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 kernel drivers

Drivers that work directly with the lowest level of the Windows operating system are called kernel drivers, and a badly-written one can give your system a BSOD. If you weren't having BSODs before you installed a new software package, consider uninstalling the program and running the PC some more to see if the problem goes away. Anti virus products, video card drivers, low-level system utilities and media controllers are all possible culprits. Also, check with the maker of the program to see if there may be an update or a recommended workaround -- some programs won't work reliably in anything less than a given Service Pack, for instance

Hardware conflicts

Newly-added hardware can sometimes conflict with other hardware already installed in the system. This sort of thing has become mercifully rarer over time, but every now and then it does happen. Some hardware even conflicts with the motherboard of a specific system itself. Hardware conflicts can sometimes be resolved with updated drivers for the conflicting devices, or with a BIOS revision for either the computer or the device itself

I'll remind you that 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, uncheck "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

Next week we will start to introduce you to some specific error messages and describe the causes.

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