As its name implies, a blue background will span the entire screen of the computer monitor, along with a “sad face” and general information that may be of little help to the common user. The following screenshot is the error message that appears on newer Windows 10 machines that encounter the Blue Screen of Death:
If you have an older Windows computer, the BSOD you encounter might look like this:
Common Causes of the Blue Screen of Death
BSoD occurs when the Windows operating system encounters a problem from which it cannot fully recover or continue to operate in a safe manner. Common causes of such errors are chip and hardware malfunctions, faulty drivers, incompatible software installations and lower-level software compatibility issues.
Viruses and other malicious software have also been known to cause issues similar to BSOD. The Black Screen of Death, in which a black background fills the computer screen, was linked several malware cases in the year 2009. It should be noted that the Black Screen of Death is often associated with components that are overheating. It is also the forerunner of its blue counterpart, occurring on Windows machines as early as 3x. MacOS continues to use a Black Screen of Death for denoting its stop errors.
What Happens When your Computer Suddenly Displays a BSOD?
In development circles, the Blue Screen of Death may be referred to as a stop error or bug check. Once a stop error is encountered, all running programs and processes are immediately stopped. This means that any data beyond the last save point is lost.
From here, the operating system, if configured to do so, will create a small snapshot containing information about the error it encountered. This file is sometimes called a minidump log file. It’s contents can help identify circuit-level issues which may have caused the stop error.
In older versions of Windows, the Blue Screen of Death was more verbose and arguably provided a lot more useful information. These details would include the names of the actual file(s) that initiated the crash as well as recommended actions for the user to take. But even still, such information is often futile for end users that aren’t technically adept.
Fixing a Stop Error that Results in the Blue Screen of Death
Most data corruption is the result of malware being present on your computer. Before diving too deeply in the troubleshooting process, you should first run an antivirus (AV) app to see if it detects and fixes your BSoD issue. If successful, it may be worth investing in live antivirus protection to prevent the issue from reoccurring.
For Windows 7 and older machines which encounter non-malware related stop errors, instructions for resolving the issue are listed alongside the files in question. Generally, the recommended response is to uninstall any recent software updates, followed by a restart and clean installation of the software in question. The same BSoD might even include stop codes for further research.
For those Windows machines with automatic restart enabled, you may find that you are not allowed to view the stop codes. It is recommended you disable the automatic restart feature so that you are able to view them.
Once you are able to obtain the appropriate stop code(s), you can reference it in the dump file that was created upon the stop error. A program for viewing these files are not readily available on most Windows machines, but there is numerous software, like BlueScreenView, that you can download and use for free.
If you encounter a Blue Screen of Death during the startup sequence, which may prevent the operating system from loading, you should try using the system restore feature to undo any changes that may be causing the problem. This will roll back your file system to a point when it actually worked, underscoring the importance of keeping a backup independent of your PC.
The last resort is to perform a clean installation of the Windows operating system. This is sometimes called a wipe and reload, in which you voluntarily clean out your entire hard drive or save these files in another directory.