What caused the Blue Screen of Death? A virus infecting the boot directory. Don't know where it came from, although I suspect it was attached to a midi-file player I downloaded. The advice I was given really didn't help the process, either; running CHKDSK broke the computer because it crashed in the middle and damaged the ability to run in Safe Mode. Here is what I learned:-
- CHKDSK will not solve the problem and could make it worse.
- If you have auto-reboot set up, disable it so that you can read the Blue Screen of Death. This option will appear when you start the computer and hit F8 (the same key that gives you Safe Mode). You need to record the error message (all gazillion digits of it), to help decipher the cause.
- The most useful website for information belongs to Dell. (My next computer will be a Dell.) Everything I learned to solve this problem, I learned from the Dell website last week, after DH's computer also developed the Blue Screen of Death. Dell has a downloadable fix that worked on DH's PC. Use "Safe Mode with Networking" to access and download.
- The second most useful place for information was McAfee. I emailed them asking what I needed to do to re-install their anti-virus software before I wiped the laptop. They also sent me a link to a fix, but by this time the laptop was so corrupted I couldn't boot in Safe Mode. Thank you McAfee, your customer service is superb.
- Windows XP has a special "reinstallation" mode which means you don't need to reformat your hard drive first - it overwrites the existing software leaving everything else intact. Put the Windows CD into the CD drive and then boot up the computer. Sadly, it Blue Screened in the middle of the reinstall, so I bit the bullet and went to Plan D.
- Plan D was to wipe the hard drive and reinstall everything, which I did last night. This was another option on the Windows CD.
- The most useless website for information belonged to Fujitsu Siemens, the makers of this expensive near-doorstop. Try searching it for "Blue Screen" - you will find absolutely nothing useful. Yet another reason why I won't buy another laptop from them.
- The most important thing you can do is run regular back-ups. When the Blue Screen of Death first appeared, I took a complete copy of My Documents and placed it on our external hard drive. It's better to use a program like McAfee, but I couldn't get that to work at the time.