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02 December 2009, 16:20

Microsoft updates not responsible for "Black Screen of Death"

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Microsoft has denied UK anti-virus vendor Prevx claim that the November security updates cause problems on Windows computers. Prevx originally reported that some users of Windows 7, Vista, XP, NT, 2000, Server 2003 and Server 2008 only see a "Black Screen of Death" after logging in – which is not to be confused with the well-known Blue Screen of Death (BSOD). The exact appearance of this "Black Screen of Death" remains unclear. Our editorial team was not been able to reproduce the flaw, and Prevx has not yet responded to a screen shot request by The H's associates at heise Security.

According to the description on the vendor's blog, the previously unknown phenomenon was said to produce only a black screen with one open "My Computer Explorer" window, following a user log in. Prevx said that the problem was caused by some changes the patches made to the registry access rights, and released a tool to supposedly fix the problem.

In a statement, Microsoft said that none of the November updates made any changes to the registry and therefore, the black screen described is not caused by Microsoft. While the Redmond developers don't explicitly mention it, the statement leaves the impression that they also haven't been able to reproduce the "Black Screen of Death".

Prevx, on the other hand, claimed in its blog that these particular "black screens" have already occurred for about 10 years and are a topic discussed in numerous forums. Most users are likely to relate the term "black screen" to a crash during booting or start up, which is generally caused by driver problems.

In a new blog post, Prevx has since conceded that the black screens are not caused by the November updates and has apologised to Microsoft about the allegations.

The actual culprits are now reported to be non null-terminating strings in the registry which prevent Windows from starting the shell and opening the usual desktop. According to Prevx, this might be due to the registry keys being modified by malware or by other programs.


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