Surviving the "Blue Screen of Death"

Blue Screen of Death

Having your machine suddenly stop working for no apparent reason is extremely frustrating. On Microsoft Windows-based computers, such failures often result in the appearance of a solid blue screen containing a cryptic message in white letters. This is commonly called the "Blue Screen of Death" or BSoD.  Whenever the Windows operating system encounters an error from which it cannot recover, a BSoD is displayed.

Common hardware problems that generate a BSoD include faulty memory, a failed disk drive, or even an excess of dust on the circuit boards inside the computer. Software failures that often lead to BSoDs involve improperly-installed, obsolete, defective, or otherwise faulty drivers.

A driver is the code that tells Windows about a hardware device and how to control it. Other problems could arise from improperly configured registry settings or faulty installation of Windows. Poorly written application software can also trigger the BSoD, although that is becoming increasingly rare.

It is possible for a trained computer professional to review the BSoD error message to determine what specific failure occurred, but if you are a typical computer user, you can rarely gain useful insights from this information. That doesn't mean that there is nothing you can do. Here are some simple steps that can help you track down problems and decide what to do:

  • If the BSoD resulted from trying to use a specific piece of hardware, look for visual indications that the device is working such as lights coming on, disk spinning, etc. Try replacing the device if it completely dead.

  • If there are no obvious physical problems, replace the device driver using the installation disk that came with it or download the latest drivers from the manufacturer's site.

  • If the BS0D is intermittent or unrelated to any particular activity or piece of hardware, feel the computer case.  If it is hot, check to make sure your PC's fans are working.

  • If the computer case is not hot, try running a virus scan. There are several anti-virus products available that should identify the virus and remove it.

Should none of these techniques work and the problem persists, the failure may be related to problems with the RAM or hard drive. This means it is time to back up your critical data and get professional help. For more information, visit: Open in a separate Browser Window

Helpful Advice from those Friendly People at DOT-COMmunICaTions