Beware the Windows 10 zombie screen – The Tech Curmudgeon

Be careful when you get the Windows 10 “black screen of undeath,” because your PC might not be dead yet.

bsod-cursorThe Tech Curmudgeon is old enough to remember the bad old days of Windows 3.1, Windows 98, and the infamous “blue screen of death.” The Tech Curmudgeon and everyone he knows lost hours of effort to crashes that ate our work, lost grades to crashes that ate our work, maybe even lost jobs to crashes that ate our work, all the while cursing Bill Gates and Micro$oft. The Tech Curmudgeon learned to set every program to autosave every five or ten minutes, how to find and import the backups, and how to invent new profanity when the blue screen of death inevitably murdered the files on the few programs that wouldn’t autosave and ate the backups too.

Raise your hand if you ever fantasized about taking a sledgehammer, napalm, or tactical nuke to your PC as a result of a blue screen of death… and if your hand is down, you’re lying.

Yet Windows 10, an OS that the Tech Curmudgeon generally likes, has upped the “piss him the fuck off” factor of Windows even higher than the blue screen of death with what the Tech Curmudgeon calls their “zombie screen.” You know, the black screen you get when Windows 10 is updating (without asking you for permission first, of course) and all you can see – sometimes – is the mouse pointer.

The Tech Curmudgeon calls it the zombie screen because there’s no information about what the hell Windows is doing to your computer. It might be updating your files, but then again it might be hung and need to be rebooted. You can’t tell, and when you search for help online, you find experts, experts at fixing Windows who can’t tell by looking at the computer whether it’s dead and in need of a hard reboot or whether it’s still running. Even looking at the hard drive activity light is no good – depending on the nature of the lock-up, the PC might well be exercising the hard drive.

keep_calm_destroy_computerSo what you end up with is a game of power button Russian Roulette. And if you guess wrong, there’s a chance that you’ll kill your computer right as it’s updating a critical component for the OS to run (say, the WRkrn.sys file, without which the OS won’t boot), and when you restart, you discover out that the computer isn’t bootable and you have to reset or even do a full reinstall, losing all your programs (excuse me, “apps,” because that’s so much more hip) and maybe all of your files in the process.

Why yes, the Tech Curmudgeon did have this happen to him recently, why do you ask? It was the massive Windows 10 Anniversary update that did it, nearly bricking the newest computer in the Curmudgeon house, an Asus laptop. And the Tech Curmudgeon’s old Windows 7 PC took a shit rather than download the files he needed to build a boot drive, so the Tech Curmudgeon had to wait. Two. Whole. Fucking. Days until his 2010 HP Pavilion had finished its own anniversary update before the Tech Curmudgeon could make the boot drive he needed to reset the new laptop.

Oh, and that ancient HP Pavilion? It needed a hard reboot from the zombie screen before it would finish the update which ran the risk of bricking that piece of shit too.

And while the Tech Curmudgeon is bitching about Windows 10 and Microshaft (no, not Trump… this time), who’s fucking bright idea was it to force updates on people without even giving them the chance to schedule the damn things? The Tech Curmudgeon has always intentionally waited a solid month or six after an update before letting his PC run it so that all the bugs are worked out on other people’s computers rather than his. But not any more. Now you get your updates whether you want them or now, whether it’s convenient for you or not. Remember that old HP Pavilion that saved the Tech Curmudgeon’s ass when the new laptop nearly became an aluminum frisbee? Yeah, there was another update last week, and it’s been sitting on the zombie screen (or a related screen, the “do-those-five-fucking-spinning-dots-actually-mean-anything-or-are-they-there-to-con-me-into-thinking-the-computer-is-still-updating-when-it’s-actually-dead-Jim” screen) for about 96 hours now. The Tech Curmudgeon is very glad there wasn’t anything critical on the Pavilion – you know, like TurboTax on April 14.

One of these days Microsoft’s forced update cycle will kill a company or delete critical medical records, and they’ll get their Borg collective asses sued. Oh wait, no they won’t – there’s a binding arbitration clause in the EULA….


8 replies »

  1. Nice. My work PC went on walkabout for 45 minutes yesterday after dumping me out of a UNIX session. Luckily I wasn’t in the middle of something or it would have left some poor orphan process running. So I sat there twiddling my thumbs while it went through 4 cycles of mind numbingly slow loading counts and reboots.

    Then last night my wife’s laptop went black and she was pounding the on/off button like a red headed stepchild and I said, “Baby just leave it alone while Devil Gates stirs its innards.”

    Fucking fuck rat fuckers indeed!

  2. Great article. Good timing too. I had several clients call and text me just today about an update from yesterday/today. I decided to read the EULA and it’s nice to know their attorneys are doing spell/grammar check:

    “Mail aNotice of Dispute first”

    Have a nice day!

  3. had my HP pavilion turn into a brick this morning after allowing a voluntary (?) Win 10 update last night. Left the thing to do it’s business and went to sleep. Woke up this morning, and nothing–I mean nothing. The power button wouldn’t reboot it, power off wouldn’t re-boot it. Battery removal and time and battery reinstallation wouldn’t do it. Nothing. I didn’t do a goddamn thing. I pressed “Upgrade”, left it with an in process screen, and the next morning all I get is a hunk of dead plastic!


    • Just went through the 6 phases of grieving this afternoon due to the same disease (biggest hurt: 2 pieces I’ve been working on since last spring- a 12 pg article that just needed a summary, and a 9 pg research piece which, after tightening up 2 small sections, was ready for copies to be submitted B4 Nov to publishers).
      A naive question that this old fashioned journalist (who still manages to have paper stacked precariously on his desk) will lamely throw out to any 21st century inhabitant is, would the latest anti-virus/anti-malware program protect us from getting struck down by these giant regular (Micro-) soft bowel movements?

  4. Microsoft will be issuing a cleanup script for this failed update likely today if not tomorrow, so you can wait for that and run it when it’s ready. In the meantime, with your system with no power, you might want to consider discharging the static electricity from your laptop by removing the power cord and battery, and then pressing the power button for 30 seconds then plugging it back in and seeing if it will turn on.

  5. This is why I’m an Apple guy. I know we’re all supposed to be some sort of ridiculous cult, but I was a PC user for 20 years or more. I switched after a routine update killed my computer dead. Cost me two days of my life on the phone with Bangalore to get it solved.

    So yes, I switched to Mac for business continuity reasons.

  6. I’m ready for a class action lawsuit !!!!!!!!!! My computer is used for WORK.. In the middle of a 2+ hour job, and the god damn mother fucker black-screens on me. Anybody know how much money is lost after two hours work goes down the god damn mother fucking drain?!?!?!? Not to mention, my job is on the god damn fucking line! This is not the first time, either! I’m god damn fucking fed up with Microsoft’s god damn fucking piece of bull-fuck shit! Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! Fuck those god damn mother fuckers!