to notify occurrences that require immediate attention or response. In actuality, IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL (also known as “IRQL”) is a memory-related error that happens when a system process or a device driver attempts to access a memory address for which it does not have appropriate access rights. Because process memory allocations typically have an upper bound address, the “NOT LESS OR EQUAL” component refers to an attempt to access an address that is outside (greater than) that boundary value.

What Happens When the Error IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL Occurs?

This error produces an OS stop, which causes Windows to crash and results in what is commonly referred to as a Blue Screen of Death, or BSOD. While collecting forensics data in the background, Windows shows a stop screen. When the collecting phase is complete, the PC reboots by default (unless you’ve adjusted the settings to instruct it to shut down instead). This BSOD serves as the story’s lead-in graphic.

The Most Common Root Causes of the IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL Error

When this mistake occurs, there are a number of possible explanations that should be investigated. Your best bet is to consider what has recently changed on your computer. The following are some of the possible causes:

  • Corrupt system files should be addressed with the DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /CheckHealth command (run at an administrative command prompt or in an administrative PowerShell session). If this command discovers anything to report, clear things up using DISM /Online /Cleanup-Image /restorehealth. Then, use SFC /SCANNOW to perform the system file checker until it reports nothing discovered or fixed (this may take 2 or 3 attempts). If it works, it will usually resolve the IRQL fault as well.
  • Incompatible device drivers: If you recent updated a driver, consider reverting to the previous version. This can be accomplished by opening the Device Manager (accessed by pressing Win + X), right-clicking on the device in question, selecting Properties, heading to the Driver tab, and clicking the “Roll Back Driver” button. If the button is greyed out, you needed to manually uninstall the current driver and reinstall the old version.
  • Faulty hardware: If a device is an error or failing, you should see error reports in Reliability Monitor, which you can access by typing perfmon /rel in the Run box, at a command prompt, or in PowerShell.

You can do with a failed or malfunctioning device is to detach it from the PC (however for critical devices, such as a mouse, keyboard, disc drive, and so on, you may need to replace the ailing item with a known good working instance).

  • Damaged or incomplete software installation: If you’ve just installed an application or update, search for installation failure notifications in Reliability Monitor (for updates and upgrades these will also appear in Update History). The best circumstances course of action is to uninstall the problematic software and see if the problem resolves itself.

Graphics Drivers are to blame for a problem IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL

In my 6-plus years of Windows 10, I’ve seen the IRQL issue more than a half-dozen times. With the exception of one case, the reason was a faulty Nvidia GeForce graphics driver. In each of those circumstances, reverting to the previous version halted the IRQL issue dead in its tracks.

That’s why I don’t uninstall duplicate Nvidia graphics drivers from my Windows PCs until the new one has been running smoothly for a few weeks. When the time comes, the wonderful GitHub project DriverStore Explorer is fantastic at executing such cleanups. Don’t be too hasty with such cleanups, and you’ll leave yourself with a rollback option if you need it.

Attempt a Clean Boot

If the above-proposed repairs do not provide relief from IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL problems, a clean boot of Windows 10 is the next step. A clean boot launches Windows 10 with the basic essentials of drivers and startup apps. It aims to remove potential sources of trouble that have crept into the starting environment over time.

To do a clean boot, follow these steps:

1. Run the System Configuration program MSConfig. You can reach there by pressing WinKey+R and typing “MSConfig” into the search box.

2. In the General Tab, under the Selective Startup setting, uncheck Load startup items. This items currently present on this computer.

3. Go the Services tab then check the Hide all Mi crosoft services box in the lower-left corner, and then click “Disable all.” This disables all non-Microsoft (primarily operating system) services on this computer. You can now close the window by clicking OK.

your computer is now set up for a clean boot, you should restart to try further troubleshooting. This may enable you to replace or reinstall previously problematic or unwilling drivers, apps, updates, and so on. After you’ve finished troubleshooting, you must then go back and reverse all changes.

If you’ve previously disabled some startup items in Task Manager, for example, you may wish to take a snapshot of the list of disabled things before disabling those that are still also know what to leave alone when you return things to their original state.

Non-Windows Service Troubleshooting

Your investigation leads if you to believe that non-Windows services are involved in the IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL issue, you must perform a process of elimination to determine the perpetrator (or culprits). This entails enabling third-party services in groups. In his clean boot lesson, Shawn Brink of offers a binary search strategy. This works great and allows you to zero in rapidly. I sometimes organize items by the vendor (Chrome, Nvidia, Intel, and so on), and that appears to work well as well.

Check to see who else is receiving IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL errors.

If you search for IRQL NOT LESS OR EQUAL on,,, or Tom’s Hardware, you will see how frequently the error has been reported recently, since there may be a new driver or update wreaking havoc. You’ll also get some great suggestions on how others have addressed determining the underlying cause and implementing changes.

It’s extremely beneficial to read through fixes that claim success because they may work for you as well. In contrast, unsuccessful fixes might be instructive in that they indicate which repairs to try later rather than sooner (or not at all).


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