October 12, 2020
A fatal error is a type of error that forces the closing of a computer program or the sudden shutdown of the entire operating system. This type of error is often associated with the blue screen of death in Windows, but less serious fatal exception errors only cause a single program to close.
In some cases, fatal errors occur spontaneously and temporarily, and you can safely continue using the computer without any additional problems. If serious errors persist, and especially if these errors reoccur when using the same program or performing the same task, there may be a problem with the hardware or software on the computer.
How serious errors occur
Fatal error messages are usually displayed when a program suddenly shuts down due to an error, or when a Windows computer suddenly displays the blue screen of death before shutting down, or when a macOS or Linux computer suffers from a kernel panic.
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When a fatal error occurs, a message like one of the following is displayed:
- FATAL ERROR: Unhandled xxx exception at xxx
- A serious exception xx has occurred at xxxx: xxxxxxxx
- Fatal error detected, unable to continue. Termination due to an unhandled exception.
If you receive a fatal error message, write down what you see, whether or not it looks exactly like these examples. The specific nature of the error and the series of numbers and letters it often contains can help track down the problem.
What causes a fatal error?
When you run a program on an operating system like Windows and the program encounters something unexpected, a message is generated called an exception. With these exceptions, programs can run smoothly and function normally even if something unexpected happens.
When a program is specified or generates an unknown or unexpected exception, the result is a fatal error. The same type of problem may also be called a fatal exception or a fatal exception error.
Depending on the severity of the error, you may have the option to continue running the program, or the program may exit automatically.
How to fix a fatal error
Fatal errors can be caused by a variety of unexpected interactions between different programs, between programs and drivers, between programs and the hardware, and by physical errors or defects in the hardware.
Follow these fixes to get to the bottom of the fatal error.
Search for the error code to find specific instructions. Some serious errors are quite simple, but most error messages contain a code that you can use to find specific information about the problem. If the error looks like this:
- A fatal exception 0E occurred at xxxx: xxxxxxxx
The 0E is a code that may point you in the right direction. Perform a search for the specific error code for fatal exceptions and see if you can find any specific instructions.
The other code, which usually follows the format of two groups of numbers separated by a colon, can also be helpful. It is less likely that this code will produce results, but it is worth looking quickly before proceeding.
Update the software. The developers may have released a patch to fix the specific problem. Most programs and apps either download and install updates automatically, offer you the option to download and install updates manually, or prompt you to visit the developer’s website and download the update.
If you can’t figure out how to update the software, see our list of free software updaters. These programs keep all your programs up to date.
Update the drivers. Unexpected interactions with drivers can cause serious errors and other problems. Therefore, it is always a good idea to keep the drivers up to date.
If the drivers are up to date, reset the drivers to earlier versions. There is a possibility that the old drivers were fine, but an automatic update introduced the serious error. Check if drivers were updated just before the problems started and reset them first.
Uninstall recently installed programs. There may be an unforeseen conflict between the programs or something may have been damaged during the installation process. After uninstalling the recently installed programs, check if the fatal exception error still occurs. If this is not the case, reinstall the programs. If the problem occurs again, send a bug report to the developer.
Restore Windows to a previous state. If you saved system restore points before the fatal errors occurred, restore Windows to one of these points. This step resets all changes made during this period, fixing the serious error problem if it is not related to a hardware failure.
Disable unnecessary background programs. You do not see these programs in the taskbar, but you can open Task Manager to shut them down manually. In most cases, background programs can be left alone. However, there are cases when one of these programs conflicts with another program in an unexpected way and causes a fatal error.
Do not shut down programs that you are not familiar with. You can safely shut down any program that was originally open, but closing unknown apps or system-level systems and background processes can destabilize the operating system and require a reboot.
Delete temporary files. Temporary files are saved when programs are running. However, sometimes these files are not deleted when the program is closed. If corrupted temporary files are the cause of the serious exception errors, removing them will fix the problem.
Free up space on the hard disk. Check how much space is available on the hard drive and delete old files if the hard drive is full. Leave about 10% of the total disk space free for smooth operation.
Run chkdsk. If the fatal error is caused by a problem with the hard disk drive running chkdsk Can identify the error and either fix it or at least let you know what’s going on.
Rule out heat problems. When your computer overheats, several serious errors are generated in addition to a variety of other symptoms.
Make sure that the fans are working and are not clogged with dust or dirt. If you like to take the computer apart, check the internal fans and heatsink. Carefully use canned air or a vacuum to remove dust or debris that interferes with the efficient operation of the fans or heat sink.
If you are using canned air, hold the can upright to prevent liquid from spraying into the computer. Do not touch the components in the computer unless you are wearing a properly set up grounding strap. If you do not feel comfortable using a computer or laptop, seek professional help.
Test the random access memory for problems. Memory errors result in fatal errors, although a memory exception or memory shortage error may be displayed instead. Run a memory test application. If you find that RAM is faulty, replace the faulty component or components.
Check the rest of the hardware. If serious errors keep occurring and everything has been checked so far, there may be a subtle problem with the computer’s hardware. In some cases, replacing components like the hard drive or motherboard can fix serious errors.
This level of diagnosis is complicated, so you may need to seek professional help.