MS Black Screen of Death Causes Stir, Issue Unresolved

Dennis Faas's picture

Since its November 10 security update, reports suggest Microsoft has received more complaints about the Black Screen of Death, than ever before. One security firm is claiming that the update has caused the issue, while Microsoft asserts that the problem is neither rampant nor is it the result of the November 10 patch.

The dreaded "blacK Screen of Death", otherwise known as KSoD, occurs when a user starts their computer but receives only a black screen rather than their desktop. It means that somewhere during startup process the operating system failed to load properly.  The problem is obviously frustrating and can be a crisis for any small or large business concerned about productivity.

PrevX Points to MS Security Update

Initially, British security company PrevX claimed that Microsoft's last security update, released on November 10, had caused the number of KSoDs to rise. The company has identified a registry problem that could be caused by malicious software. In a statement, PrevX said:

"The issue appears to be related to a characteristic of the Windows Registry related to the storage of string data. In parsing the Shell value in the registry, Windows requires a null terminated "REG_SZ" string. However, if malware or indeed any other program modifies the shell entry to not include null terminating characters, the shell will no longer load properly, resulting in the infamous Black Screen with the PC showing only the My Computer folder." (Source:

Microsoft Attacks PrevX, KSoDs Run Free

Microsoft's response thus far it hasn't been to attack the Black Screen of Death issue, but PrevX's claim that the problem is related to Microsoft's own November 10 update.

In a statement the software company shot back, "We've conducted a comprehensive review of the November Security Updates, the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool, and the non-security updates we released through Windows Update in November. That investigation has shown that none of these updates make any changes to the permissions in the registry. Thus, we don't believe the updates are related to the 'black screen' behavior described in these reports." (Source:

Industry insiders, such as BetaNews' Joe Wilcox, say Microsoft's approach to the issue is troubling. "Microsoft's response to the so-called 'Black Screen of Death' problem is a throwback to an older and equally ineffective strategy -- what I have called 'security by PR,'" Wilcox said. "That simply is the wrong approach to quality customer service or instilling users with confidence about using Windows." (Source:

In response to the pressure from Redmond, PrevX has backed off the issue and now says "we have been able to exonerate these patches from being a contributory factor."

So, what's the problem with Windows? We don't yet know, but we sure as heck have been witness to quite the soap opera thus far.

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