Software Problem Troubleshooting Example

Occasionally, while surfing the Net using IE5.x you get an error message that reads something like this:

IEXPLORE caused an invalid page fault in module KERNEL32.DLL at 017f:bff87ede

You can shut down IE5, but when you try to restart it, IE5 just crashes again. The only solution is to reboot. Consistently, the programs running when this happens are Yahoo Messenger, AOL Messenger, Outlook Express, PopOff! and multiple IE5 windows.

First of all, note that this is quite a load on poor Win9x! If you can possibly do so, it is best to run fewer or no TSR (Terminate and Stay Resident) programs. However, if you must, here is what you can do to try find out what the offending item is that is causing all these problems.

  1. First things first. Make sure that your system is “in shape”. Eliminate the possibility that a simple maintenance routine is all that’s needed. You should perform the following functions in this order.
  2. Clean up your disk. Go to Start/Programs/Accessories/System Tools/Disk Cleanup. This helps to eliminate a great deal of unneeded flotsam. You can specify what you want cleaned out and what you’d like left as is.
  3. Shut down all running programs, including anti virus and screen savers — everything, and go to Start/Programs/Accessories/System Tools/Scandisk and run it in “Thorough” mode. Set it to repair any errors it finds on your HDD. Depending on your disk size this could take a long time, hours even. That’s OK, just do it!
  4. With all programs still off, go to Start/Programs/Accessories/System Tools/Defrag and run the disk defragmentation utility. Again, there are some options for running Defrag so look them over. Also, if you have trouble getting Defrag to finish, reboot into Safe Mode and run it there. Defrag also takes a long time to complete; and it typically will take a looong time to get past the 10% or 12% mark. Don’t worry; just let it go.
  5. Once all that is done, if you still have the problem you know that it isn’t due to lack of maintenance. You’ll notice that your machine should respond a little better to your troubleshooting from here on as well, so it definitely is not time wasted.
  6. When a single program “crashes”, whether the crash is confined to the single program (in this case IE5) or even if it takes your whole system down (the dreaded BSOD), usually the problem is the result some kind of a conflict in sharing the available resources required to run a program. In our example, the invalid page fault probably refers to memory. Most likely IE5 tried to use some specific chunk of memory that was either not available or already in use. Since you had so many other programs running at the same time, it might be safe to assume that one of those other programs is the “resource hog”.
  7. Try unloading just one of those programs at a time. Don’t go crazy and turn off all of your TSRs because then you’ll never know exactly which one was causing the problem. Start with any one you prefer and simply turn it off. Now surf around with multiple IE5 windows open and everything else exactly as it was before. Give it a few days. If the problem persists, reload the first program and try shutting off one of the others.
  8. If you run through each of your TSRs as described and you still have the same problem, start looking at any other little programs that might be running in the background. Do you have an antivirus program loaded? Does your sound card or video card load some fancy utilities every time you start your computer? If so, try turning these off as well, one at a time, just as before with your other TSRs.
  9. If you still have problems after running through all this then try running fewer instances of IE5. As a rule, you shouldn’t have any more than three instances of IE5 open at any one time.


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