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How to solve Windows 8 crashes in less than a minute

Dirk A. D. Smith | April 16, 2013
Windows 8 has been out for a while, featuring an interface that's as cool as it is annoying . . . until you get the hang of it. But, like any computer operating system, it can fall over. Luckily, there is an easy way to solve the cause of most crashes; just call up WinDbg, the Windows debugger; a free tool to diagnose the most common causes of Windows crashes -- misbehaved third party drivers.

" Each x86 symbol package may require 750 MB or more of hard disk space.

" Each x64 symbol package may require 640 MB or more.

Symbol packages are non-cumulative unless otherwise noted, so if you are using an SP2 Windows release, you will need to install the symbols for the original RTM version and for SP1 before you install the symbols for SP2.

Create a dump file

What if you don't have a memory dump to look at? No worries. You can generate one yourself. There are different ways to do it, but the best way is to use a tool called NotMyFault created by Mark Russinovich.

Download NotMyFault

To get NotMyFault, go to the Windows Internals Book page at SysInternals and scroll down to the Book Tools section where you will see a download link. The tool includes a selection of options that load a misbehaving driver (which requires administrative privileges). After downloading, I created a shortcut from the desktop to simplify access.

Keep in mind that using NotMyFault WILL CREATE A SYSTEM CRASH and while I've never seen a problem using the tool there are no guarantees in life, especially in computers. So, prepare your system and have anyone who needs access to it log off for a few minutes. Save any files that contain information that you might otherwise lose and close all applications. Properly prepared, the machine should go down, reboot and both a minidump and a kernel dump should be created.

Running NotMyFault

Launch NotMyFault and select the High IRQL fault (Kernel-mode) then . . . hit the Crash button. Your Frown-of-Frustration will appear in a second, both a minidump and a kernel dump file will be saved and - if properly configured - your system will restart.

Over the W8 UI will be a band of blue with the message that "Your PC ran into a problem . . . ". If you click the "Send details" button, Microsoft will use WinDbg and the command "!analyze" as part of an automated service to identify the root cause of the problem. The output is combined with a database of known driver bug fixes to help identify the failure.

Launch WinDbg and (often) see the cause of the crash

Launch WinDbg by right-clicking on it from the W8 UI then select "Run as administrator" from the bar that pops up at the bottom of the screen. Once the debugger is running, select the menu option

File | Open Crash Dump

and point it to open the dump file you want to analyze. Note that WinDbg will open any size dump file; a minidump, kernel dump or complete dump file. When offered to Save Workspace Information, say Yes; it will remember where the dump file is.

 

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