There are very few computer related problems that can strike fear into the hearts of the assembled multitudes like the feared BSOD, the Blue Screen Of Death. Unless you’ve ever been confronted by the bright blue screen with the DOS-like characters informing you that “A problem has been detected and Windows has been shut down to prevent damage to your computer” along with an indecipherable STOP code or other similar nerd gobbledygook you don’t really know what total digital panic really is. The BSOD can be tamed and even conquered if you follow these basic tips to banish that evil BSOD to the indigo Hades from whence it came.
- Turn it off. It may seem like overly facile, but the first step you should take is to power down your computer. Chances are your CTRL ALT DEL won’t function, so you may have to take a deep breath and either hit the switch on your power supply or literally pull out the power cord.
- Disconnect all peripherals. Leave only your monitor, keyboard and mouse plugged in, take everything else that’s connected to the back of your PC out, including Ethernet, speakers, printers, etc.
- Reboot in Safe Mode. This is a way to start Windows with a minimal configuration. As soon as Windows starts loading hit F8 and then select Safe Mode (just the basic one, not the one with networking or command prompt). If you can get back to the Desktop you can now start checking out what caused that BSOD.
- Try the LKGC. That stands for Last Known Good Configuration and can be accessed from the same menu as the Safe Mode, just a little further down the screen. Some people like to do LKGC before trying a Safe Mode reboot, but the choice is yours as both can work… or fail.
Now assuming that you’ve actually gotten to the desktop through Safe Mode or LKGC, the first thing to do is to try to reboot Windows normally. If that fails, then you might have to go into the BIOS. Most bootup screens inform you of the F key to press to get into it, and then you can easily find the command to restore to default settings, then reboot. If your reboot fails you’ll have no choice but to resort to Safe Mode or LKGC in order to get into your Desktop and start running through the gamut of diagnostics and preventative/curative measures:
- System Restore. You don’t need to beware System Restore as it won’t erase any of your working files, only reset the system only files to a predetermined earlier date. Make sure that you check the box which lets you see all of the System Restore points, so you can try to go back in time more in case that the latest point isn’t resolving the problem.
- Free up space. Unless you have a bare minimum of 15% or even better 20% of free space on your C: drive you’re leaving yourself wide open for the BSOD. Turn off Hibernation which will save you a lot of space, or even better, just offload some of the non-system data onto a secondary drive.
- Do a full virus scan. There is no substitute for a reputable and fully updated virus scanning software suite which are specifically configured to scan both the MBR (master boot record) and boot sector.
- Run Windows Update. Contrary to popular belief, Windows Updates are not useless junk that fills up your C: drive for no good reason, but are critical updates which can not only fend off hacker attacks, but also contain fixes for problems that have likely led to your BSOD.
If all of these have failed in getting rid of your BSOD problem, it may be time to static wrist strap yourself and open up the unplugged case. Try reseating everything in there, including your RAM, PCI cards, and the power and data cable connectors. If even these strategies fail you might just have to subject yourself to the indignities of having to call in your neighborhood nerd as this might just be a problem that is going to defy any DIY solutions.