The BSOD

The BSOD

Usually I don’t allow initials to be used around the office. I compare letting techies loose to use initials to the jumble of wire coat hangers that seem to multiply and tangle at the back of closets. Both can get a little too complex and complicated to be of any use to anyone. If techs get a chance to use initials, all normal communication becomes lost and acronyms start cramming together until the techs themselves start correcting each other. The BSOD is different. Pronounced out loud using the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz voice, the Blue Screen of Death diagnosis is usually followed by the words, “Oh. We’d better have a look at that.” It’s said that the BSOD will strike every Windows PC at least once in its lifetime, and having had the BSOD a few of times myself over the last ten years, I can tell you there is a definite feeling of doom that accompanies that blank, blue screen.

What makes this error such a menace is the wide range of variables that contribute to the BSOD. Rebooting the system can make it go away – sometimes for good; most times it’s temporary. I asked Geoff what can cause the BSOD and he rolled his eyes at me and swung his arms out wide to indicate the size of my question. “The BSOD is a symptom, not the actual problem, so if there seems to be a quick fix, it can mask the real issue and may even result in added damage to the system, making the corruption even worse,” he said. To which I again asked, “What causes it?” Here is a partial list as rapidly inventoried by Geoff: Bad RAM, bad hard drive, bad motherboard, corrupted software, conflicting software, spyware, viruses, overheating, deleted file, driver issues, and a power interruption. I noted he didn’t mention the video card and thinking I was actually getting the hang of this computer stuff, pointed this out to him, concluding if the video card was bad, there wouldn’t be anything on the screen. “That’s not necessarily true,” Geoff said. “It depends on what part of the video card is bad.” So much for my applied logic.

“So is a system hooped when it gets the BSOD?” I asked. Geoff assured me that in the majority of cases, the BSOD is not the end of the line for a computer, assuming a proper diagnosis and repair. “It’s a problem because there are so many areas to look at; you need to find the real problem. Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes diagnosis can take a while.” He said a good tech will know what items are most likely to be causing the problem as well as some of the more obscure issues that result in the BSOD. “If you get the BSOD, try a reboot and if it works, at least you can finish up whatever you were working on before taking it in for repairs. If it happens twice, don’t wait too long before getting it fixed.”

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