What is a Red Screen of Death?

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  • Written By: Patti Kate
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Images By: Cocreatr, Monkey Business
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2019
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The Red Screen of Death (RSoD) is typically a reference to an occurrence on the computer screen while using two common operating systems. The operating systems that are typically affected by this occurrence are Windows XP® and Windows Vista®. When affected by this error message, a computer may be unable to function normally. During RSoD, the screen will appear red and show a message that states there is a problem. Certain video game consoles have also been plagued with this troublesome glitch.

Fatal errors occur while using an operating system such as Windows®, to alert the user to a potentially harmful situation. The problem may involve the hard drive or other components within the system. Sometimes this happens when a computer is infected with a virus, but there are numerous factors that may cause an error message such as the red screen of death. In the past, there have been similar warnings and fatal errors, one being the blue screen of death.


In many cases, the computer user is at risk of losing crucial files and data while using a program at the time of a fatal error occurrence. Just prior to viewing the red screen of death message, the operating system may shut down completely and reboot. This may be due to issues regarding software that has been downloaded on the operating system, among other causes. The computer's registry system may also be corrupted in some cases of red screen occurrences. Issues with certain internal or external components and hardware have also been known to instigate the this occurrence.

Microsoft® has a special device called a Windows® recovery tool that may help the user correct the problem and get a computer in working order again. This does not always eradicate any bugs in the system, however, and in some situations, the computer may need to be checked out by a professional. Often, problems related to the red screen of death may be rectified by reconstructing the computer's boot loading system.

In addition to computers facing destruction from this error message, computer consoles may also be affected. The Sony PlayStation® is one such video game system that also has been affected by this so-called death screen. When this occurs, the consequences may be more significant and cause irreparable damage. Some cases of the red screen of death in the Sony PlayStation® will disable function completely, while errors may cause the system to be unable to read the game disc. These systematic errors may also be present in the Sony PlayStation 2®.


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