The blue screen of death? Where to now?

blue screen of deathDan emailed us this week asking if the AOA crowd knew of a good place in the Capital Region to take a computer that needs some help. Anyone have good experiences?

Dan has a Windows machine, but we'd love to hear about good places for Macs, too (aside from the Apple Store, of course).

photo: Flickr user KrAzY KorY


I had a computer meltdown three years ago, and I took it to the Geek Squad at Best Buy for help. When they called me back with its prognosis, they said I could fix it by taking some gasoline and a match to it.

In short, I don't know how their work rates, but their customer service is pretty entertaining.

Gig on Central Ave used to be pretty good. I have not used them in a few years though. Might want to check with Libertek on Western ave too.

Are there any out-of-work AOAers that would take something like this on? With so many out-of-work techies out there, it seems like the most community-minded thing to do would be to offer it to someone knowledgeable yet unemployed.

Some free IT advice:

If you can't even get to the Windows desktop, first thing to try is to boot to your Windows setup disk. Put the cd into your computer, restart and a prompt will come up saying "Push any key to boot to cd..." Push any key. (Note: If you don't get that message, you may be able to hit F12 to go to a boot menu, then choose CD... if that doesn't work, go into your setup , usu ally by pushing F2, and change the boot device order to put your cd-rom drive before the hard drive)

Once you get to a Windows setup menu, hit enter as if you're installing a new version of Windows. Push F8 to get by the legal mumbo jumbo. And when it scans for previous versions of Windows, choose your current installation and hit R. It will reinstall the OS files and hopefully fix the problem. You may have to reinstall some programs you previously had installed, but it's better than losing everything.

If you get error messages doing the above, chances are the hard drive is bad. Or worse. But what I wrote above is easy to do (even though it sounds complicated) and could save you a lot of money getting a diagnostic checkup.

Oh, and if you CAN get to your Windows desktop and you get the BSOD after a while, go to start > run and type sfc /scannow. You'll have to put your windows disk in first. It will check for corrupt copies of Windows files and replace them with the original ones on the disk.

@Matt: needless to say, you should backup your precious data before doing all of the above. If your name is Pantaloons, make sure to save your pictures of Patrick Swayze as well.

"needless to say, you should backup your precious data before doing all of the above."

You should already have a backup of everything! ;-)

What I posted won't wipe out the entire hard drive anyway, and chances are if you're getting a BSOD you can't get to the OS to back up your files. The only option then would be to get an external enclosure, pull out your hard drive, and attach it to another computer and copy over the files.

All what I posted will do is reinstall the Windows OS files.

The Geek Squad charges a flat $130 to get your PC looked at (in home). This includes absolutely zero ameliorative work.

Craigslist often has more competitive offers for freelancers.

Two suggestions:

1. Liberteks on Western Ave. is pretty decent.

2. However, as Alex said upthread, a better bet would be Craigslist; I got a guy from there who got my Linux box (older model,) to work wirelessly for $50.

Good luck!

They are the auto mechanics of computer repair. They try to sell you services you don't need. I had my video card blow, and the guy on the phone told me "it's impossible to always find the cause of the crash, so we'll have to do a complete system restore and an operating system re-install." A friend came over and found the problem in about 5 minutes.

I've always had good experiences with Solutions By Design in Delmar.

It looks like Lark Computers is in the process of moving back to their namesake Lark Street. I don't have any experience with them, but I have a feeling they'll be a welcome addition to the neighborhood and alternative to Crossgates.

And most "out-of-work techies" are probably developers and programmers. That's like asking a race car driver to be your auto mechanic. Yeah, maybe they know how to do it, but it's not really their thing.

Thanks for the suggestions, everybody. We're actually dealing with a nasty virus more than the BSOD, which is why we're looking for a pro.

I took my laptop to Computer Renaissance (689-0068) in Delaware Plaza on Delaware Ave. and was very happy with the service. It was about $25 or so just to have them look at it. I had it back in less than a week.

My friend's computer had a virus and he picked up the computer and had it back to her the next day. A local company, they also sell computers and parts.

EdXeno: It's better than asking your mechanic to be your race car driver.

I'll second Computer Renaissance; I've never used them for diagnostics, but I picked up lots of parts for the Frankenputer my desktop has become, and the staff know their AGP from their PCI express.

For terrific Mac service you can do no better than Castle Computers. 892 Troy Schenectady Rd, Latham

I've had them repair and upgrade several Macs of mine and they do great work, reasonably priced.

I do work like this on the side. I have over 10 years in the IT industry. My services include drive removal, backup rebuilding (from your media) or mine if you have a windows sticker, and data restoration.

As long as you let me do it on my couch on my schedule (understanding that things come up), I beat all the big players prices.

I have fair hourly rates if you are bound by time or can't deliver.

I'm not out of work, so if someone who is needs the gig, I say go for it. My new domain is up and running here.

Feel free to delete if this is to spamish.

How do you backup your content without also backing up any potential viruses? I just got an external harddrive, but I'm not sure how to use it.

Poncho, viruses typically don't infect things like mp3s, pictures, documents, etc. Just back up the data directories but not "Program Files" or the Windows directory and on a fresh install of Windows you'd be fine.

Files may, however, find their way into directories that pictures, etc. are in. So you really just have to be careful what files you explicitly open. Don't open bat, vbs, exe, etc. files that you don't know what they are.

I think Castle Computers on rt 7 closed a few months ago?! It's vacant there at least it was last time I went by. Did they move?

I don't own a mac, so it's not real important, but are there any mac places left if Castle is gone?

I would go to a public library and google your problem. Figure out what the peeps on the internet have to say. That is the first thing that the geeks at RPI do when there is a computer problem or even if they want to learn how to do something

@Poncho I pull the drive if the machine is bad or boot off a linux live cd if the machine is good. Copy from there to my server and run a virus scan on the server. Neither the backup environment or the server can run windows executables. This is all on a separate network as to no infect anything else on my network.

@kmg - RPI has an Apple service center as part of their campus computer store. I think they are open to the public. From what I hear, they are very reasonable and will allow you to source parts if you can beat the price on new parts, etc.

hi Dan...

I can help. I am a professional systems administrator and I fix computers as a side job.

My rates are reasonable. I'll even take a look for free and let you know what I think you need, then you can decide what you want to do.

My email is and my number is 444-4064. Contact me and we can work something out and get you fixed up ASAP. :) -Scott

My husband is a techie who fixes computers and such. or 518-320-8906. Small business owner in Troy, what else could you ask for?

The important thing to do when you get the blue screen of death is don't panic and don't call the geek squad. What causes the majority of computer problems is all the stuff that comes into your machine from surfing the web. We are talking viruses, spyware, adware and trojan horse viruses that can send your new speedy computer back to the stone age. Keeping up with scans and cleaning out the compuiter's registry with programs such as regclean help keep away blue screens. Also, Microsoft Windows degrades over time and you can repair the program by using your original windows disk and run repair installation. Outside of the geek squad our local computer people are good and I have had personally good experiences with

Capital Systems Integration ( is the way to go! They are on Vatrano Road in Albay. Daniel and Graham are computer geniuses! They are super friendly and affordable too. I would never go anywhere else.

Before you go spending your money, download Spybot-Search and Destroy. It's free, and has worked in every instance of that virus I've ever come across.

Update it, then go.
Also Free, Is CCleaner, which highly recommend, along with MalwareBytes, again, free.
Mcafee, or Norton, should be uninstalled (using CCleaner, and don't forget to run the reg check afterwards) and go with the free home version of AVAST .
They are expensive bloatware that slow your machine down just as much as a virus would.
In fact, Norton was fined $7mil for WRITING viruses.

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