Monday, January 15, 2007

Family IT BSOD Tip

Family not realize that you're serious about what the t-shirt says and still pegs you for IT help? The Smarter Half and I have thankfully narrowed our support list down to just our parents, the only folks that we don't mind helping. (Note that we still cringe... if they would just put as much care into their computer as they do their car...)

We've gotten rid of most of the problems by upgrading them to XP SP 2, turning on Auto-Updates, installing Norton Internet Security and turning on its automatic updates. Just in case, minidumps are enabled.

We still get the occasional weird one like my Dad started getting recently: BSODs at random intervals. He copied the BSOD screen word for word to read back to me but stopped after writing the hex digits associated with the STOP message. Now we have three choices here: we can play 20 questions while he struggles to find the part of the screen I want him to hear, I can ask him to open up the firewall so I can see his screen which is usually more hassle than its worth, or he can just send me the minidump file.

After I showed my Dad where the minidump was located, he attached it to an email and sent it off to me. A quick tour with WinDBG and I had my culprit: the drivers for his webcam. Another minute with Google and we had a solution.

Since the Norton/Windows auto-updates were enabled, BSODs were generally the only problems that turn up which can't wait for the next time we pack up the family and visit the grandparents, so today's hot tip: Turn on minidumps, download WinDBG, and take a read through Mark Russovich's presentation from 2006 Technet.

Same solution; less headache.


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