Blue Screen of Death
You are working away on your computer-researching cell phones online, writing the Great American Novel, figuring out your taxes-when kablooey! your monitor turns a terrifying shade of blue and cryptic messages appear. Remain calm. This is just the Windows Stop message, more commonly known as the "Blue Screen of Death (BSOD)." Every Windows user experiences the BSOD at some point in his computing career, and it is usually just a one-time random event or the signal that a fixable error has occurred. On occasion, the BSOD is letting you know there are serious problems and outside assistance may be indicated.
Steps to Removing the Blue Screen of Death
Sometimes simply turning off your computer and then turning it back on again will remove the Blue Screen of Death with no further problems. A simple restart usually does not work since computers tend to hang onto bad information in memory. If a hard boot (turning off the computer and then turning it back on) does not work, try unplugging your computer from the wall power outlet and letting it sit overnight. In the morning, cross your fingers and turn the computer on.
2. Read your BSOD's messages
If a reboot or power cycle does not help, read the messages on the Blue Screen. Each message has clues to what is wrong and advice on how to fix it. This information is given in a Stop Code made up of hexadecimals, e.g., "STOP: 0x000000A0 (0x00000009, 0xc0000001, 0x00000001, 0x00000000) INTERNAL_POWER_ERROR (a0)." This particular message is for Vista users and usually occurs when putting the computer into hibernation.
3. Log onto Microsoft.com
You'll have to use another computer to do this since yours will be in the throes of the Blue Screen of Death, so if you don't have one handy, you might have to call a friend. Navigate to the Windows Support Center, and enter the Blue Screen of Death error message verbatim into the search bar. Hit return. This will bring up a detailed page defining the code, why it is displaying, and what you should do to resolve the problem.
4. Follow the Microsoft Support Center advice
Each error code requires a unique remedy. In the case of the error message "STOP: 0x000000A0 (0x00000009, 0xc0000001, 0x00000001, 0x00000000) INTERNAL_POWER_ERROR (a0)", Microsoft recommends installing the newest service pack for Vista and provides a link to the update. Other codes may require actions, such as uninstalling and reinstalling new hardware or flashing the BIOS.
5. If all else fails, seek professional help
If your computer continues to display the Blue Screen of Death after you have tried everything, there may be serious problems developing. Hand over your ticking time-bomb to a trusted support technician for evaluation. Be sure to have a recent back-up of all your valuable files on a separate hard drive or online storage site (like Mozy or SugarSync) in case a complete reinstallation of your operating system is required.
Always remember, when dealing with a computer, that screaming at it or slamming down the mouse will not fix the problem. Calm logical troubleshooting is your best avenue to success, but if, after taking that approach, you find yourself itching for a sledgehammer, pick up the phone and call your favorite geek to come rescue you.