Windows Crash Gallery page 1 by David Joffe

"Microsoft's No. 1 product is Windows, which now comes automatically installed on every computer in the world and many kitchen appliances. Technically, Windows is an "operating system," which means that it supplies your computer with the basic commands that it needs to suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, stop operating.

I speak from experience here. Many a time I have spent hours writing a serious and thoughtful column on an important issue, only to have Windows -- which is often referred to as "the French labor union of software" -- get into a snit and call a general computer strike that erases all my work moments before deadline, leaving me with no choice but to bang out a highly inaccurate column such as this one."

- Dave Barry

Overview: Many years ago, it struck me that my grandkids someday would probably never believe just how bad Windows really was. So I started saving screenshots from various computers of (mainly) Microsoft software crashing or otherwise screwing up (ranging from the serious to the humorous). Here are a few.
  1. Overview and general Windows crashes
  2. Windows Explorer
  3. Internet Explorer
  4. Applications/miscellaneous
  5. 3rd party screenshots, videos and photographs
  6. User contributions 1
  7. Some amusing contributions from Erik's "weird error message gallery". Reproduced with permission.
  8. Windows XP (New: 9 Feb 2002)
  9. Just Lame (New: 1 Sep 2002)
  10. User contributions 2 (New: 9 Mar 2003)
  11. Miscellaneous (2005,2006)
  12. Windows Vista New 2007 - yup, it's still buggy ...

"24.5 million (crash) reports a day accumulate in Redmond - nearly 9 billion per year" - John C. Dvorak

Why? If this page has a point, it's to say to consumers "wise up": Microsoft has led many to believe that crashes are a "normal" aspect of software, and even marketed increased stability (i.e. 'fewer defects') as a feature (!). Software crashes are mostly the result of defective software (faulty hardware notwithstanding), and not because of "something you did", nor because of "cosmic rays", nor is your computer possessed with demons, nor do you need a "lucky crystal" to make your computer stable (I'm not kidding, there are people who do this). When software fails, people should rather think "the software is defective" and hold manufacturers accountable in some way.

"Defective software" also includes defective drivers, so if Microsoft is occasionally unfairly implicated here because of a third-party driver problem, sorry, but its not always possible to tell. FWIW I do always keep my systems up to date with latest drivers and BIOS etc. Also note that on many of these same machines I've run Linux and that has been stable, so the "faulty hardware" argument doesn't hold water (also because these screenshots were taken over many years on numerous different computers).

NOTE: Before you tell me "its my hardware", or that I'm just a moron who doesn't know how to use a computer, please read my technical notes below.

It is true that recent releases of Windows are much more stable than the Win9X generation, it is not excusable or acceptable that Microsoft took over 15 years to release a consumer operating system that properly utilised the basics of hardware memory protection.

Copyright terms: You are free to use any of the screenshots/photos in this collection for any purposes, except for those in the "third-party" section. "User contributions" may also be used by anyone, and users making contributions should should accept these terms. Accreditation and/or a link back to this site would be appreciated. No hotlinking.

[ Similar sites: Computer Gripes ]

Some notes for the more technically inclined ..

Note 1: Poor protected mode support: I realise that crashes aren't always Microsoft's fault, and are many times caused by buggy drivers for hardware devices. If any of these implicate MS unfairly, sorry about that, it's not always possible to tell. Nonetheless, it is quite fair to attack Microsoft's approach to quality on many other fronts. The "main line of defense" against computer crashes is the Intel CPU's "protected mode". "Protected mode" was a feature introduced into Intel's CPU's range with the 80386 which was introduced in 1985 (actually, already on the 80286 in 1982). This feature, which was immediately adopted/used by other x86-based operating systems such as OS/2, allows the operating system to "protect" buggy applications from one another, from the OS itself, and from the hardware (i.e. applications may not access I/O ports directly). An application runs in it's own (virtual) protected "memory space" and thus a single buggy application is not able to bring down the whole operating system - if it crashes, only the application will be closed down, and a proper operating system will clean up all resources that were allocated to/by that process.

Both Linux and Windows NT/2000/XP use protected mode as intended (while Windows 95/98/Me still regularly "go out of 32-bit mode" leaving the entire system often vulnerable to buggy applications) and this is the main reason that Windows NT/2K/XP are far more stable. Now in my opinion, there is absolutely no excuse for a company like Microsoft to have taken some 17 years to release a consumer operating system (Windows XP) capable of properly using 386 memory protection, and then still claim the "increased stability" was a wonderful new feature to cough up extra $$$ for. But hey, it's good business.

The above explanation is somewhat simplified; more details here and here.

Note 2: Its not my hardware: Some people have suggested that maybe I have so many crashes because I have hardware problems. This would be a fair guess, except that these screenshots have been taken over about four years on a variety of completely different hardware and software configurations, including (amongst others) a Pentium 120 (Win95,Win98,Win98SE), a Celeron 333 (Win98SE and Win2K), a Pentium III 450 (Win98, Win98SE), a Pentium III 667 (Win98SE, Win2K), a different Pentium III 667 (WinME), another Pentium III 667 (Win98SE), and a Pentium 4 1500 (WinXP). Additionally, most of these have had the OS'es re-installed on more than one occasion, and I always make sure to have the latest hardware drivers installed. A number of these computers have also run Linux under fairly heavy usage with no system crashes while in Linux.

In many cases I now try (whenever possible) to describe how to recreate the problems I encounter, so you can try them yourself, and confirm that these are problems. Many of the screenshots though do seem to be quite "once-off" things.

Other technical notes on the poor design of Win9X/98/Me.

Microsoft Office Word 2007 crash

2007-06-15: Microsoft Word 2007: After all these years Microsoft is still keeping me busy with this site. Here's Word 2007 crashing.

SourceSafe cancel crash

2003-03-07: Microsoft SourceSafe: Thanks to Andre for pointing this one out: "Open SourceSafe Admin tool and logon to any database (if you can call it that). After you have logged on open another SourceSafe database. When you are requested to logon, click cancel, click cancel again and voila!". I tried this on Win2K got the same crash.

Desktop Desktop bug

2002-04-08: Windows XP: "Desktop/Desktop bug": This is one of my favourite bugs I've found so far :) If you have a folder on your Windows desktop called "Desktop", and you try to move files and folders into and out of this folder, Windows Explorer gets really confused! You too can try this at home! (At your own risk. I haven't lost any files doing this.) This doesn't seem to work if you move only one file - you have to move at least two files together. After moving the files, press "refresh" (F5) several times. Strange things should happen :). Having a "Desktop" folder on your desktop also causes odd errors to pop up at various other times. What are the programmers at Microsoft smoking? Do YOU trust your important files and folders to be in the hands of THIS software? :)

I don't know if this bug affects earlier versions of Windows.

[search bug]

2002-02-03: Win2K SP2: if you enter your search term too quickly, the "look in" drop-down box is still empty, and you get this error (since I have a number of mapped network drives on that machine, it sometimes takes up to a half second or so to fill that drop-down box (I type quickly)).

[lots of drivers installed]

1999-09-10: Win98: I captured this interesting scene on a relative's computer that had just been bought; somehow, the graphics card driver has been installed multiple times! The computer was locking up randomly. I'm not surprised.

1999/03/22. ActiveMovie, when installed, registers itself as a player for .FLC and .FLI files, even though it cannot play them. It doesn't tell you that the file format is unsupported, either; it just gives you an "unspecified error" when you try to view one of these files. (Update 1 Aug 2001) The same for .MOV files. So why register yourself as a player for file formats that you cannot and don't plan to support? Simple, "make non-Microsoft formats look bad". The Mpeg4 format has become a very common standard format for movie encoding, yet the codec that Windows Media Player automatically downloads sucks horribly, the playback is extremely choppy and unreliable. Microsoft wants any formats that they do not control to look bad, they know that most people are not confident or skilled enough to go find and download good Mpeg4 codecs.

[outlook express crash]

1999/03/14. Outlook Express crashes.

1999/02/24. ActiveMovie refuses to play a .qt (QuickTime) movie that wasn't completely downloaded, giving only the error message "The file format is invalid". However, the QuickTime movie player happily plays the first 2 minutes or so of the same file! Great design, Microsoft. Really great for the consumer there.

[messed up icons]

1999/02/23. Nice effect on the buttons there.

[bad shortcut]

1999/02/22. I have no idea what this was supposed to be. I got this message when starting up Windows one day. I know for a fact I never had any shortcuts or anything on my desktop named 'zc'.

1999/02/10. Start Menu/Shortcuts hangs.

1999/02/05. I right-click in Windows Explorer main view, popping up a context menu .. only this context menu refuses to disappear. It gets stuck there. Nothing I do gets rid of it, and it floats above all my windows.

1999/02/03. I'm using Windows Explorer, and get "There was an internal error and one of the windows you were using will be closed. It is recommended that you save your work and close all programs, and then restart your computer."

1999/02/03. Windows Explorer crashes; a stack fault in module PSICON.DLL. The dialog box says, "if the problem persists, contact the program vendor". The program vendor is Microsoft. Should I contact them?

[Editor's note: PSICON.DLL is a Photoshop Shell extension. For Photoshop 6, the DLL is clearly marked as “Icons for Adobe Photoshop”, version © 1989-2002 Adobe Systems Incorporated. However, one would imagine that Microsoft failed to give any clues here, including to the path of the DLL, which itself would have indicated the vendor and product very clearly. The other reason why this is ultimately still Microsoft’s fault, is this bizarre obsession with 8.3 naming, preventing libraries and executables from having meaningful names as they would on a Macintosh.]

[strange crash text]

1999/02/01. What the .. ?

Microsoft Word hangs

99/01/06. Win word hangs. Then Explorer kept hanging. Turned out to be some weird interaction with Virtual CD.

99/01/04. More crashing, in "Winoldap" (while running Duke Nukem 1 in a window.) Shortly after this the system caved in. The usual crash dialog, with "WINOLDAP caused an invalid page fault in module VGAFULL.3GR".

[media player unspecified error]

98/12/26. Media Player rules. I tried to play a file associated with Media Player here. "Unspecified error"?!?! Go, Microsoft. Next I tried to play a .MOV file; I got a "General access denied error". Then I tried another .MOV and got "Cannot play back the video stream; no suitable decompressor could be found."; Then I gave up.

1999/12/10. Just doing a simple "netstat -a" in a DOS box. While displaying the active connections, I suddenly get "NETSTAT has caused an invalid page fault in KERNEL32.DLL".

1998/11/26. Word again. "WINWORD caused an invalid page fault in module MSO97.DLL". Quality stuff.

[photoshop dll problem]

98/11/25. After copying over the required DLL's etc (see incident nearby, above), Visual C++ and DirectX 6 worked fine. Only one problem; some third-party software "mysteriously" no longer runs. I get this when I try to run Adobe Photoshop.

1998/11. I tried to help someone install Win95 OSR2 the other day, because his Windows setup continually seemed to destroy itself, crashing on startup whenever it played any sounds, along with spewing out some error messages. The installation program kept crashing during the "calculating free space" section (which worked on the scandisk calculate free space section.) The only conclusion I could come to was that the program may have been confused by 2 bad (marked) sectors on the hard disk. I gave up, and told him to have his hard disk replaced (it was still under warranty.) Quite frankly I'm tired of running around doing free tech support for Microsoft products. Microsoft sure has it easy; release buggy inferior crap, and then rely on people who know something about computers to run around fixing all the problems they've created for free.

[outlook note]

1998/11/14. Peter Kingsbury sent me this one; Outlook Express crashed, giving him this funny message.

[visual c dll problem]

98/11/10. I uninstalled and reinstalled the Microsoft DirectX 6 SDK, and now Microsoft Visual C++ won't run at all anymore, giving this set of errors. Thank you Microsoft, for giving me some time to go to the movies, work on my web page a bit etc, since I can't work at all until I get Visual Studio reinstalled.

[blank taskbar button]

98/11/10. Who hasn't seen these appearing in their taskbars? They disappear when clicked on, and seem harmless enough, but remember, this is from the people whom we are relying on (since they have the desktop OS monopoly) to develop the innovations and technologies that will carry us into the future; possibly even running this OS on watches, fridges, televisions, cars, airplanes, hospital equipment, ships etc (if Bill Gates's "visions" are to be believed) not too far off from now.

[overlapped menu icons]

98/11/8. Note the interesting bugeffect with the icons in this menu in Microsoft Visual Studio 6.0. This was the second bug I found in the product after only about 2 days of use.

[joystick assert]

98/11/8. I needed to set up the joystick to test the application I was developing, but whenever I clicked on "Game Controllers" in Windows Control Panel, I got this assert failure.

[ms word misc crash]

98/11/8. Microsoft Word 97 crashing while I was trying to be productive.

[scandisk crash]

98/06. A screenshot of Windows scandisk crashing.

[ms word exit crash]

98/11/6. Microsoft Word 97 crashing whilst exitting.

[help workshop]

98/10/26. Microsoft Help Workshop, crashing repeatedly at the same place when trying to view a tabbed dialog box.

[bsod - blue screen of death]

98/07/24. The 'please restart your computer you will lose unsaved work' 'blue screen of death'. This happened twice to me today, each time crashing solidly and each time forcing me to sit through ten minutes of scandisk. What caused these crashes? The simple act of inserting an audio CD into the CDROM drive. The problem seemed to come from having MSCDEX loaded up in my autoexec.bat; I can only assume that MSCDEX was conflicting with Window's own CD drivers, bringing the entire Operating System down. Windows 95 is not an Operating System, it's a joke.


98/07/09. *Yawn* .. this happens several times a day to me now, and its getting worse, and whenever it happens Windows does not shut down properly, so I have to sit through scandisk, a lengthy process with an almost full 4GB hard disk. I guess it's about time I do the inevitable in any Microsoft user's career --- re-install Windows yet again.

It may take longer to set things up under Linux, but at least once they're up, they stay up. On a Windows system, your setup will continue to degrade, and after a few months you have to re-install everything. A Linux system requires rebooting probably about as often as a Windows system requires re-installing.


98/07/08. This happened twice in a row, and then Windows wouldn't shut down, so I had to sit through scandisk yet again. 15 minutes of total unproductivity. I wish I could work on a stable OS like Linux, but the work I do forces me to work on this inferior garbage.


98/07/06. Microsoft Developer Studio crashes when I try to insert an ActiveX control into a dialog. All project changes were lost, and the project file itself was messed up, so it was easier in the end for me to re-create the project.

The same thing happened again a little later on a different ActiveX control. Many of the ActiveX controls (the Microsoft one's, specifically) did not work at all; Developer Studio gave an error message about some or other interface not being found. If Microsoft itself can't even get ActiveX controls to function, what hope do outside developers have?

I don't know how anyone can tell me with a straight face that Microsoft has "done so much for the computer industry" in terms of making computers easier to use, increasing our productivity etc etc. I think we'd all be *much* better off right now if the world was driven by OS2, UNIX/Linux, Mac's etc.

Someone also told me the other day that Microsoft has "created so many jobs" .. what jobs? Within Microsoft? This can't be right; Apple announced lay-offs just the other day. Growing one computer company just pushes out others, especially in the case of Microsoft, who likes to destroy its competition entirely. Outside Microsoft? Where? How? What did they do that could not have been done better and cheaper by OS2, Apple or UNIX or anyone else in the industry?

[internal error]

I got this one the other day while trying to help restore someone's Windows95 installation on a laptop. Windows kept destroying itself. Mind you, thats not such a bad thing.

[kernel crashes]

98/07/05. This happened twice within about a half-hour. The first time I tried to ignore it, the second time I tried to restart Windows, but it wouldn't shut down. The best part is ten minutes of unproductivity while sitting through scandisk, reboot etc. Perhaps Windows 98's kernel32.dll has some of the bugs fixed. Windows 98 is a bit like an expensive bug-fix for 95.

The following error followed this crash directly. This is quite a serious error, as far as operating systems go. Windows was reporting about 150 MB of free space when I actually had about 30 MB free space. I could never imagine a UNIX/Linux user putting up with this kind of low-quality cr*p from an OS (damaging its own boot area from a crash in it's own code).

[corrupt file system]

98/07/04. Wandering scroll bars. I've never seen the likes. I'm in Windows Explorer, but the scroll bar keeps deciding to move upwards. If I drag it down again, it goes wandering back up again. Is this a "feature"? I can't seem to turn it off. Seems to move up only if the mouse is in the scroll bar.

Have you ever tried to move a directory from one drive to another using Windows Explorer, and then tried to do something else? First the 'Moving' dialog grabs the focus (something Microsoft themselves say is not good program design) .. then start the questions. First it complains about all drives being shared, "Is it OK to continue?" Then it has to stop to ask you about the read-only files, are you sure you want to move those? (duh) Then it tells you "this change may impact one or more registered programs", even if you (supposedly) properly uninstalled those programs months ago? Then of course it has to stop you to make *sure* you want to move *this* file, it's a *program* file. I don't believe any of these options can even be turned off. But at least it's "Web-integrated"! Will Micro$oft ever innovate? I doubt it.


98/07/03. Programs have been crashing regularly today, mostly in kernel32.dll. I have had to restart Windows about 4 or 5 times during the course of today because resources seem to keep on vanishing. Windows blue-screened and crashed completely just now when I tried to unzip an invalid tar.gz file. Then I had to wait patiently for about ten minutes while Windows restarted and ran scandisk, during which it found 52MB of 'lost data', which (I hope) was only invalid unzipped data. Strangely, many people seem to think that it is acceptable for an OS to behave this way. Most Computer Science students, however, will tell you that any arbitrary program (such as WinZip) should not be able to crash the entire OS. For example, this would never happen under Linux. Even if I was root, the unzip program would simply dump its core, and I would be able to carry on working without waiting ten minutes for the OS to restart.

Why have people begun to believe that crashing regularly is OK for complex systems? I believe that part of the blame lies with Microsoft. They tend to tell the public, who mostly do not know much about complex software systems, that because such systems are so complex it is somehow "OK" for them to sometimes crash.

It is not.

The plain and simple fact is that Windows9X is a poorly constructed system. Windows NT is better, but can still be crashed completely from something as simple as an invalid network packet.

Why does Microsoft remain dedicated to monolithic buggy spaghetti systems such 95/98? One reason may be that for them to 'pause' even to fix several thousand of the bugs (let alone give the system the complete re-write that it needs) would set them back in the industry more than enough for any of their competitors to come out with a truly spiffy system. Because of competition, consumers lose out, at least in this case.

I had an interesting non-crash today; I was sending data to the shared printer, and Windows popped up a message, "There was an error printing. Please re-start Windows and try again." Of course, I didn't really have to restart Windows. I'm sorry I didn't screenshot that one though. Restart the operating system because of a transient printing error?

98/07/03. There are plenty other crashes that can't make this page because of the serious nature of the crash. I just had one of those a little while ago, towards the end of a 16MB download. (If you're curious, I was downloading the GIMP user manual. This is one of the reasons I now refuse to use Windows at all for Internet access.) Luckily the gimp ftp site supports restarting broken downloads. (Windows NT ftp servers do not currently support this feature however.) I got into one of those "Blue-Screen-Of-Death/The system is dangerously low on resources,please restart windows/this application has crashed" torturous loops, and had to restart.

A friend of mine has a Compaq laptop which Windows95 seems to screw up every time he tries to install Internet Explorer 4. While trying to start up windows I got a neat little message box (one of the best I've seen yet) that said simply "Error starting explorer.exe/You must reinstall Windows".


It took me some time to manage these screenshots, due to the constant crashing of programs. Note the toolbar at the left in Paint Shop Pro. About this time I decided to shut down and restart. (This was most likely caused by resource leakages)

Paint Brush crash

Windows Paint Brush crashes in GDI.EXE.

Paint Brush message

Windows Paint Brush gave me this somewhat ironic message whenever I tried to close it. Notice the messed up toolbars to the left thanks to vanishing resources, and the lack of a taskbar 'cos explorer had already crashed.


Explorer crashes inside itself after I try running it again (after it crashed in GDI.EXE, another win32 module.)


A win32 module crashes inside another win32 module.

Paint Shop Pro crash

This one and the next three happened during the same general Windows slow-death. Paint Shop Pro crashes inside Windows kernel code.

Outlook Express crash

My Outlook Express for some reason seems to crash more or less every single time I use it, since I installed IE 4.01 over Win95b. Typically it crashes if I leave the program alone for a few minutes and then try send/receive mail.

Strange registry error message

This happens to me every now and again, for no apparent reason. I'm sure this must be a confusing message for a non-computer literate person. Note that errors that make you restart windows often cause you to lose work (although luckily for me not in this case.) Lost work equals lost money in the industry; probably billions of dollars if you consider how many people rely on Microsoft software. Thanks, MS.

(2002/09: Dave writes: "Your registry error fault ... is caused by a defective simm/dimm. I have seen this many times. If you know who sent this in, please pass this on to him. If he replaces his memory, this error should go away. I know this seems weird for a memory error, but what happens is as the registry is loading, an address fault in the memory prohibits the registry from loading properly, and generates this error." Not sure, but it doesn't seem likely to me that this was the cause in this case, for various reasons (amongst them the complete lack of problems I had with Linux on that same machine, and also because the problem went away at some stage on the same machine after an OS re-install))

Explorer crash

My explorer shell (the Taskbar) crashed (nothing surprising), but in this case it would not allow to me to run a new shell for about 15 minutes. Every time I ran 'explorer.exe' the above message was shown.

Explorer crash

Just a plain ol' boring Explorer crash. *yawn*.