The Blue Screen of Death!

September 21, 2010

It has probably happened to everyone at one time or another.  You are happily using your computer to surf the internet, send emails, use a graphics program or play a video game.  Suddenly and with no warning, the entire computer freezes and you see the dreaded blue screen of death.  With a blue background, and lots of gobbley gook written on the screen, you may be unsure what to do.

You power off the computer, turn it back on and voila, it seems to be working fine.  So what is the deal with that blue screen error?  And what happens if it starts freezing and displaying that screen more often?

Memory Conflicts – The memory on a computer is like a pie, and every program needs a piece of that pie.  Windows manages what programs get their slices of pie.  Sometimes, a program will take a bigger piece of pie than offered.  If that happens, and another program is already chowing down on their piece, you may see the blue screen of death.  This is called a memory dump, and is usually a random event that occasionally happens.

Corrupt System Files – If you continually get the blue screen of death, especially when trying to turn on the computer, the Windows system files may be corrupt.  To fix this issue, you will probably need the Windows installation disk to run a repair on the operating system.

Hardware and Drivers – Installing a new hardware device, and subsequently the software drivers for that device, may also be the source of the blue screen.  If you have recently added new hardware, and suddenly your computer crashes every time you turn it on, try removing the hardware and uninstalling the drivers to see if that helps.  If it does, you may need updated software drivers for the hardware.  Check the website for the hardware manufacturer for the latest drivers.

The blue of screen of death happens for a reason, and by doing a little research, you should be able to resolve the issue.


The Weird and Wonderful Safe-Mode!

June 22, 2010

This article works better if you hum the tune to “The Magical Mr. Mistoffelees” from the musical Cats.

Spend any amount of time talking to a computer nerd, and you will probably hear them talk about booting in “Safe-Mode”. Ask them why, and they may act like a magician guarding a sacred illusion.

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Safe-Mode is a diagnostic tool that allows you to boot up a computer (Windows or Mac) with a minimal set of drivers and functions. By scaling down the amount of services and drivers that run, you may be able to boot the computer up when otherwise it would not power on.

When a computer is plagued by viruses and malware, and is crawling along slowly, Safe-Mode may be the only hope. As computer technicians, using Safe-Mode is a must when removing viruses. Many of the protocols and programs that viruses and malware use have been disabled in Safe-Mode, allowing the tech to remove the pesky malware much easier.

Safe Mode can also be used when opening certain programs. On a Mac, you can open most Microsoft Office programs in Safe-Mode. This is useful if you are experiencing issues opening certain documents with corrupt fonts, a known issue with a Mac.

The popular internet browser, Firefox, also has a Safe-Mode option. If the browser has been compromised by viruses, Safe-Mode is a good way to temporarily get around the issues the virus may be causing.

So Safe-Mode is where it’s at for troubleshooting and fixing problems. No more will your eyes start glazing over when your favorite computer nerd starts spouting lingo and acronyms. You are empowered with knowledge! Now go out into the world, and use Safe-Mode for good, not evil!