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Can a website cause my computer to get a "blue screen of death"?

My wife has recently been intermittently experiencing the blue screen of
death while on MySpace. It also wipes out the bookmarks in Firefox. I have
always kept her machine lean and mean and up to date. It has current drivers,
only four background programs and five non-Microsoft tasks running. Two
separate Dell diagnostic programs give the hardware (one year old) a good bill
of health. I have recently read that MySpace is using MS server software that
is running out of expansion capabilities, and they are in fact having
difficulties. Can a web site with the right combination of problems result in a
BSOD or can that only occur locally within the PC due to a local problem?

Whatever problems MySpace may or may not be having, causing your “blue
screen of death” (BSOD) isn’t one of them.

A BSOD should never happen, but when it happens it always indicates a
problem happening on your machine.

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The dreaded “blue screen of death”, or BSOD, appears when Windows determines
that a very serious error has happened, and it can either no longer continue
running safely, or it’s become so “confused” about what it should be doing that
it can’t continue.

Windows XP Blue Screen of Death

Typically whatever you were doing at the time the error happens is lost, and
your only recourse is to reboot your machine.

A BSOD “should” never happen. Windows is actually architected to handle
errors in much more graceful and less abrupt ways. If a program does something
wrong, for example, only that program should be affected; Windows, and your
machine, should keep running without a problem.

But there are two common places where Windows simply cannot protect itself
enough, and thus must rely on the last-resort BSOD to report errors:

  • Hardware failures – most commonly power supply, memory or
    motherboard problems. When memory fails or when a power supply is on the verge
    of failing completely not only can Windows get totally confused about what it
    should be doing, but it can also end up trying to do things that it simply
    cannot or should not do.

  • Device driver bugs – in particular kernel level device
    drivers. You probably won’t be able to tell which is which, but some device
    drivers operate at the same level of privilege as Windows itself. A bug in such
    a driver can result in a BSOD. (Some drivers can operate at the same privilege
    level as applications under Windows, so if they have a failure they may crash,
    or an application may crash, but a BSOD is infrequent.)

“A BSOD ‘should’ never happen. Windows is actually
architected to handle errors in much more graceful and less abrupt ways.”

There are other issues that can cause a BSOD, including bugs in Windows
itself, but those BSOD bugs are very infrequent these days.

Note that there’s nothing in the previous discussion about websites or the
internet. A BSOD is something that happens on your machine, because of a
problem with your machine or the software on it. If you regularly experience a
BSOD when you visit a particular web site, then that web site isn’t directly
causing a problem, it’s simply causing your computer to exercise some software
or hardware on the machine that has the problem.

So what do you do?

Well, to start with it sounds like you’ve been doing the right things:

  • Keep up to date with the latest critical fixes from Microsoft.

  • Keep up to date with the latest driver updates, either by visiting Windows Update, the hardware manufacturer’s
    site, or preferably both. (Updates can often be found on one or the other, but
    not always both.)

  • Run hardware diagnostics.

The BSOD looks like a bunch of gobbledygook to most folks, but there’s often
an important clue or two in the mess. For example:

Specific Error Message on a BSOD

In this example, the BSOD is actually pointing at a specific file that
may be related to the error. If it’s the same file every time, then
that suggests a software or driver issue. Figuring out what that file does
(often a quick Google search will do), may lead you to the driver in question.
If not the software, then it may indicate a problem with the hardware that
driver controls.

Unfortunately it’s only a clue, not an answer. The file may be totally
unrelated to the problem.

Often diagnostics that come with computers aren’t quite as thorough as we
might like. There are two tools in particular that I would suggest, depending
on your situation:

  • Memtest86 – a very thorough memory
    testing utility. There’s been a slow increase in problems with memory, and this
    tool should ferret out if you have a problem, and exactly where. Memtest86 is
    free.

  • SpinRite – an extremely thorough
    hard disk testing and recovery utility. SpinRite is not free, but it’s the most
    exhaustive hard disk testing and recover utility I know of. If your problem is
    due to bad sectors on your hard disk (which could result, for example, in a
    corrupt copy of Windows or its drivers), there’s a fair chance that SpinRite
    won’t just tell you about the problem – it’ll fix it.

BSODs can be very difficult to track down. In many ways it boils down to
detective work, and I hope that with some of the information above you’ll be
able to get a few clues as to what’s going on with your machine.

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18 comments on “Can a website cause my computer to get a "blue screen of death"?”

  1. I have had a few BSOD’s but in each case the blue screen has come up & gone that fast it is impossible to read, much less take down the details. The system then shuts down & restarts.
    How do I make it slow down.

    Reply
  2. Re: Blue Screen of Death

    I got those a lot; couldn’t figure out the problem! Finally hard drive went bad without any other warning; laptop on warranty and hard drive replaced–computer great now.

    Reply
  3. For Brian — To stop your computer from rebooting automatically after a BSOD happens, do the following: Right click on My Computer and choose Properties; click the Advanced Tab; under Startup and Recovery, click the Settings button; then under System Failure, uncheck Automatic Restart (I’m doing this from memory, hopefully it’s correct. If not, post again and I’ll go and look at my XP machine – I’m on Vista right now).

    Reply
  4. This might seem stupid, but the problem might exist _because_ you have all new programs, not _despite_ it. New programs are prone to higher hardware resource usage. If, together with that, your wife opens a flashy, cool website, the hardware gets even more worked out. The result is a simple overheating, which makes the system go crazy.
    Dusting and vacuum cleaning the insides of your computer might help, though…

    Reply
  5. I get this BSOD everytime i try to play world of warcraft it dosent even get to the login screen the BSOD pops up and my PC restarts i got uptodate drivers and i got CC cleaner and avg antivirus so i dont know whats causeing the BSOD but i can do anything else but play Worldof warcraft.

    Reply
  6. I used Ji,’s advice, and it may have worked. I saw that the minimum VM was set to 16, and the max was set to a little over 2,300. The recommended was over 3,000. I did as suggested, and changed the minumum to 2,300 and the max to 6,000. I sure hope this works, and if it doesn’t I’d need immediate help, before resorting to a new hard drive, etc. Thank you for your help so far. 😀

    Reply
  7. My labtop works great! Fast, reliable and all…but I am a gamer…and I play World of Warcraft…and for some reason I get the blue screen a lot en game…and that is all…maybe my driver?

    Reply
  8. MY COMPUTER GETS THE BLUE SCREEN OF DEATH TRIED REBOOTING IT EVEN TRIED RECOVERY DISC AND IT DOESN’T WORK ANY HELP PLEASE I AM DESPERATE

    Reply
  9. Hi Leo,

    Yesterday my computer get reboot loop then the next day I turn on the computer. I search the internet go to http://www.gamespot.com then i search a game it says this search is currently unavailable. But i tried my other computer and it work fine. What happen? Can you help me.

    Reply
  10. hi there Leo,

    my laptop has also been getting the BSOD,

    and only ever while on MySpace.

    Could it be that one has to save your

    input into the Blog often?

    (I know you said that it could not

    be MySpace, but I wonder).

    Yours sincerely

    GB

    Reply
  11. I know for a fact that windows 98SE crashes when you access con\con so if the following code is put into the webpage: [img src=\con\con]windows 98 se crashes!

    Reply
  12. i have 2 sony vao laptops (1 xp & 1 win7) that are experiencing BSODs. both are running trend micro internet security. the file mentioned is vispint.com which trend micros says they don’t recognize, but a google search says it is theirs. could that the be source of he problem?

    Reply
  13. Sorry to burst your bubble. I was researching the terrible lyrics used by rapper B.O.B. and when I go to his website, my computer gets a BSOD, “every single time” without exception. Not happening anywhere else, just his website and it happens immediately as firefox is loading the page after I click the link from the google search page.

    My bubble’s intact. It’s only software on your machine that can cause a BSOD. There’s something about that site that is causing software on you machine to misbehave. It all comes back to software on your machine – be it malware, the browser, addons in the browser or what not.

    Leo
    15-Nov-2010

    Reply

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