Of all the problems with Windows computers, the infamous Blue Screen of Death (BSoD) probably requires the least of introductions, simply because everyone has met it at least once (if you haven’t you just wait).
Introducing the Blue Screen of Death
However, most of us don’t know the intimate details about the BSoD.? And through this post, we will get to know a little more about the BSoD and hope that by understanding it better, we start to appreciate its beauty (much like how almost everyone is afraid of sharks, but if you study them, they turn out to be fascinating creatures).
Background of BSoD
Let’s start with a little bit of a history lesson. The Blue Screen of Death is technically known as a stop error that occurs in operating systems to signify a fatal error in the working of the OS. It is the Operating System’s way of preventing the computer from corrupting itself further. The reason why it is associated with Windows most is probably that Windows is the most popular OS around.
The BSoD in Windows has been around since the days of Windows 3.1 and every version of Windows has a BSoD (even Windows CE), and various versions have different information on the BSoD. Windows Vista and Windows XP display similar BSoDs. Most BSoDs are a result of corrupt or badly written device drivers, but they can also result from faulty hardware on the computer (such as memory) or problems with the power supply of the computer (though these days, this is becoming less frequent).
Anatomy of a BSoD
Let’s take a look at the BSoD that appears in Windows Vista and Windows XP (which covers the majority of Operating Systems running on consumer desktops). Below is a screenshot (picked up from Wikipedia); click? the image to see a larger version:
Every BSoD is made up of a few essential parts and if you understand them, it will take you a long way when you are trying to fix a problem that you are having with your computer (that results in a BSoD). Take a careful look at the BSoD above; there are three main parts in a BSoD:
- Error Name – This is the symbolic name of the error corresponding to the actual error that occurred. In the example above, it is PAGE_FAULT_IN_NONPAGED_AREA. You may or may not receive an additional text which supplies information about the actual driver who caused the error (such as shown in the screen above).
- Troubleshooting Help – This is a fairly generic set of recommendations that usually recommend you to simply restart your computer (which works a lot of times).
- Error Information – This is the technical information about the error. It contains the STOP error number followed by up to 4 parameters containing information about the error. This is referred to as the bug check info. The actual meaning of the parameters is depending on the error type.
Occasionally, you may also see some memory dump or other information on this screen, and this once again can be useful in resolving the specific error. Usually, Windows will create a memory dump on the hard drive which can be accessed later as well.
As it has become the universal solution for most Windows problems, more often than not, simply rebooting the computer will resolve the problem for you. However, if the problem doesn’t go away, knowing your way around the BSoD will help you a lot (even if it is to provide information to someone else who is helping you troubleshoot the problem remotely).
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Another very important bit of information that you should possess is to know how to start your computer in Safe Mode (usually this requires pressing the F8 key at the start of the boot-up sequence just before Windows is about to load). To get a detailed set of instructions for your particular version of Windows.