“Black Screen of Death” Reports

Oh, wow – sometimes the power of social media, the blogs and the Internet can backfire. I guess in the meantime you have seen the claims by Prevx that approx. 80 Mio of PCs are affected by the Black Screen of Death problems supposedly caused by our November Security Updates. This caused (and still causes) a huge wave of reports about that and one could feel that there is a really big problem out there. On one of the blogs you see a collection of the articles about that: Latest Microsoft patches cause black screen of death, Microsoft looking into Windows 'black screen of death' problem.

Now, there are different worries for me: One is that the post by Prevx as well as the title of the above mentioned blog post state it as a fact that our Security Updates caused that. Additionally Prevx makes a statement about the supposed size of the problem – this statement is approximately as good a guess as you could do by taking any random number between 1 and 480’000’000 (the approx. hitrate on Microsoft Update). And finally – and this is the biggest concern to me – customers are now holding back the deployment of our Security Update because of this.

So, let’s get it straight: We have been looking into this problem (obviously). You can find the official statement quoted in the SeattlePI:

  • Microsoft is investigating reports that its latest release of security updates is resulting in system issues for some customers.

  • Based on our investigation so far we can say that we're not seeing this as an issue from our support organization.

  • The issues as described also do not match any known issues that have been documented in the security bulletins or KB articles.

  • As always, we encourage customers to review the security bulletin and related KB articles and test and deploy security updates.

  • If customers do encounter an issue with security updates, we encourage them to contact our Customer Service and Support group for no-charge assistance. Customers can contact CSS using the information at http://support.microsoft.com/security.

If we add some additional meat to this: Up to now, we have no evidence at all to validate the concerns. Currently we do not have any support volumes to either support the claims or validate the presence of a growing concern. Additionally, our investigation has shown no evidence at all that our security updates nor the Malicious Software Removal Tool nor the non-security updates make the changes as claimed by the Previx reports.

Looking at that, you should now make your risk assessment and decide which source you want to trust. For me, the ultimate source for information you should build your assessment on is neither Twitter nor your brother’s sister in law’s father's brother (unless he works for Microsoft’s security) but our website.

UPDATED WITH MSRC BLOG POST: http://blogs.technet.com/msrc/archive/2009/12/01/reports-of-issues-with-november-security-updates.aspx 


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Comments (6)
  1. Anonymous says:

    I am not saying that there is no Black Screen problem. I am saying Microsoft Update is not causing it. This is an important differentiation.

    What we know is that there are viruses which are causing the "Black Screen of Death" – mainly beacuse some access rights in the registries are changed. You should – however be able to boot from a installation media and go to the recovery mode. Honestly, it is very, very hard to help you from far but I defintiely understand your frustration.

    Where are you living (which country)? This might help me to help you where you have to get to.

    You can mail me if you want to roger.halbheer@microsoft.com

  2. Anonymous says:


  3. A says:

    This crap is ridiculous. I’ve been a mac avoid-er mainly because they don’t have a right mouse button. (I mean, come on!) But I think this clinches it. I can’t use my computer because of the black screen of death so I’m sitting here using my parent’s mac anyway.

    I haven’t installed anything on my computer recently except the microsoft update. Even if the update wasn’t the problem why should it be so easy for something to make my computer basically a paperweight? Even safemode doesn’t work.

    I’ve barely had this computer for a year. If I can’t find a fix in a few days, dude, I’m gettin a MAC.

  4. OweEng2 says:

    Hi rhalbh, I totally agree with you that it’s not windows update that’s causing it. Me and my friend has the same PC and same Anti-Virus but apparently he doesn’t update regularly unlike me. He also caught the "Black Screen of Death" but not me.

  5. H says:

    Of course Microsoft denies this saying it is due to some malware or virus infection , and of course they are going to deny it !!… imagine the lawsuits , and bad publicity ( not that they need any help in that area , they do quite well all by themselves ) if they openly admitted they cocked-up ! !

    I say "Bullsh*t" to Microsoft !…I've done 5 fresh re-installs of Windows Vista to factory default , which theoretically should have no infections . So somewhere when a fresh re-install logs onto Microsoft website and Microjerks start sending you the latest updates a dodgy update is sent in the mix that gives you 'T…he Black Screen Of Death' .

  6. H says:

    I've just ran a fix from a Security website I got from 'Computer World' website and hopefully that will resolve the matter , if not and I can't fix the problem by the weekend then come the weekend I will install Linux 'Ubuntu' Operating System' it can't do much worse…besides I know a guy who has been using Linux for over 5 years and he loves it and had no problems .

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