Decoding STOP Errors

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Call me Mak or K, Mod Emeritus
Decoding STOP Errors


STOP errors may look cryptic, but they often contain detailed information about the underlying cause of the problem that can enable you to diagnose and repair the condition that's causing your system to fail. STOP errors may appear under any of the following circumstances:

* During Windows Setup* This type of STOP error is almost always caused by a faulty device driver, a piece of hardware that is in the process of failing, or an incompatible system BIOS. You may see a STOP error during Windows Setup if you attempt a clean install on a system that uses a high-speed disk controller whose drivers are not included with the Windows XP CD. To avoid encountering this STOP error, which occurs when Windows is suddenly unable to access the disk containing temporary Setup files, you must press F6 when prompted at the beginning of Setup and provide the correct drivers.
* At startup* If you see a STOP message during startup on a system where Windows XP previously ran properly, the cause of the error is usually an incompatible service or device driver. If you recently installed a new software application or a new device, that is the most likely culprit.
* While Windows is running* This kind of STOP error can be caused by drivers, services, or defective hardware and can be difficult to diagnose. The text of the STOP error usually provides important clues.

Troubleshooting: Your computer hangs on startup.

What should you do if your computer powers up properly but Windows hangs during startup? Find the Windows CD, use it to start your computer, and start the Recovery Console. To identify the driver or system file that may be responsible for the problem, modify Boot.ini. Add the /Noguiboot and /Sos switches, as explained in "Modifying Boot.ini," page 74. After restarting your computer, you'll see a listing for each driver and service as it loads. The last one in the list is the most likely culprit. You can then use Recovery Console's stripped-down command-line environment to disable a rogue service or replace a corrupted file.

How to Read a STOP Error

The exact text of a STOP error varies, according to what caused the error. But the format is predictable.

You can gather important information from the following message details:

* Symbolic error name* This is the message that the error returned to the operating system. It corresponds to the STOP error number that appears at the bottom of the screen. In this example, the symbolic error name is DRIVER_IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL.
* Troubleshooting recommendations* This generic text applies to all STOP errors of the specified type. Depending on the error number, you may be told to check available disk space, uninstall a piece of hardware, or remove or update recently installed drivers or software.
* * ** * * Error number and parameters* Developers call this section bugcheck information. The text following the word STOP includes the error number (in hexadecimal notation, as indicated by the 0x at the beginning of the code) and up to four parameters that are specific to the error type.
* Driver information* In some (but not all) STOP errors, this line lists the name of the driver associated with the error. If a file name appears here, check to see if the driver is digitally signed. If necessary, you can use Recovery Console or start Windows in Safe Mode to remove or roll back the driver.

Windows Vista Specific:

Dealing with Stop Errors

If Windows has ever suddenly shut down, you've probably experienced that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. When Windows Vista encounters a serious problem that makes it impossible for the operating system to continue running, it shuts down immediately and displays an ominous text message whose technical details begin with the word STOP in capital letters. Because a Stop error typically appears in white letters on a blue background, this type of message is often referred to as a blue screen error or the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD). When a Stop error appears, it means that there is a serious problem that demands your immediate attention.
Windows Vista includes a variety of information sources and debugging tools that you can use to identify the cause of Stop errors. Many of the tools are intended for use by developers with professional debugging tools. These topics are covered in more detail in Windows Vista Resource Kit (Microsoft Press). If you know where to look, however, you can learn a lot from these error messages, and in many cases you can recover completely by using standard troubleshooting techniques.

Customizing How Windows Handles Stop Errors

When Windows encounters a serious error that forces it to stop running, it takes the following actions:
1.The system displays a Stop message.
2.Based on the preferences defined for the current Windows installation, the system writes debugging information to the page file. When the computer restarts, this information is saved as a crash dump file, which can be used to debug the specific cause of the error.
3.Again based on the current preferences, the system either pauses with the Stop message on the screen or restarts when the crash dump information has been saved.
You can customize two crucial aspects of this process by defining the size of the crash dump files and specifying whether you want Windows to restart automatically after a Stop message appears. By default, Windows automatically restarts after a Stop message. That's the preferred strategy in response to a random, isolated Stop error. But if you're experiencing chronic Stop errors, you might have more troubleshooting success by reconfiguring Windows to halt at the Stop message and wait for you to manually restart the system. To make this change, follow these steps:
  • 1.Open Control Panel, click System And Maintenance, click System, and then click Advanced System Settings.
    2.Respond to the UAC prompt.
    3.In the System Properties dialog box, click the Advanced tab.
    4.Under Startup And Recovery, click Settings. The following dialog box appears:
    5. Clear the Automatically Restart check box and click OK.

From the same dialog box, you can also define the settings for crash dump files. By default, Windows saves a kernel memory dump. This option includes memory allocated to kernel-model drivers and programs, which are most likely to cause Stop errors. Because it does not include unallocated memory or memory allocated to user-mode programs, it will usually be smaller in size than the amount of RAM on your system. The exact size varies, but in general you can expect the file to be approximately one-third the size of installed physical RAM. The crash files are stored in %SystemRoot% using the file name Memory.dmp.
If disk space is plentiful, consider setting the system to store a complete memory dump. This option saves the entire contents of physical memory; as a result, it will be equal in size to your installed RAM.
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