Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation can cause some old laptops with an HDD to crash

Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation can cause some old laptops with an HDD to crash

Computers can be affected by all sorts of weird issues, but this one might be one of the weirdest we’ve ever seen. Microsoft’s Raymond Chen recently revealed in a blog post that playing the music video for the 1989 song Rhythm Nation by Janet Jackson caused some laptops to crash back in the days of Windows XP. As Chen explains, the report originally came from a specific (unnamed) computer manufacturer, but then others reported it too, and eventually, it was found that the song didn’t just crash the laptop it was playing on. Nearby laptops could crash as well if the song was playing next to it.


As it turns out, a part of the music video emitted a very specific frequency that happened to align with one of the natural resonant frequencies in a 5400rpm hard drive model that was being used in those laptops. Manufacturers worked around this by applying a filter to the audio pipeline that would remove potentially dangerous frequencies while playing audio, which prevented damage to the computer.

There’s a good chance that this audio filter has been removed in the years since, considering most laptops now ship with SSDs or newer HDD models, but presumably, those old laptops can still crash of the song is played near them.

While it may sound silly, the issue is serious enough that this bug has already been added to the CVE (Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures) database maintained by the MITRE Corporation, which is backed by the Department of Homeland Security and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in the US. After all, this could cause data loss on old computers, and government agencies aren’t known for running the newest hardware, so there’s a chance a bug like this could pose a serious threat.

Unfortunately, neither the Microsoft blog post nor the CVE listing specifies what hard drive model is affected. It’s only said that it has 5400rpm and that it was shipped in laptops around 2005. For the majority of consumers, who should have newer laptops, it’s safe to say listening to Rhythm Nation won’t be a problem – depending on your music taste, of course.

Source: Microsoft

About author

João Carrasqueira
João Carrasqueira

Editor at XDA Computing. I've been covering the world of technology since 2018, but I've loved the field for a lot longer. And I have a weird affinity for Nintendo videogames, which I'm always happy to talk about.

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