10 reasons why PCs crash U must Know - Part 1

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Fatal error: the system has become unstable or is busy," it says. "Enter to return to Windows or press Control-Alt-Delete to restart your computer. If you do this you will lose any unsaved information in all open applications."

You have just been struck by the Blue Screen of Death. Anyone who uses Mcft Windows will be familiar with this. What can you do? More importantly, how can you prevent it happening?


1 Hardware conflict

The number one reason why Windows crashes is hardware conflict. Each hardware device communicates to other devices through an interrupt request channel (IRQ). These are supposed to be unique for each device.

For example, a printer usually connects internally on IRQ 7. The keyboard usually uses IRQ 1 and the floppy disk drive IRQ 6. Each device will try to hog a single IRQ for itself.

If there are a lot of devices, or if they are not installed properly, two of them may end up sharing the same IRQ number. When the user tries to use both devices at the same time, a crash can happen. The way to check if your computer has a hardware conflict is through the following route:

* Start-Settings-Control Panel-System-Device Manager.

Often if a device has a problem a yellow '!' appears next to its description in the Device Manager. Highlight Computer (in the Device Manager) and press Properties to see the IRQ numbers used by your computer. If the IRQ number appears twice, two devices may be using it. Sometimes a device might share an IRQ with something described as 'IRQ holder for PCI steering'. This can be ignored. The best way to fix this problem is to remove the problem device and reinstall it. Sometimes you may have to find more recent drivers on the internet to make the device function properly. A good resource is www.driverguide.com. If the device is a soundcard, or a modem, it can often be fixed by moving it to a different slot on the motherboard (be careful about opening your computer, as you may void the warranty). When working inside a computer you should switch it off, unplug the mains lead and touch an unpainted metal surface to discharge any static electricity. To be fair to Mcft, the problem with IRQ numbers is not of its making. It is a legacy problem going back to the first PC designs using the IBM 8086 chip. Initially there were only eight IRQs. Today there are 16 IRQs in a PC. It is easy to run out of them. There are plans to increase the number of IRQs in future designs.

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Michael Motajo

Developer

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