What kind of software do you have on all your machines? Do you have the same software on each machine? Does it happen when you use a certain program?
What Is a Minidump?
A minidump is a file containing the most important parts of a crashed application. It is written on the users machine and then the customer can submit it to the developer. The developer can load the dump to help determine the cause of the crash and develop a fix.
Since the early days of Windows NT, the Dr. Watson program has been able to generate crash dump files, denoted with the .dmp extension. However, they were not as useful as they should have been because of two problems:
They were huge. The dump of an application included every byte of the entire process space, so a crash in something simple like Notepad would be several megabytes in size, and a crash in something like Word can be many hundreds of megabytes. The files were just too big to send by e-mail or FTP.
Their content was not necessarily useful. Dr. Watson was, in fact, a just-in-time (JIT) debugger, and it is difficult for a debugger to get the full path to a loaded module. Full debuggers such as the Visual Studio debugger complete a number of steps to get the paths, but Dr. Watson did not. This usually resulted in unhelpful module names such as MOD0000 and so on.
Minidumps were designed to fix these problems in a number of ways:
Instead of saving the entire process space, only certain sections are saved. There is no point in saving copies of modules such as Kernel32.dll; if the version number is included, it is easy to get a copy from a Windows CD. The actual memory heap of the application is by default not saved in a minidump; it is not required to debug a surprisingly high percentage of crashes. You can save the heap if you need to, however.
The minidump save code works to get accurate and full information for modules, including their names, paths, version information, and internal timestamps.
The minidump save code also gets the list of threads, their contexts (that is, register sets), and the memory behind their stacks.
The whole file is compressed, further reducing its size. A minidump for Notepad is around 6K on Windows XP, almost 300 times smaller than the previous crash dump of the same process.
Note Kernel-mode minidumps, which are generated by Windows XP after a computer stops responding, also exist, but this article discusses more common user-mode minidumps