When critics spend time explaining why Windows isn't as great a platform as Microsoft claims, they usually point to the Blue Screen of Death. When that hits, something serious has occurred, leading to major problems for the user. It has plagued Microsoft in the past and it continues to haunt the company today.
But now, there's a new threat in the world of Windows, and this one might be as formidable: the Black Screen of Death. Microsoft originally said it had received reports that the issue was affecting computers and it planned to investigate. But in a statement released late Dec. 1, Microsoft said it had not found any instance of its updates negatively affecting computers. The company did not say whether or not it would address the issue further, or give a timetable.
Either way, let's take a look at why the Black Screen of Death is cause for serious concern for consumers and the enterprise alike.
1. It affects all Windows installations
Those who operate older versions of Windows might think that they won't be affected by the Black Screen of Death, but, unfortunately, they're wrong. The issue affects just about everyone using a Windows PC today, which means millions of users are potentially in danger.
2. The system is crippled
When the Black Screen of Death strikes, users lose all ability to control Windows. According to Prevx, a security company that has been monitoring the outbreak, users experiencing the problem lose the taskbar, sidebar, system tray and desktop. In other words, users won't be able to do anything with their systems when trouble strikes.
3. Some fixes don't even work
Prevx currently has a fix on its site to help those impacted by the Black Screen of Death. But after further investigation, the security company found that there are several causes, so its solution will not work for everyone. Worst of all, there's no easy way to know what the direct cause is, making fixing it even more difficult.
4. It might come from Microsoft
Prevx has done significant research to determine what the cause of the latest outbreak of Black Screen of Death came from. According to the company, some Black Screen of Death issues may possibly be caused by installing two security updates from Microsoft. For its part, Microsoft contends that its updates haven't caused any issues. Regardless, Microsoft is on shaky ground when it comes to security. To potentially cause a problem through a software update does not instill confidence.
5. Microsoft is still moving slowly
Although Microsoft said it investigated the problem, there's currently no indication that a fix to the Black Screen of Death will be coming any time soon. The longer it takes for Microsoft to address the problem, the more cause for concern there will be. We can also probably expect to see more people affected in that time. Microsoft needs to do something soon.
6. It's more widespread than you think
Although news of the Black Screen of Death is still fresh, the issue is affecting a slew of Windows users. Due to the fact that it can potentially impact just about every Windows PC in operation today, there are millions of users that could potentially see the deadly black screen. Prevx wrote on its site the week of Nov. 23 that it found millions of Google results relating to the Black Screen of Death with several results featuring pleas for help from Windows users.
7. Trust is a key component in software security
Without trust, software security means nothing. Now that some users believe that the latest cause of the Black Screen of Death is downloading a Windows update, what are the chances that they will fully trust any other update Microsoft pushes to their systems? PC users don't like losing all their content over something they didn't do. They might stop downloading any Microsoft updates. The software giant needs to address this issue as soon as possible-especially if it didn't cause it.
8. The domino effect
Following that, it's important to note that a domino effect could result from the Black Screen of Death. If users decide to not download patches from Microsoft until they know that they're safe, it will not only make their systems less secure, but it could also impact the entire Windows ecosystem. Each Windows PC's security relies upon the security of other PCs to some extent. If users decide against patching Windows, their computers will be unsafe, leading to an easier transfer of malicious files from one computer to another.
9. Nontechnical users are in deep trouble
According to Prevx, nontechnical users who attempt to repair their systems will have a difficult time of it. Although the company's fix is somewhat straightforward, it's not so simple for those less advanced users. Plus, if that doesn't fix the problem, the vast majority of nontechnical users will likely be lost.
10. The future is in doubt
At the moment, we just don't know what to expect from the Black Screen of Death. Will it simply go away after Microsoft addresses the problem or will it continue to plague Windows PCs? For now, we do know that it can easily impact computers, more and more users are being affected each day, and Microsoft has yet to release a fix. It's a scary time.
Editor's note: This article was written before Prevx withdrew its statement claiming that recent Microsoft security patches were a contributing cause to the so-called "Black Screen of Death" incidents that resulted in users losing control of their Windows desktops. This article was also updated to reflect Microsoft's statement that it's updates were not causing the condition.