Crashing PC question

This is for a colleague of mine who at home uses a PIV with 128mb ram and Windows 98.

He says that when he is surfing the web the computer frequently hangs, often with the error message “illegal operation.”

What’s a good way to solve/improve this? Does he need to reinstal Windows? Or IE?

No offense, but you need someone who knows a bit more about computers than “should I re-install X” to fix it. Could be a bad hardware component, unseated cpu, unseated RAM, running the RAM too fast for its rating, slightly unseated graphics card or other adapter card, bad or unseated disk drive cable, problem spot on the hard drive, corrupted OS, corrupted application, corrupted data somewhere on the disk, a virus, and probably a dozen other things that I’m not thinking of off the top of my head. With such a long list of possible causes, simply doing one or two procedures obviously isn’t going to have much of a chance of fixing it.

A google search on “troubleshooting windows crash problems” turns up quite a few links for you to follow.

Does he get an “invalid page fault?” What exactly does the error message say?

There are a myriad of problems that can cause IE to go insane. It can range from drivers gone bad to the order that programs/hardware are installed. Knowing what the error message is (as well as the version of IE) will make it a lot easier to diagnose.

Oh poop, I shoulda previewed. What the fast-typing engineer said.

As a first attempt, I’d try service packing the machine. It wouldn’t do much harm to re-install IE either.

If using IE, try Netscape, & vice versa, you can have them on the machine at the same time, I do.
Could be a whole lot of other things.

Do you guys think thats enough ram for a P4?

I have worked with computers professionally for about four years. Not having enough RAM for your processor type is not a legitimate concern. If he truly “didn’t have enough RAM” then the machine wouldn’t get far enough for him to get that error message.
Regarding this persons’s problem, I would reinstall any applications I had recently installed. If this did not resolve the issue I would apply Microsoft’s most recent patches and service packs to my machine once again, even if I had already applied said patches.
If the problem still persisted and it bothered me frequently enough to be genuine irritant, I would back up all unique data, then format my drive and reinstall my operating system.
If this does not resolve it drill down through the possibilities of hardware issues. Pull all PCI devices except the video board.
If it still has problems, swap the video board with a friend’s.
If it still has problems, swap the RAM with a friend’s.
If it still has problems, swap the CPU with a friend’s.
If it still has problems, then you now know the problem is either the motherboard or the power supply. The motherboard is a more likely culprit in this situation.

yanking out hardware is an extreme, but sometimes necessary solution. If you are not careful it is very easy to damage the equipment.

The problem with illegal opertion is that its very difficult to pin down. It could be at the software or hardware level, which includes the entire system. Thats enough for me to be tempted to throw the computer out the window.

The easier solution i think would be to get more ram then upgrade to win2k or XP. These OSes are much more stable than 9x and the way the OS handles hardware and error messages will give you a much better idea of where to start if you still have a problem after the OS upgrade.

Ok, here is the skinny on illegal operations (as I’ve always understood them).

Illegal operations are memory errors. Frequently it happens when a program tries to go outside the memory limits Windows has assigned to it and its in danger of overwriting or altering another programs memory, so naturally Windows will shut it down to protect its integrity.

That said. The illegal operation can give you a hint to where its occurring. IEXPLORE has generated errors and will be shut down. (the rest is pretty much garbage unless your debugging the program) IEXPLORE is the executable that runs internet explorer which doesn’t tell you much except that its happening with internet explorer. But sometimes you’ll get lucky and it’ll be something like SPOOL32 which is your print spooler, so you know there is a conflict between internet explorer and your printer software.

So there are five main causes of this error. 1. Something somewhere in the program is corrupt which is causing the memory error. Reinstall the program. 2. Another program is conflicting with the program. This gets trickier because your not exactly sure what is conflicting. Usual hints are: Was something installed recently? Does it hang after something specific (ie…printing…clicking a certain button…etc). 3. Something in Windows is corrupted. Again kind of a hard call. It will usually happen across different programs when this is the case. 4. Software was written badly or is incompatible with your hardware/software - Patches will help you here. 5. On a rarer note, your RAM could be going bad. But I would probably suspect that last and you would definately be experiencing that across different applications.

Hope this helps.

Btw, as for Ricecakes suggestion. Upgrading to Winxp or win2k may fix the problem because they all handle themselves a little different, or Windows may in fact be corrupted and reinstalling it fixed it. He is right, however, about the whole error message thing. WinXp and Win2k sucks for error messages. All they give you is a memory dump (bunch of hex codes) and ask you to send it to MS. Doesn’t even give you a hint to where the problem is anymore.

I was thinking more of the eventlog in Win2K. Hardware, software, and system errors are logged there in addition to other system events. Here you will be able to see if the OS is having problems with a particular piece of hardware or program. I don’t know if XP has an eventlog.

If win2k crashes, which in itself is rare in comparison to windows 98 you are right that you won’t get much useful information from the memory dump.

I think there might be more of the message that we aren’t getting from the OP.

Jdeforrest, I think memory is handled with that picky Kernel32.dl

I would suggest a nice computer maintenance program first. A full featured product that cleans
the registry & can analyze the whole system to find out why this is happening. I use
System Suite 2000 for Me (Yes, I use Me).

One thing I would suggest is that the problem could be overheating. Most OEM systems are extremely undercooled, and the dust that builds up makes this worse. If you wouldn’t void the warranty by doing so, I would suggest opening the case and pointing a room fan in, just to eliminate heat as a factor. Pentium 4s are especially sensitive to heat, as they produce a lot of it but also have a very low tolerance as to the temperatures they’ll operate at. (P4s can throttle themselves to lower speeds under extreme temperature conditions, but in practice will often crash before doing so, or the process of throttling itself can corrupt data stored in the cache, causing a hang.)

As for the RAM, he DEFINATELY needs more. 128MB will absolutely not cut it these days, with 256MB being the bare minimum. 512MB is suggested so that the system can run at optimal performance.

Suggested by who, the RAM manufacturers?

128 MB is plenty for most people, even running the memory hungry XP. I’m running XP pro right now and have a bunch of different things open, and I’ve still got about 30 MB of free RAM left so it’s not even hitting the swap file.

Being a computer weenie, I could bring this box to its knees if I wanted to (even if you gave me a few hundred gigabytes of RAM I’d find some way of using it). Most people though just use computers for the internet, office apps, and games, and for that 128 is fine.

Heat is one of the big things I left off my original list. Certain versions of IE are particularly buggy, which is another big item.

Someone might get lucky and hit the problem with one of their posts here, but generally speaking you are going to need to do some serious troubleshooting to get to the bottom of it.

Thank you all very very much for all this advice and information - I will pass it on to my colleague and post back if/when he manages to pinpoint the problem.

Wow, is this really true with XP? All previous MS OS versions used the swap file whether they needed it or not. I have a utility called cachemaster installed on my win98 machine at work, which shows swap file and memory usage. Just booting the machine up usually will result in about 100+MB swapfie in use, even though about 50MB of system memory is still free. Linux, I am told, will not use the swapfile unless there is no system memory left. I have seen evidence of this but no hard proof.

I do agree that 128MB should be plenty for the average user. Though more memory will give a performance boost that will show up in benchmark tests, I have my doubts that the average user would really notice.

As for the OP, it may be helpful to have the full error message. ( But then again, it may not :wink: ).

Ususally, as indicated by FDISK, the usual source of illegal operation errors is overheat. I gathered it is rather hot over there in UAE? So you must have sufficient cooling for the CPU.

If this problem is consistent after using the machine for some time, overheating is a sure culprit.

The errors you decribed are called “general protection faults.”

istara, don’t remove or re-install ANYTHING until you get more info on exactly what the error is. And don’t mess with the hardware either. I have Win98 and 128MB and a broadband connection, and it speeds along perfectly. Also, you didn’t mention how your friend connects to the net, does he use a phone line? When you find out exactly what the error message says, tell us and maybe some people will have some ideas that are relevant to your friend’s specific situation. Also, describe what you friend is typically doing when he gets the message, e.g. is he downloading something, trying to run a movie, etc.?

The OP did say it happens surfing the web. If it was a heat issue, it would happen off the web…

AOL has some old versions that can cause this. I had to put on a new Winsock once to correct this.