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[ The PC Guide | Troubleshooting and Repair Guide | The Troubleshooting Expert | Troubleshooting Specific Components | Troubleshooting Operating Systems and Applications ]

I am experiencing general protection faults, exception errors, crashes or lockups

Explanation: You are experiencing problems trying to use various software on your PC. You have problems such as general protection faults or invalid operation errors being reported by the operating system, or the system seems to lock up or crash a great deal.

Diagnosis: These types of problems, when they occur often, generally are referred to as "instability" in the system. This can be caused by various hardware or software problems. In fact, this is one of the more difficult situations to diagnose, because of the sheer number of potential causes of the problem.


  • If the problem occurs only when running a particular application, the chances are high that the problem is related to that application (although that is not always the case).
  • Read the troubleshooting information in the section that discusses the causes of system instability. Problems like general protection faults can be a symptom of hardware problems.
  • If you are using Windows 3.x, check your system resource level by looking in "About" under the Help menu in the Program Manager. If the number is below about 20%, this may be the problem.
  • Scan the system for viruses.
  • If you just added any new software to the system, it could be causing the problem. In particular, any software that includes items that are automatically loaded when Windows starts should probably be considered suspect.
  • If you just installed Windows 95, and you installed it over top of a previous installation of Windows 3.x, there may be a conflict or problem being caused by settings inherited from the old installation. I (and most others) recommend only installing Windows 95 clean to a new hard disk or directory.
  • Check your CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT files for extraneous programs or drivers being loaded. Disable anything being referenced there that you do not absolutely definitely need.
  • Check the file system of the boot drive for errors. File system errors in the wrong part of the hard disk can cause all sorts of problems.
  • The Windows 95 registry may be corrupted. Rebooting using the backup copy of the registry may help (but be careful before mucking around with the registry).
  • There could be a bad driver on the system. Try updating or changing to a system-standard driver and see if this helps.
  • Double-check your BIOS settings. Make sure they are not set too aggressively. Try resetting to default settings after making a record of the current settings.
  • There could be a resource conflict between two pieces of hardware causing the problem. Watch specifically for problems that are encountered only when a particular device or pair of devices is used. See here for more details.
  • Strange problems can result from a boot disk volume that is full. Check your disk space on the drive that contains the Windows directory.
  • Watch out for temporary files that are left-over from earlier sessions and may accumulate in the temporary file directory. These should be cleaned out periodically.
  • If all else fails, you may want to consider reinstalling the operating system. Sometimes, this will fix problems that may have cropped up when an installation is not completed properly or a file becomes corrupted. This is not a step to take lightly, however, because it is a time-consuming job and can affect the operation of applications that you have installed on your PC.

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