What Do You Do When Your Screen Turns to Blue?

More frightening than the grim reaper, it's the Blue Screen of Death.

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Q: This message came up on my Dad's computer after a power failure:

"STOP: C0000218 {Registry File Failure} The registry cannot load the hive (file) \SystemRoot\System32\Config\SYSTEM or its log or alternate. It is corrupt, absent, or not writeable"

What does it mean, and more importantly, how do I fix it?

A: You've probably heard of the dreaded Blue Screen of Death (BSOD). It’s one of the signs that your Windows computer is heading for the great beyond. Sometimes it’s just a warning, like a mild stroke or mild heart attack. You’ll be able to reboot, but it will never run the same. Other times, it’s gone. It will never boot again. This BSOD is the latter. This error message means that the registry has become corrupt. That basically means Windows will never start ever again. Well, that isn't entirely true. It is potentially repairable, but it’s definitely not easy. Most tech savvy people including myself would just reinstall Windows. The problem is that if you reinstall Windows you will most likely lose all of your files in the process. But, if you want your computer to really run well, you should probably do it anyway.

Here's a trick that you can do if you have a second computer that will save your Dad's precious files. Most of his files are probably still intact. Before you reinstall Windows, remove the hard drive from his computer, and plug it into an external USB hard drive adapter. You can pick one up on Amazon or TigerDirect for $10-$30. Plug the hard drive into the USB port on your computer, and copy over all of his important files. Then, unplug the hard drive from your computer, and install it back into his computer. Now, you can reinstall Windows and reformat the hard drive to your heart's content, and Dad's pictures of the grandkids are safe and sound.

If you decide you want to take a shot at repairing the operating system, check out these instructions from Microsoft. It requires a lot of command line work, about 30 command line entries that you have to enter exactly as they are written in the instructions. You should definitely still follow the directions above first, and protect those files. Also, this would be a good time to have a heart to heart with Dad on the importance of having a online back-up like Crashplan, Carbonite. or PogoPlug.

Tags: Blue Screen of Death, BSOD, Windows, corrupt registry, external hard drive adapter, reinstalling Windows
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