The Blue Screen Of Death

The Blue Screen Of Death

You’ve probably seen it before; the moment your computer screen is suddenly filled with cryptic text displaying some kind of error on a bright blue background. When this happens, the casual computer user is suddenly filled with dread, while somebody who knows his way around a computer simply shakes his head in disappointment.

This is particular of Windows-based operating systems where, upon encountering a critical error the system is caused to crash and display what the computer user knows as the “blue screen of death.” These errors are typically driver or even hardware related. This blue screen, however, does not necessarily mean instant death for the computer as it merely stops the computer from working in order to prevent damage to the installed hardware. Pre-release versions of Windows Vista had a red screen of death, which indicated an error with the native boot loader.

Troubleshooting a Blue Screen Error

Blue screens can appear during startup if there is a driver or file that the system needs to boot up but cannot find or open properly. Removable disks or drives that are removed from the drive while they are being read or written on can also cause a blue screen.

The error information displayed on a blue screen can be retrieved later on, if your system is configured to perform a core dump. This information can be passed on via email to a trained technician who may be able to help diagnose the cause of the error.

Poorly-written or erroneous software or files that are run by the operating system are the leading cause of errors which cause a blue screen to appear. The blue screen of death can also be a result of faulty hardware, or overheating caused by overclocking components such as the processor.

History of the Blue Screen

Operating systems as early as the IBM OS/2 had variations of this the error screen, and appeared typically when bugs were encountered during software beta testing. The developers themselves humorously described this screen as the ‘Blue Screen of Death’ because of the screen suddenly turning blue in addition to forcing the computer to restart. IBM was also formerly called “Big Blue.”

Blue screens that contained errors in commercial releases of Windows first appeared on the software version 3.x. These error screens appeared in the same resolution and format in every incarnation of Windows from Windows 95 to Windows ME. A well-known incident where a blue screen occurred during a public demonstration happened in 1998: Microsoft executives were demonstrating Windows 98 to a live audience, when one of the demonstrators plugged a scanner into the demo computer.

Information for diagnostic and repair purposes collected during the crash are presented in the blue screens of newer Windows builds. However, Windows Vista and Windows 7 are still developed on top of the same architecture that built Windows NT, and still contain relatively vague information that only a trained technician would be able to understand.

Understanding a Blue Screen Error

Blue screens are well known for the unintelligibly-written stop code written in hexadecimal form. This collection of seemingly random numbers help greatly in finding the cause of the error despite being incomprehensible by the average computer user. The name of the driver or file which may have caused the crash may be listed next to set of numbers of letters.

The name of the error appears on the top right of the screen with underscores between each word. This may be enough information for a relatively experienced computer user to determine what the error is, and if it isn’t, a trained technician may be able to understand it.

Newer versions of Windows may contain basic troubleshooting advice in addition to the name of the error. The user may be alerted to check the functionality of recently installed hardware, and on occasion undo or uninstall software or hardware altogether.

During a blue screen error, a memory dump will probably occur. This is the system memory contained in the computer during the crash itself, and is saved into a file before the computer restarts. The contents of this file may be useful when contacting Microsoft technical assistance.

Troubleshooting a Blue Screen Error

Overheating is a common cause of a blue screen error. Keeping too many applications running, especially CPU or memory-intensive ones such as web browsers or games should be kept to a limit. Free programs which monitor the temperature of the computer are readily available on the internet.

People who regularly overclock their computers beyond factory specifications experience the blue screen fairly often. If you overclock more than one component of the computer, try to isolate the part that is clocked beyond its limit the most and reduce and revert the part back to the default factory clock speed.

Incompatible or downright faulty memory sticks are a usual culprit for blue screen errors. Check to see if any newly installed memory sticks are compatible with your motherboard. Many popular brands of motherboards may list compatible brands, voltages and number of channels, but are more often than not incomplete. Sometimes it may just be a matter of seating the installed RAM sticks inside the motherboard properly or alternatively depending on the brand and specifications of the motherboard.

Updating your hardware drivers to their most recent or most stable versions is also advisable when dealing with blue screen errors, especially if your computer is running on aging hardware and is paired up with newer parts.


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