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What is the Blue Screen of Death?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Blue Screen of Death is an infamous error screen most closely associated with Microsoft Windows. Some nerd humor sites collect famous examples of the Blue Screen of Death, such as error screens which pop up on the monitors which are meant to display arrival and departure information at airports. As a general rule, one does not like to see this screen, as it is an indicator of a critical system error.

The most distinctive feature of the Blue Screen of Death is, as you might imagine, the blue background color used. Anyone who has seen one can instantly conjure up the unforgettable glaring blue of the background, which offsets white lettering used to display information about what caused the system error which led to the message. This error only occurs when a computer is forced to shut itself down to protect itself from a critical error, and it is typically accompanied with data loss, unless the user happened to save right before the error occurred.

A computer may shut down automatically after displaying the Blue Screen of Death, or the user may be forced to manually shut it down. After the shutdown is complete, the computer is typically restarted, and the computer may run diagnostics to determine what caused the fatal error and to retrieve as much data as possible. If the Blue Screen appears repeatedly, it can be an indicator of a very serious problem, and the user may need to reinstall the operating system or go into so-called “Safe Mode” to address the problem. Safe Mode features a stripped down version of the operating system which allows the user to troubleshoot problems.

For people who are not computer programmers, the information displayed on the Blue Screen of Death can look like gobbledygook. In fact, the information is extremely useful, because it identifies the error by number, the parameters of the error, and provides an assortment of other information which could be used to track down the problem and prevent it from happening again. Programmers can use Blue Screen of Death information to quickly identify the root cause of the problem, whether it is a hardware issue or a problem with the kernel software.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon935125 — On Feb 24, 2014

So its not a virus? Can formatting the unit be a solution?

By anon77365 — On Apr 14, 2010

All right this is hopefully going to help some of you. what you need to do is next time any blue screen appears is to write down the several numbers and codes so that you sort of know where the problem is occurring. To add to this, if you actually search up the code chances are that you can find someone else who had this problem and try to fix it yourself. Hope some of this works.

By anon75262 — On Apr 06, 2010

so like the other people i can't get rid of this pain. I have had a real problem with this because i this problem occurs immediately after reinstalling windows, and i mean like right after. it's got to the point where i am even writing down every hex code character for character. Please help me.

By anon65382 — On Feb 12, 2010

Yup I got it too. I really want this thing done. it takes about three days now to get my comp working again. I've seen it on my comp for months and I recognize the problem myself. it's like 0000000000007 and you don't know what that means. I want to get my comp fixed but some company said they'd charge me like $500. this comp cost me $600. any ideas? I've tried everything myself. -tortiz

By Lori126 — On Oct 04, 2009

I keep getting a blue screen with Physical Memory Dump error, with all kinds of letters and numbers. I am already in safemode. How can I fix this? I have Reg Cue, Uniblue registry clner etc. Nothing works. I am not a computer whiz, just a very beginner. I cannot afford to buy a new computer so I was wondering if anyone had a solution to this problem. Thanks Lori

By Hedwig — On May 26, 2008

The Blue Screen is a mystery to me! I get it after using (I save cooking/kitchen info. and recipes) CD drawer (E drive). The blank disks that I use are "Memorex CD-R". All goes well. I can read what I have put onto my previously recorded disks, or I can write and add onto disks. However, when I want to remove a disk....the drawer opens and I remove disk and close drawer again without incident, but immediately after closing drawer the Blue Screen pops up and I have to close out the PC.

By mikecom — On May 08, 2008

i have the blue screen of death. on my other computer. how can i fix it so that i can reload windows back on to this other computer? thank you, mikecom

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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