The "Blue Screen of Death"

As we explained in the last tip that old "Blue Screen of Death" is the nemesis of many Windows users, even in these days of Windows 2000 and XP.

So named for its colour (blue) and its function (a "dump screen" that gives you somewhat cryptic technical information as to why Windows just crashed), it's become synonymous with Windows annoyances in general.

Why do BSODs happen in the first place? There are four top reasons that account for the vast majority of BSODs. Here are the first two:

Bad hardware

Never a pleasant prospect to face, but the truth is that hardware -- motherboards, hard drives, memory -- ages over time and becomes less reliable. Windows 2000 and XP are far stricter about hardware than Windows 98 or Me, and what worked before may not work now. This often shows up when someone upgrades an older system to 2000 or XP and experiences a BSOD during or after the upgrade. Often one particular component can be the culprit and nine times out of ten, it's bad RAM. RAM that was "good enough" for 98 or Me may not fly in 2000 or XP. If the BSODs seem to come and go with no rhyme or reason, bad hardware is usually the culprit

Environmental conditions

Environmental conditions Dirty or fluctuating power, dust and simple overheating can cause a system to BSOD. Put your system on a UPS to take care of power problems, and take a peek inside your computer if you haven't lately. Are all the fans plugged in and turning? Fans can get choked with dust and die over time; if they don't respond to being cleaned, consider replacing them. Also, is the internal airflow blocked by too many cables? You may want to gang cables together with twist-ties or use rounded IDE cables if you're having airflow problems due to too many wires. Finally, if the room itself is too hot, that may be a contributing factor.

Bad kernel drivers and Hardware conflicts

Coming next tip

A number of times we get calls where the user explains that "the computer just keeps restarting on its own". The fact that the computer is doing this says that there is a stop_error happening and in order to resolve the matter we must be able to see the BSOD to determine the cause. Thankfully, you can disable this behaviour easily enough and we suggest you do it now just in case your computer falls ill. Just follow these three steps:

  1. On the start menu right click My Computer and choose Properties
  2. In the Properties window that will open select Advanced and click the Settings button under Startup and Recovery
  3. Under System Failure, deselect "Automatically restart."

Click OK on all dialog boxes to close them and restart your computer.

This way, if you get the BSOD error, you'll be able to see it and make sense of it instead of being dumped right back into your boot or startup screen.

Final Words

As always, should you have any questions about your computer, do not hesitate in picking up the phone or writing... better to contact me and be sure.

Tom @ Tata Computers