Certain elements of Windows are as memorable as the trajectory of the system of Microsoft. Among these elements, we can remember the start button, the startup sound of some of its versions, loading screens, games like solitaire and the unforgettable Space Cadet pinball, and, of course, the “blue screen”.
This error alert screen overcame its application on the system, the story turned it into a meme, into a cult icon. In this article we will remember its history and its main causes.
The origin of the Windows blue screen
BSOD (Blue Screen of Death), blue screen error, blue screen of death or stop code error. There are several ways to invoke this screen which represents a critical error in the Windows system. Its origin, as we know it today, dates back to the 90s, and even in the latest version of Windows, Windows 11she continues giving the air of her (dis)grace.
Over the years, with new attitudes employed by Microsoft, this screen started to appear less frequently, but this will be discussed later. Let’s start with the origin. How did the infamous Windows blue screen of death come about?
In this link on Microsoft website you will see that the company uses as one of the ways to classify this error screen as “black screen errors”. While not as common as saying the “blue screen error”, this sense of a black screen has a certain connection to what turned out to be the definitive version of the Windows error report, in its blue screen version.
The first time that a blue screen was displayed in Windows, having some relation with system problems, it was in the version Windows 3.0released in 1990.
When a critical error occurred in Windows 3.0, the user was faced with a black screen. If the famous key combination CTRL+ALT+Del was pressed, a blue screen with some options for actions was shown (see the image above!). You could, for example, request that the computer be restarted, a critical action in the event of a problem that generated a critical stop error.
From this black screen, which was the main screen that represented an adverse situation in Windows, we ended up arriving at the definitive version, immortalized throughout the versions of Windows, in blue.
On a post on your blogthe software developer Wallace B. McCluresays that the acronym BSOD, which today is associated with talking about the blue screen (Blue), actually came up with the color black, which in English has the same initial, B (black).
McClure explains that the BSOD (Black Screen of Death) was first coined by Ed Brown, who was a technician in Coca-Cola’s IT department in 1991.
At that time, the Windows 3.0 was being rolled out in the company department, and when users tried to run the software WordPerfect I got this black screen error. This was the origin of the term “black screen of death” that ended up becoming popular in the color blue.
It was from Windows 95 onwards that the blue screen of Windows was consolidated in the way we know it. By the way, Windows 95 is a system that turned Microsoft’s operating system into a media element, the uproar caused at the time of its release was unique.
In Windows 95 the appearance of the blue screen of death was completely different from what we have today, as Microsoft has been tweaking the screen design over the years. In Windows 10 the blue screen of death even got a QR Code so that the user can scan and identify more easily what caused the error.
It was from Windows 95 onwards that the blue screen of Windows was consolidated in the way we know it. By the way, Windows 95 is a system that made Windows a media element, the uproar caused at the time of its release was unique.
In Windows 95 the appearance of the blue screen of death was completely different from what we have today, as Microsoft has been tweaking the screen design over the years. Starting with Windows 10, the blue screen of death even got a QR Code so that the user can scan and identify more easily what caused the problem.
the red highlighted
There was even room for an error screen with another color option, the screen RSoD (Red Screen of Death). Instead of blue, the color is red. This screen appears in some situations in Windows 7, and in Windows Vista. A similar error screen is seen on Sony consoles such as the PlayStation, PS2, PS3 and PSP.
blue screen stardom
The apex of the blue screen happened precisely in the demonstration of a version of Windows. Long before we had contact with the so-called “virals” of the internet, the Microsoft starred in an embarrassing/iconic moment, which is still remembered today: the first major appearance of a blue screen of death. Nothing could be more out of place, as the error screen appeared on April 20, 1998, during a demo of Windows 98at COMDEX of that year.
The failure happened just when plug-and-play was being addressed, technology that eliminated the need to install recognition drivers manually by the user. It was plug and play. Everyone who has been playing with Windows for many years has faced a blue screen because of plug-and-play.
During the tight skirt, Bill Gates did well and dropped the following gem: “This must be the reason we’re not selling Windows 98 yet.”
Why does the blue screen of death happen?
We have seen the origin of this screen that symbolizes a critical error in Windows, now we are going to delve into the flaws that can cause its appearance.
It is important to say that, in addition to issues related to the hardware and software of the device that is running Windows, the failure can be caused by Microsoft itself. It has already happened on several occasions the Redmond giant launch a new update for the system that ends up resulting in the appearance of the famous error screen.
On the other hand, there is no denying that the blue screen appears much less than in the past. As much as nostalgic people continue to say that using Windows XP or Windows 7, for example, is better than any other version that Microsoft makes, the reality is that, for most users, using the latest version of the system is the better output, particularly in terms of supporting new technological features.
User mode vs Kernel mode
To better understand what results in the blue screen of death, it is important that you are familiar with two fundamental concepts when it comes to the operating system: user mode (user mode) and kernel mode (Kernel mode)both related to code execution privilege levels.
Basically the division is as follows: the vast majority of conventional software, those that you use for the most varied functions, run in user mode, while the core of the system, data that make the OS work, run in kernel mode. This division is done to prevent programs from accessing or modifying critical system data.
A typical scenario of a blue screen of death has to do with drivers. The driver is fundamental software for communication between Windows and hardware. At the time of Windows 95 there was a real “bull’s party” in this sense of drivers. A barrage of peripherals released to the system with drivers that have not been properly tested. The result? Blue screen. Faulty kernel-mode drivers are prime candidates for causing a blue screen of death!
The way Microsoft found to get rid of a lot of blame and, at the same time, contribute to an exponential reduction in blue screen cases was to start its program of testing digitally signed drivers, that is, drivers that have been tested by Microsoft . The most basic way you can identify this is with the acronym WHQL (Windows Hardware Quality Labs, or Windows Hardware Quality Lab). Below is a screenshot of an NVIDIA driver highlighting WHQL.
Blue screen cases go far beyond drivers, they can also be caused by malware, and even antivirus. There are also hardware issues. Any failure in a stick of RAM is a case that will trigger the blue screen. Even a simple configuration of four memory sticks (quad-channel) of different brands and specs can result in a blue screen.
All that’s left to do is restart your computer and try again. Do all the testing procedures, such as removing and cleaning the memory sticks – speaking more precisely in the case of RAM -, disconnecting and reconnecting if the error is with another component, updating or returning to a stable version of the driver, or even doing a scan with a security software, to check if any type of virus has affected the device.
For those who want to delve deeper into the topic, it is important to say that whenever the blue screen of death occurs, a DMP file is generated. These files are available at Ç:\Windows\mini dump You can use the software BlueScreenView by NirSoft to view the details.
Peripherals such as webcam, keyboard and mouse are also among the classic agents of a BSOD, especially when looking at the past. Speaking of which, I cannot end this article without remembering the apex of a blue screen, which attacked Microsoft itself, during the presentation of the Windows 98.