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Chapter 6. Troubleshooting > Error Messages

6.3. Error Messages

There are several things to keep in mind when interpreting any given error message:

  • Just because you see an error message doesn't mean you've done something wrong.

  • If you're looking for a list of all possible Windows Me error messages, you're out of luck; such a list does not exist. Besides, not all error messages are generated by Windows; many are either generated by or are otherwise the result of third-party applications.

  • Error messages are canned responses to predetermined criteria. The text in an error message doesn't take into account what you were doing or what you might have been thinking when the error occurred, so it rarely is informative enough by itself to help you prevent future occurrences.

  • Error messages typically occur more often than they need to, bothering the user with a warning or other information that simply isn't that important.[20]

    [20] Windows Me actually takes a few steps to eliminate some of the common, yet unnecessary, error messages that plagued Windows 9x, such as the ones that occurred when a folder or drive icon was drag-dropped onto itself in Explorer.

  • Error messages are typically verbose, yet not terribly helpful. Programmers often write only a few generic, general-purpose messages that are used in many circumstances. And software developers are rarely English majors.

  • If you're trying to diagnose a problem, the error message that appears may contain rows and rows of numeric code, often hidden behind a Details button. This information is rarely useful. What's more important here is the conditions under which the error occurred (what events led to the error) and, specifically, any filenames that are mentioned in the message itself.

  • The General Protection Fault message, as well as the so-called "Blue Screen of Death," are both messages generated by Windows when some application or driver has committed an error severe enough that it can't handle the problem on its own. Usually, but not always, these errors are associated with some sort of hardware conflict or driver problem.

  • Sometimes, a message will report that a program has crashed or isn't able to load, but the actual problem may be something completely unrelated to what the message is reporting. For example, you may see a "file not found" error when trying to start an application, if, perhaps, you've run low on system resources (see Section 6.1.4 earlier in this chapter).



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