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What Is a Bug Check?

By M. Haskins
Updated May 16, 2024
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A bug check, or bugcheck, is a computer term used to describe an action performed by an operating system (OS), usually a Microsoft Windows OS, when it encounters a very serious software or hardware problem. The OS halts all running processes, and either restarts the computer or displays a bug check screen with technical information about what caused the problem. Problems that cause this action are often serious enough that they can result in hardware failure, or extensive corruption of data, and the bug check is done to protect the computer system. Common problems that cause this computer action are incompatible or faulty hardware, like a damaged RAM memory unit or motherboard, hardware that is improperly connected inside the computer, or the installation of the wrong drivers. Other terms commonly used for this computer action are fatal system error, system crash, kernel error, and blue screen of death, so named because of the color of the screen displayed.

The screen that is sometimes displayed in connection with a bug check can provide information about how to resolve the issue. It often also provides a code. This code can be used as a reference by the computer user when attempting to locate the source of the problem and resolve it. Lists of such codes and explanations of their associated errors are available online and in computer documentation, such as a computer manual.

Detailed technical information about what causes a specific bug check is sometimes also provided by the OS in a so-called crash dump file, and can be accessed by the user to identify the problem and fix it. A computer user can also attempt to remedy the cause of a bug check by checking that all hardware is compatible with the OS, that the latest drivers for that hardware are installed, and that the BIOS, network cards, and SCSI controller are up to date. Using a so-called debugger, or a registry cleaner, can also help.

In cases where the bug check recurs and the cause of the problem cannot be located, it is advisable to contact a computer professional or repair facility. Continued use of the affected computer can cause hardware damage and data loss. The term bug check is most commonly used for the Windows OS, but similar actions are also performed by other operating systems, including UNIX and the Mac OS X. Kernel panic is the term used for this action when performed by a UNIX or UNIX-like OS.

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Discussion Comments
By Euroxati — On Nov 05, 2014

Speaking of bug checks and computer crashes, reading this article makes me wonder if more than often, computer developers and manufacturers have no idea what they're doing when they develop a computer, or they try to settle for second best.

Either that, or they're trying to be cheap and save money by cutting corners on hardware. Unfortunately though, by doing this, it leaves the hardware much more weaker than it should be, and also prone to crashes, bugs and viruses.

In fact, this reminds me of an experience that I had at Best Buy quite a while back. When my motherboard had crashed, I went there with my parents, and asked one of the managers for help.

What he told me was actually pretty interesting. The manager said that nowadays, with a major increase in demand of new laptops and products, not to mention that in a few years, the newest hardware will become completely outdated, they have to cut corners.

In other words, many laptop products are built in a way, in which no matter how well you take care of them, they will die eventually, because they're not built very strong. Just my thoughts, but perhaps this is one of the reasons why some computers are so vulnerable to bugs, crashes, and even glitches.

By Viranty — On Nov 04, 2014

Reading this article reminds me of the infamous "blue screen of death", something that you constantly hear people complain about when people are having hardware issues.

While it's true that it can be very frustrating to deal with that infamous screen, on the other hand, it can be very helpful as well.

After all, unless your computer gives you some indication that it isn't working properly, then how will you ever know, unless it's blatantly obvious?

Not only does the blue screen of death help you to diagnosis your problem, but even doing some research online can also help you learn how to fix this issue.

Also, based on my experience, one of the best way to deal with the blue screen of death is to do a system restore, and rollback your computer.

By RoyalSpyder — On Nov 04, 2014

A bug check can definitely be a college student's worst nightmare, that's for sure. From my perspective, the thing that makes computer problems so hard to deal with for college students, is the fact that they don't have enough money to begin with (since they normally use their parents to support them), and further adding onto that, they are usually very busy, and because of this, they don't have a lot of time to deal with hardware issues. How does this relate to the article? I have quite a funny story to share.

A few years ago during my years at college, I bought myself a new laptop, which actually worked pretty well. However, like with many forms of hardware, problems quickly began to arise, and to make matter worse, I ended up getting a virus on my computer. Even though I was able to get it off, my computer went through an insane bug check, which lasted for as long as four hours. Yeah, it was pretty insane. My reaction to the whole situation is/was very similar to the woman above, who looks very frustrated at her computer. Ha ha.

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