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