Green screen of death on an Insider build of Windows 10

Windows 10’s April 2019 Update contains a change that causes some PC games to crash Windows with a blue screen of death. Not all games have fixed the problem, but Microsoft has confirmed it’s releasing the update anyway.

Okay, let’s be fair here: Most affected PC games have fixed the problem and won’t freeze your system. But some will, and we don’t know which. This change feels like a betrayal of Microsoft’s commitment to backward compatibility. It’s especially galling considering Windows 10 users have no way to opt out of these updates if they play an affected game.

Update: Microsoft just announced it will abandon Windows 10’s forced updates and give more control to PC users!

Why Fortnite (and More) Started Crashing Windows

In development builds of Windows 10’s April 2019 Update—also known as 19H1—some anti-cheat programs required by games cause Windows to crash with a green screen of death, also known as a GSOD. Green screens of death are just how traditional blue screens of death (BSODs) appear on Insider builds, so you will see a blue screen of death if you encounter this bug once Windows 10’s April 2019 Update is stable.

The most popular software affected was the BattlEye anti-cheat software used in Fortnite, which caused GSODs and made Fortnite unplayable on development builds of Windows 10. It’s not just that the game was unplayable—when you launched Fortnite, Windows would freeze.

To protect Windows Insiders from system freezes, Microsoft put an “upgrade block” in place that prevented Windows Insiders with games like Fortnite installed from installing the latest operating system builds.

On March 28, Microsoft wrote: “Many games that use anti-cheat software have released fixes for the issue causing PCs to bugcheck (GSOD).” Microsoft also said it was lifting the upgrade block. But wait: Microsoft didn’t say all games had fixed the issue.

Microsoft Confirms It: Some Games Will Cause BSODs

Here’s the problem: An operating system-level change resulted in software freezing the operating system. But Microsoft hasn’t fixed this at the operating system level. Instead, it’s just expecting game developers to fix their anti-cheat software. That means that, if you play a game that hasn’t yet been patched, Windows will suddenly freeze and bring down your entire operating system.

This isn’t just our speculation. Microsoft’s Brandon LeBlanc, senior program manager on the Windows Insider Program Team, confirmed that affected games will continue to freeze the Windows operating system on Twitter:

In other words, your Windows 10 PC will install the latest software even if you have an affected game installed, and your PC will start blue screening when you play the game. But it’s not Microsoft’s fault! Microsoft says third parties are responsible and you should bug them for a fix.

Microsoft is clearly stuck between a rock and a hard place here. Anti-cheat programs were probably doing some stupid things with the Windows kernel, and stopping it likely makes Windows 10 better and more secure. But Microsoft knows this change will break existing software, and none of those matters to the gamer who suddenly finds their operating system blue-screening after Windows 10 decides to automatically install an update.

As Rafael Rivera put it in the Twitter discussion: “Users won’t know it’s the game’s fault. Bringing down the system used to be a big no-no at Microsoft.”

RELATED: Everything New in Windows 10's May 2019 Update, Available Now

Chris Hoffman Chris Hoffman
Chris Hoffman is Editor in Chief of How-To Geek. He's written about technology for nearly a decade and was a PCWorld columnist for two years. Chris has written for The New York Times, been interviewed as a technology expert on TV stations like Miami's NBC 6, and had his work covered by news outlets like the BBC. Since 2011, Chris has written over 2,000 articles that have been read more than 500 million times---and that's just here at How-To Geek.
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