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 Preventive Maintenance

Computer Crashes
November 2002

Russell James is Operations Manager at BJ Associates of San Antonio. They are an authorized service center for Toshiba and Sony systems. They are the laptop specialist and also handle system builds and parts for desktops. They can take care of any IBM compatible hardware or software problem that you have.


If you have worked with a Windows computer, it is a safe bet that you have seen the infamous “Blue Screen of Death” in the past. This solid blue screen with the white letters strikes fear into most computer users and with good reason. The screen will sometimes reference a file that has performed an illegal operation, fatal exception or caused a general protection fault in or with another program that is listed. Sometimes you just get the message without any file names, only a reference to the memory address to guide you in your search for a cure.

The blue screen is there to protect your computer from harming itself. It is like the human body going into shock when a catastrophic event occurs. All systems are put on standby until you are able to clear the error message or reboot the system. After this you should be back to normal and you will be able to research the problem.

Sometimes you will be lucky and be are able to press the proverbial “any key” and continue with the task at hand. Minor errors will usually allow you to continue without a reboot. Other errors will only bring on more errors and you will be forced to perform the dreaded three finger salute or even remove power from the system to stop the madness. 

When you get an error message on your computer, take the time to write as much information down about the event as you can remember. Write down the names of the files that are mentioned. Write down the memory address that is referenced. Write down what you were doing when the error occurred as well as what other programs may have been running at the time. The more information you have, the easier it will be for you to track down a solution or at least explain it to someone that can track it down.

If you are going to be brave and try to correct the problem yourself, start by typing the first two lines of the error message into a search on Google. If that doesn’t get you anywhere, try different variations of the message or even the memory address by itself. Try to look for Web sites and not some of the chat areas where other users are answering questions. Depending on the error, you might have a lot of looking ahead of you, but you can be relatively sure that someone else has had the same problem and lived to write about it on the Web before you.

The BSOD can be caused by either hardware or software. Sometime you will have software that tries to access memory that is being used by the operating system or another program. Sometimes you will actually have a faulty piece of hardware such as memory or CPU that is causing the problem. If you are installing a new piece of hardware such as a modem or network card, the wrong drivers could cause an error. Just recently I had a system that I was reinstalling the operating system from scratch and was getting blue screens trying to load the correct drivers for the devices. I finally removed all the cards from the system and replaced them one at a time with the correct drivers to correct the errors.

If there are files that are referenced in the error message and you are using Windows 98, ME or XP, you can use the msconfig utility to disable your startup programs to see if the problem is corrected. You can start the utility from the run line. If this corrects the problem you would then need to go back into msconfig and re-enable the items until you find the offending program. Try to leave programs that look close to any files that are mentioned in the error message for last. For instance if one of the files in the error message starts with Mc, then leave all of the programs that refer to Mcafee or the folder that Mcafee is in turned off until the end.

Another area to look at would be spyware. If you seem to get the errors while you are trying to browse the Internet or check your mail, you could have installed a program that is interfering with your browser. I like to use a program from Lavasoft called AdAware. You can download a copy by searching for the program by name. This program will check the files in your system as well as the registry and memory for programs that are known to be spyware and allow you to delete the program and registry entries safely. You might need to repair Internet Explorer after removing the spyware to get your system back to normal. 

Your computer will respond to the information and hardware that it is given to work with. Garbage in, garbage out. If you have bad hardware, drivers or choose to install bad software, then you are going to have problems until you do something about it. If the hardware is found to be bad, replacing it will fix it. If you are installing bad software, you will also have to correct your actions to prevent the errors from coming back.


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