If it’s Tuesday in your office, then chances are that means one thing: it’s time for another Windows patch/update from Microsoft. These have been rolling out pretty steadily for some time and it goes back to the business model of putting out a product that is not fully tested and then “fixing it on the fly” by dealing with issues as they arise using patches.
One of the more recent problems has been an update that sent a lot of computer owners, office employees, and especially IT administrators, into a total fit—the Blue Screen of Death error. Here’s what we know about this issue, what Microsoft is doing about it, and what this might mean going forward with systems using Windows.
What is the Blue Screen of Death?
Let’s start with the basics: The Blue Screen of Death, also known as the BSOD, happens whenever a computer running Microsoft Windows has a critical error. If it cannot recover from the error, usually as a result of a driver or software crash, then the blue screen pops up. It can also occur if there is a malfunction with the computer’s hardware. An app or some other low-level program won’t be able to crash your system unless it is running in the Windows kernel. (That’s why the problem is oftentimes more of a hardware or driver related issue.)
The BSOD is especially frustrating because when it occurs, the only thing Windows can do is restart the computer. It can then get stuck in a continuous loop that just cycles through over and over again. (It is, however, possible to disable the automatic reboot from the Windows Control Panel.) Because of this sudden crash, it can result in data loss since the computer doesn’t have a chance to save.
However, a “minidump” file is created automatically with information about the cause of the crash. If you are used to the older versions of Windows, you may be familiar with the blue screen that has a lot of information that flashes by, usually too fast to notice. This has now been replaced in newer updates of Windows, with a more simplified screen, although the same information can still be accessed.
Windows Blue Screen of Death Update
On October 10, Windows did one of their regular updates to computers using Windows 10. Update KB4041676 was designed to provide security updates and bug fixes for Windows 10. However, once the update started to roll out, the message boards lit up from users who were getting the BSOD. Even worse, the computers simply rebooted over and over again. One user pointed out that the computer said “Inaccessible Boot Device” right before reboot. After a few reboots, the computer displayed the “Automatic Repair” screen. Any attempts to perform any repair or reboots only resulted in more of the same.
When users let Microsoft know, the initial response was that it was caused by a “dual patching disaster” that came from two conflicting updates, one of which should not have been rolled out. If this was truly the cause, then in theory, home users shouldn’t have been affected while those running network servers were going to be hit. However, reports started popping up of home PCs with the exact same issue. This may have been caused by another weakness in the update: the BSOD was affecting any computer running the update which also had “support enabled for USB Type-C Connector System Software Interface (UCSI).” Some of these users did not get the BSOD but instead received a solid black screen with absolutely no input available.
How to Repair
On October 13, Microsoft issued a statement saying that the patch had been fixed and that users should update their computers. Prior to this fix, there were several workarounds which may be necessary should this problem occur again. The first was mentioned by a user known as “NicDG” who rebooted his computer and then hit F8 so that he could boot his computer in safe mode. After he did this a few times (with Windows crashing each time), he was finally able to boot in safe mode, update his computer, and then reboot from there like normal. Another workaround for those who were dealing with the UCSI problem was simply to disable UCSI in the computer’s BIOS and then load the update. Once the update was finished, it was not clear if the user could re-enable UCSI.
Unfortunately, this seems to be a bit of a trend lately for Microsoft. In August, update MS14-045 was released, causing many computers to fall into this same loop. This was mostly on computers that were running Windows 7, but others may have been affected. Microsoft went so far as to encourage users to uninstall the update although many people had to reboot from the original software and then reinstall data from a previous backup. Back in 2015, a similar issue occurred when update KB3074681 was rolled out, causing computers across the country to crash.
Should I accept automatic updates from Microsoft?
When Microsoft introduced Windows 10, the idea was that it would automatically push updates and that the user would have no options with that. Since then, problems like these have made many people question this design feature. Workarounds started to come out explaining how to end the update push. Those who don’t like the auto-updates point to issues like the Blue Screen of Death problem to demonstrate why they should have more autonomy over their operating systems.
Additionally, many people talk about huge data usage problems when running the automatic updates. If you choose to disable the updates, you can do so under the “System and Security” settings. This will allow you to check for Windows updates, but give you the freedom to decide whether or not you want to install them. If problems like this persist, however, you can expect some serious blowback being leveled at Microsoft to fix these problems before they unleash the updates.