Software Crashes – Some Causes and Suggested Remedies
This page has been written in response to some of my clients who experience repeated crashes with software. The sequence in which these causes are described come in no particular order.
It summarises my experience over the course of the last 20 years.
Causes and Suggested Remedies
An under-powered computer is one that is running too slowly.
New computers are not normally under-powered. The author has no direct experience of second-hand computers, but a consideration of the underlying principles would indicate that there is some risk of second-hand computers being under-powered, this through a combination of one or more of:
- Processor too slow
- Insufficient RAM
- Hard disk too old – this is due to ongoing improvements in the technology of hard disks
If this has happened to you, the only realistic remedy is to buy a new computer; simply upgrading the second-hand computer is just buying more trouble.
A computer can become under-powered by having too many games and other programs loaded onto it. I have seen this with a client whose children were forever downloading games from the Internet. The remedy in this case was to
- Reload the computer
- Educate the children
See also the next point for some more information.
Operating System Becoming “Cluttered”
Even the most carefully used computer will slow down over the course of time. This is due to technical issues beyond the scope of this article. Generally speaking, computers in offices could do with being wiped and re-loaded about once a year. Computers in people’s homes will usually last about two years. In the case of my own computers, I tend to do this once every six months, with the record being just a single day.
The “remedy” in this case is to have a computer professional do it for you. They will then do the following to your computer:
- Take two verified backup copies of everything that is important to you on your computer
- Wipe absolutely everything from your computer
- Re-install your operating system
- Re-install all your programs – this is things like Word
- Copy your data back onto your computer
Some people avoid having their computers “serviced” like this for as long as possible. The outcome can be rather expensive, as I have had clients where I have needed to:
- use specialist data recovery techniques
- Install a new hard disk, and re-install everything
- Get a replacement computer
By way of general advice, if you are not sure that you need it, then don’t download it and don’t install it.
Infection by a Virus
Viruses can do things like stopping you accessing the Internet. If this has happened, then the only practical cure is to have your computer wiped and re-loaded – see the point above for more information on this.
If you can access the Internet, then find the site for your anti-virus software, and use its search and/or help facilities.
Hardware failures tend to catastrophic (i.e. everything stops) and so are easy to diagnose, or rather intermittent, in which case they can be very difficult to track down. The main symptom of intermittent hardware failures is erratic behaviour by everything that you do. (If it happens on just one program, then it is much more likely to be a fault within that program.) The remedy is to have your computer looked at by a local computer supplier.
Operating systems (“Windows” is an example of an operating system) are large and complex pieces of “software”. They include things called “drivers” – these are the things that “drive” your hardware. Without drivers
- Your screen would stay blank
- You could not access the Internet
- You mouse and keyboard would not work
Most operating systems will look after your drivers for you. If you think that any of your drivers might be faulty, download and install the latest versions of the drivers from the manufacturers’ web sites.
In terms of how often I have seen this issue, I would describe it as “rare”.
Software corruption (and here I am specifically excluding software that is faulty) can arise when something else goes wrong on your computer. The issues are technical, and so are beyond the scope of this article. By way of analogy, it is like baking a cake, and accidentally putting the sugar into the fuel tank of your car instead of the mixing bowl in the kitchen.
Software corruption usually affects only one program. While it is theoretically possible for a single corruption to affect two or more programs, I have never seen it.The remedy is to have your computer wiped and re-loaded – see the point on “corruption” above.
Pushing the Software Beyond its Limits
Well-written software will just keep working. If it has any limits of its own, it will warn you in advance. If you think that you might be pushing the limits, you could try obtaining the latest version, possibly as a trial, and see if that works any better.
If the same issue is caused by two completely separate programs, such as web browsers, then it is unlikely to be a software issue.
By way of experiment, I used Firefox to open about 50 tabs simultaneously, while keeping an eye on the system diagnostics. Firefox just kept running, and the system diagnostics showed that everything remained in the “extremely safe” zone.