Article 3: The Blue Screen of Death

 Hi guys, it’s Aaron back again with The Modern Nerd. If you are relatively new to the realm of computer maintenance, you may not be familiar with the term blue screen of death. If you’re more of a veteran, then it’s one of the most dreaded things that can ever appear on your Windows screen. We’ll have a look at the various things that can cause this, and more importantly how we can get rid of it.

Blue Screen of What?

Most times when there is a “serious” problem, an individual program can be stopped, shut down, etc. using administrative tools. Check out my Frozen! article for more information on that one. These normal errors are in the software. The blue screen of death pokes its ugly head out when you have errors in your hardware. Ugh.

Windows finds an error in how something is communicating on a hardware level, and quits. All that appears on your screen is a blue background, with white text, telling you that you can start panicking. Yikes. The BSOD is also known as a stop error, meaning your operating system has stopped completely. The only way to get rid of it is to restart or turn off the computer, and even then that won’t fix everything.

So let’s look at the underlying causes and how we can restore peace and order to our machines. If you would like some more technical terminology thrown around, I highly recommend checking out the Wikipedia article of the Blue Screen of Death, there’s some cool history there.

The Next Step

The only way to restart your computer is manually. Once your Windows comes back up, you should check to see what, if anything was lost. And with very few exceptions, if your data wasn’t saved, it’s gone. You’ll need to check over your drivers and hardware to see where the problem is, and what can be done.

New Hardware

One likely cause of this error is new hardware. Did you recently install a new hard drive, graphics card, network card, etc.? If so, you’re problem lies in the drivers. (Driver: Piece of software that is like hardware to computer language) Make sure you installed the correct support software. This means you have to know whether your computer is running a 32-bit or 64-bit operating system, what version of Windows you have, and what the model number of your hardware is. Windows 7 does a fairly decent job of automating the process, but it doesn’t work every time and you’ll need to do some of the work yourself. A great place to get this information is in your Control Panel >> System. There you can find system architecture, version, RAM and processor speeds, all sorts of goodies. Reputable hardware manufacturers offer great online support, just head over to their website, choose your options, and download your driver software. If your equipment came with an installation CD or DVD, that might not be the most up-to-date software. Always download from the site if you can.

Is it plugged in?

If you can’t get Windows back up, or updating all of your drivers didn’t solve the problem, then you should next check for physical installation problems. Sometimes if you put a new card into your computer yourself, it’s easy to overlook something small like forgetting to clip things in or letting some wire contact something it shouldn’t. If a hard drive isn’t plugged in right or your card is not seated perfectly in an expansion slot, this could be causing a short in your computer, detected by Windows, which then shuts down to protect all of your hardware and files. Make sure that your new tech is seated properly and that no wires are crossed where they shouldn’t be.

BIOS: The Brain’s Language Center

If you don’t know what your system BIOS is, or when it was last updated, this could be causing a problem that isn’t always easy to spot. BIOS stands for the Basic Input Output System in the motherboard. When you first turn on your system you may be able to catch a glimpse of the BIOS version that you are running. Because there is a chance that messing around with your BIOS could damage your computer, I will advise you to be extremely careful. If at any point you think that this might be over your head, consult a pro.

But if you can follow most intuitive computer processes, updating this yourself is not so hard. You will need to know who made your computer’s motherboard. If you bought your system as a total package like most people, this is easy. You can head over to the manufacturer’s website and look up downloads for BIOS updates. If the version listed online and the version you are running is not the same, you should update. Downloading and running this update is no different from updating your drivers, but you should be sure to close all of your other programs and give this process your full and undivided attention.

This update will ensure that your newer hardware and an older computer can communicate without causing operating system errors.

If All Else Fails…

If you’ve tried all of these things and have nothing to show for it, or if your computer just goes straight to the BSOD without even starting up, it’s time to call for reinforcements. However, these few steps should alleviate the problem. 90% of the time. If a piece of hardware inside your machine has died on you, you may need professional help to determine what it is and how much it will cost.

I hope this gives you a good start on a direction to take, instead of screaming and panicking. But just yelling a little but can relieve stress, so I won’t advise against that. Good luck guys, hope you enjoyed.


Aaron Krick
Blog Contributor at The Computer Fixer

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