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What Does Crash Mean?

A crash, in the context of computing, is an event wherein the operating system or a computer application stops functioning properly. It mostly occurs when:

  • Hardware has failed in a non-recoverable fashion
  • Operating system data have become corrupted
  • Recovery from an error is not possible without loss of data

An application crash can result in an unexpected exit from the application, whereas a system crash can result in freezing of the computer.

A crash is also known as a system crash.

Techopedia Explains Crash

An application can crash for various reasons, including:

  • Illegal execution of a machine or privileged instruction
  • Passing invalid arguments to function calls
  • Attempting to access an invalid memory address
  • Performing an invalid input/output operation
  • Performing an illegal mathematical operation such as a divide-by-zero operation
  • Using a wrong version of a dynamic library (aka, “DLL hell” in Windows)

As a result of any of the above, an application is abruptly terminated by the operating system to prevent system instability.

During a system crash, the operating system sometimes can recover from the error by rebooting. However, crashes caused by bugs in device drivers, kernel-mode errors, malfunctioning hardware or hardware/software incompatibility may require a system update, reinstallation or even an upgrade. Otherwise, the problem may persist. In some cases, the screen turns blue and error messages are displayed on screen. This is known as the “blue screen of death” in Windows.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.