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Troubleshooting Stop Messages : Stop Message Overview - Identifying the Stop Error, Finding Troubleshooting Information

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Stop errors occur only when a problem cannot be handled by using the higher-level error-handling mechanisms in Windows Vista. Normally, when an error occurs in an application, the application interprets the error message and provides detailed information to the system administrator. However, Stop errors are handled by the kernel, and Windows Vista is only able to display basic information about the error, write the contents of memory to the disk (if memory dumps are enabled), and halt the system.

As a result of the minimal information provided in a Stop message, and the fact that the operating system stops all processing, Stop errors can be difficult to troubleshoot. Fortunately, they tend to occur very rarely. When they do occur, they are almost always caused by driver problems, hardware problems, or file inconsistencies.

Identifying the Stop Error

Many different types of Stop error occur. Each has its own possible causes and requires a unique troubleshooting process. Therefore, the first step in troubleshooting a Stop error is to identify the Stop error. You need the following information about the Stop error to begin troubleshooting:

  • Stop error number This number uniquely identifies the Stop error.

  • Stop error parameters These parameters provide additional information about the Stop error. Their meaning is specific to the Stop error number.

  • Driver information When available, the driver information identifies the most likely source of the problem. Not all Stop errors are caused by drivers, however.

This information is often displayed as part of the Stop message. If possible, write it down to use as a reference during the troubleshooting process. If the operating system restarts before you can write down the information, you can often retrieve the information from the System log in Event Viewer. For more information, see “Stop Errors Recorded in the System Log” later in this chapter.

If you are unable to gather the Stop error number from the Stop message and the System log, you can retrieve it from a memory dump file. By default, Windows Vista is configured to create a memory dump whenever a Stop error occurs. If no memory dump file was created, configure the system to create a memory dump file. Then, if the Stop error reoccurs, you will be able to extract the necessary information from the memory dump file..

Finding Troubleshooting Information

Each Stop error requires a different troubleshooting technique. Therefore, after you identify the Stop error and gather the associated information, search the following sources for troubleshooting information specific to that Stop error:

  • Microsoft Debugging Tools For Windows Help

  • Microsoft Knowledge Base

Common Stop Messages” is intended as a reference for troubleshooting Stop errors; however, it does not include every possible Stop error. If the Stop error number you are troubleshooting is not listed in “Common Stop Messages,” refer to the Debugging Tools For Windows Help. Finally, the Microsoft Knowledge Base includes timely articles about a limited subset of Stop errors. Stop error information in the Microsoft Knowledge Base is often specific to a particular driver or hardware component, and generally includes step-by-step instructions for resolving the problem. Although it is rarely necessary, you can also consult Microsoft Product Support Services for troubleshooting services to resolve Stop errors.

  • Microsoft Help and Support For related information, see Microsoft Help and Support at http://support.microsoft.com.

  • Microsoft Debugging Tools For Windows Help Install the Microsoft Debugging Tools For Windows, and consult Help for that tool. This Help contains the definitive list of Stop messages, including many not covered in this chapter, and explains how to troubleshoot a wide variety of Stop errors. To install Debugging Tools For Windows, visit http://www.microsoft.com/whdc/devtools/debugging/.

  • Microsoft Product Support Services If you cannot isolate the cause of the Stop error, obtain assistance from trained Microsoft Product Support Services personnel. You might need to furnish specific information and perform certain procedures to help technical support investigate your problem. For more information about Microsoft product support, visit http://www.microsoft.com/services/microsoftservices/srv_support.mspx.

Stop Messages

Stop messages report information about Stop errors. The intention of the Stop message is to assist the system administrator in isolating and eventually resolving the problem that caused the Stop error. Stop messages provide a great deal of useful information to administrators who understand how to interpret the information in the Stop message. In addition to other information, the Stop message includes the Stop error number, or bugcheck code.

When examining a Stop message, you need to have a basic understanding of the problem so that you can plan a course of action. Always review the Stop message and record as much information about the problem as possible before searching through technical sources. Stop messages use a full-screen character mode format, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Stop messages display information to help you troubleshoot the Stop error.

As shown in Figure 1, a Stop message screen has four major sections, which display the following information:

  • Bugcheck information

  • Recommended user action

  • Technical information

  • Driver information (if available)

  • Debug port and dump status information

Note

If the video display drivers have stopped functioning, the kernel might not be able to fully display the entire Stop message. In such a case, only the first line may be visible, or the screen may be black. Wait several minutes to allow the memory dump file to be created, and then use standard troubleshooting techniques described in this chapter.


Bugcheck Information

The Bugcheck information section lists the Stop error descriptive name. Descriptive names are directly related to the Stop error number listed in the Technical information section.

Recommended User Action

The Recommended user action section informs the user that a problem has occurred and that Windows was shut down. It also provides the symbolic name of the Stop error. In Figure 1, the symbolic name is BUGCODE_USB_DRIVER. It also attempts to describe the problem and lists suggestions for recovery. In some cases, restarting the computer might be sufficient because the problem is not likely to recur. But if the Stop error persists after you restart the operating system, you must determine the root cause to return the operating system to an operable state. This process might involve undoing recent changes, replacing hardware, or updating drivers to eliminate the source of the problem.

Technical Information

The Technical information section lists the Stop error number, also known as the bugcheck code, followed by up to four Stop error–specific codes (displayed as hexadecimal numbers enclosed in parentheses), which identify related parameters. Stop error codes contain a “0x” prefix, which indicates that the number is in hexadecimal format. For example, in Figure 1, the Stop error hexadecimal code is 0x000000FE (often written as 0xFE).

Driver Information

The Driver information section identifies the driver associated with the Stop error. If a file is specified by name, you can use Safe Mode to verify that the driver is signed or has a date stamp that coincides with other drivers. If necessary, you can replace the file manually (in Startup Repair or in Safe Mode), or use Roll Back Driver to revert to a previous version.

Debug Port and Dump Status Information

The Debug port and dump status information section lists COM port parameters that a kernel debugger uses, if enabled. If you have enabled memory dump file saves, this section also indicates whether one was successfully written. As a dump file is being written to the disk, the percentage shown after Dumping physical memory to disk is incremented to 100. A value of 100 indicates that the memory dump was successfully saved.

Types of Stop Errors

A hardware or software problem can cause a Stop error, which causes a Stop message to appear. Stop messages typically fit into one of the following categories:

  • Stop errors caused by faulty software A Stop error can occur when a driver, service, or system component running in Kernel mode introduces an exception. For example, a driver attempts to perform an operation above its assigned interrupt request level (IRQL) or tries to write to an invalid memory address. A Stop message might seem to appear randomly, but through careful observation, you might be able to associate the problem with a specific activity. Verify that all installed software (especially drivers) in question is fully Windows Vista–compatible and that you are running the latest versions. Windows Vista compatibility is especially important for applications that might install drivers.

  • Stop errors caused by hardware issues This problem occurs as an unplanned event resulting from defective, malfunctioning, or incorrectly configured hardware. If you suspect a Stop error is caused by hardware, first install the latest drivers for that hardware. Failing hardware can cause Stop errors regardless of the stability of the driver, however.

  • Executive initialization Stop errors Executive initialization Stop errors occur only during the relatively short Windows executive initialization sequence. Typically, these Stop errors are caused by corrupted system files or faulty hardware.

  • Installation Stop errors that occur during setup For new installations, installation Stop errors typically occur because of incompatible hardware, defective hardware, or outdated firmware. During an operating system upgrade, Stop errors can occur when incompatible applications and drivers exist on the system. Update the computer’s firmware to the version recommended by the computer manufacturer before installing Windows Vista. Consult your system documentation for information about checking and upgrading your computer’s firmware.

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