If you’ve ever seen a “Blue Screen Of Death” (Hereafter referred to as BSOD), you know it.
It might look like this… Or this…
Or this, if you have one of the latest “Dumbed Down” versions of Windows. The BSOD happens when Windows encounters an error so severe it cannot continue to run. It’s last gasp is a screen that (allegedly) tells you what happened.
What causes this horror? Sometimes it’s just a passing “glitch” (Defined as a random event caused by cosmic rays, power surges, electron demons, or possibly an unexpected input from the user). If this is the case, restarting the computer will fix the problem. You’ll lose any unsaved files you were working on (you have been saving that Great American Novel frequently, haven’t you??), but other than that, no harm done.
If it happens over and over, though, it usually has something to do with either defective hardware, faulty software (most often drivers – the software that makes the hardware work), or a conflict between two pieces of software trying to run simultaneously and access the same resources.
The first thing to do when encountering a BSOD is just restart the computer. If the Ctrl-Alt-Delete (That means press all 3 keys at once) shortcut doesn’t work, try just pressing the power button. Otherwise, you’ll have to manually shut the computer down. While you can do this by simply unplugging if it’s a desktop, you’d have to unplug and remove the battery in a laptop, and sometimes unplugging is a major hassle involving crawling under the desk (Besides, a lot of the time removing a laptop battery is difficult or impossible). There is a sure-fire way to do an emergency shutdown on any Windows computer: Hold the power button down for 5-10 seconds and the machine will abruptly shut down. Only do this if there is no other way, i.e. if it’s completely unresponsive to any other input. Then just start up again and see if the problem is gone.
But what if it comes back? If you can start Windows normally at all, try to undo any recent changes you added to the system. Just installed a new webcam? A new game? It only happens when you plug in a certain flash drive? There’s your first clue. Uninstall whatever you recently installed and see if that cures it. If Windows will only start in Safe Mode, you can do uninstalls and System Restores from there, too. Read the posts on Recovery and images if the problem is so severe a system restore doesn’t fix it.
Even though software causes something like 95% of computer problems, you might have a hardware problem, especially if nothing you can do makes the problem go away. Your hard drive , RAM, or power supply may be failing. These can be very difficult to diagnose, requiring some specialized techniques.
The good news is, recent versions of Windows are much more resistant to the BSOD. Hopefully, you’ll never see one!
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