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   ► KBRole-Based T...   Print This     
  From the March 2016 Issue of Prestwood eMag
Industry Role-Based Tech Talk:
Crash, Bomb, Hang, and Deadlock
Posted 19 years ago on 2/20/2003 and updated 1/26/2007
Take Away: This article explores and defines the following terms: crash, bomb, hang, deadlock, exception, fatal error, and blue screen of death.


When is an exception not the same as an error? When a system bombs, could you also say it crashed? The definition of each term is not always the same.

Here are the specific definitions of terms that are used when a computer program and/or the computer itself fails to execute properly:

Crash - this is either a breakdown in hardware or a bug in software that causes the computer to stop working. A hardware crash will generally require the user to replace the defective part. A software crash is a flaw in the software that will cause the program to abort every time the same functionality is executed.

Bomb - this is an event that is not as serious as a crash. It means that a software program hangs or aborts prematurely. It could be caused by a software bug, or an exception caused by a particular state of the resources used (disk, communications, etc.) that has not been handled by the software.

Hang - this is an event where the computer appears frozen, and does not respond to a user's keyboard or mouse input. A hung computer can sometimes be reactivated by using certain combination of keys or by rebooting the computer. Occasionally, this could be caused by a software bug, or by a temporarily inaccessible hardware device.

Exception - this can mean either an error or just a different functional behavior. Technically, an exception is a branch to another logical code path in a software program, based on particular conditions. Well written software will accommodate exceptions so that they do not cause the computer to hang, bomb, or crash.

Deadlock - often confused for the term hang because a program will freeze when this occurs. Technically, it is a condition where two or more programs need the same available resource or event, and they are waiting for the other process to finish or initiate the event. In many cases, the operating system takes the responsibility to free up control for one of the programs, but this does not always happen. Well written programs will anticipate this condition, and relinquish control until the resource or event is available.

Other terms:

Fatal Error - a definition for a software program crash. A condition where the program will abort prematurely, and all non-persistent data is lost.

Blue screen of death - a term that applies to Windows computers. This refers to a crash so severe that the user loses the Windows environment completely. In most cases, the user will simply need to reboot the computer to restore the Windows environment. However, in rare cases where a viral attack has corrupted the operating system files, or one or more of the key (kernel) files have been renamed or deleted, the problem cannot be remedied until the virus has been eradicated and/or the operating system files have been reinstalled.


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Article Contributed By Scott Wehrly:

Scott Wehrly is currently working on .Net web applications for the gaming industry. Scott is a former employee of Prestwood Software (he was a Development Manager). Scott's specialties include C#, ASP.Net, MSSQL Server 2005, Delphi, SQL databases, C++, C, and Windows programming in general. When time allows, he participates in this online community.

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