What is a Blue Screen of Death?

Blue Screen of Death
Blue Screen of Death

If you’ve ever been around computers, you’ve likely seen at least one ‘blue screen of death’ or BSOD. It is a screen filled with cryptic code making you feel like the end is near for your PC. Take a deep breath and don’t panic.

The first thing you want to do is write everything down on the screen or take a focused picture of the screen with your camera or cell phone so you have documentation of the error. Pay close attention to any STOP errors or filenames as they can be keys to troubleshooting the problem.

After you have documented the error message, try restarting the computer. You may need to use the power button the computer as the keyboard may not be responsive. Did it boot back up normally or did you get another blue screen of death?

If you get the error message again, try booting up into safe mode. (Push the F8 key before Windows starts up to find the safe mode option). If it boots into Windows, this will help narrow down if it’s a driver/software issue.

No luck? Keep digging! Ask yourself what has changed on your PC. Have you installed or updated any software or drivers recently? What about any new hardware like a printer or camera? If so, try uninstalling the software and removing the device to see if that eliminates the error.

Still not working? It is possible that it is something inside the computer that is failing. I have had memory (RAM) go bad which causes various blue screens of death. Try testing the RAM with a program like MemTest86+ and see if it fails. While you are testing things, it’s probably a good idea to scan the hard drive for any errors. Use a tool like Seatools to scan for any hardware errors. I would also suggest running CHKDSK /F to see if that helps.

Have you ever seen a blue screen of death? If so, how did you resolve it?

Windows XP support ending April 8, 2014

windowsxpWindows XP originally came out in 2001 and it has been one of my favorite operating systems. While there have been newer versions of Windows since then (Vista, 7 and 8), many folks have been content to stick with XP. The time has come though to let XP go and move on to a newer operating system. After April 8, 2014, Microsoft will no longer be offering security updates or support for Windows XP. This means if any vulnerabilities are found after that time, they will not be fixed and your system will be at risk.

So what should you do? Continue running XP and see what happens? That’s probably not a good idea. First, you need to determine if your system is capable of running one of the newer operating systems. The minimum requirements for Windows 7 and 8 are about the same: 1ghz processor, 1gb RAM and 16GB free hard drive space. Ideally you will want a little more than those basic specs if you want things to run smoothly. Microsoft has free utilities you can run to see if your system is ready for a newer operating system.

Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor
Windows 8 Upgrade Advisor

If you do want to upgrade, I would recommend going with Windows 7 rather than Windows 8. The user interface for Windows 8 is drastically different than previous versions of Windows including Windows XP. Windows 7 is almost impossible to find in stores so you’ll have to order it online. Here are some links to order if you are interested.

Windows 7 Home Premium
Windows 7 Professional

Please note that you will need to backup your data before you upgrade as it will wipe your hard drive when installing Windows 7. This is my preferred method as you get to start fresh and choose the programs you want to put back on there. Microsoft recommends using the Windows Easy Transfer to copy your various files and settings to an external drive. You can download it for free from Microsoft.

Windows Easy Transfer

If your system isn’t capable of supporting a newer version of Windows or you just don’t want to spend the money, there are other alternatives. You’d probably be fairly safe unplugging the computer from the internet and just using it as a word processor or light gaming computer for the kids.

You could also explore non-Windows operating systems like Linux. There are numerous Linux flavors out there, but the most popular one seems to be Ubuntu. I actually prefer one of its sibling called Lubuntu which works better/faster on older hardware. You can burn that to a CD or USB flash drive and try it out before you install it to the hard drive.

Do you have a computer running Windows XP? What are your plans for it? Post your answers in the comment section below.