Physical Memory Dump Problems

By Chris Loza

Updated September 15, 2017

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The physical memory dump problem is also known as the blue screen of death (BSOD) for computers. This happens when a faulting application causes your computer to crash. When your computer crashes, it creates a file that \"dumps\" the data that were running at the time of the crash. This allows you to pinpoint the application or file that caused the crash.

Causes Of Physical Memory Dump Problem

Physical memory dump problems, or BSODs, are typically caused by drivers or applications that are incompatible with the operating systems. Crashes can happen when you upgrade into a new operating system and some applications you run with the old operating system were not tested to be compatible with the new OS. It can also happen when you install a new software and some of the files being loaded are not compatible with your operating system. Another cause is upgrading the drivers you have for videos, audio, graphics, and other peripherals that are not compatible with your OS. The bottom line for BSOD is incompatibility with your OS. An upgrade or rollback of identified incompatible drivers or an uninstall of incompatible software often fixes the problem.

Memory Dumps

Programs running on your computer use different parts of RAM (random-access memory). It is \"random\" because there is no fixed hierarchy of data being stored and accessed. Any applications you run temporarily uses whatever space is available in your RAM. All data in the RAM is released and lost when you turn off your computer. When an application causes a serious error, hangs, or stops working, this freezes your RAM and stops it from being accessed and used. Without any memory to be used to run any application, your computer stops running altogether and crashes. This is called the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) and your computer \"dumps\" the data from your RAM into a memory dump file. Depending on how your computer is configured, three types of dump file are available, which access different parts of the memory: the small, kernel and complete memory dump.

Small Memory Dump

The small memory dump records only what it thinks to be the most useful information for identifying the crash. It dumps a list of drivers that were being accessed and the last entry in the RAM before your computer crashed. The small memory dump works for computers that don't have a large hard drive capacity since it only creates mini dumps that are 2MB at most. The disadvantage of enabling only a small memory dump is that some BSODs are caused indirectly by other applications not accessing the memory at the time of the crash. The mini dump files are located at C:\Windows\Minidump. New ones are created every time your computer hangs.

Kernel Memory Dump

The kernel memory dump contains a larger segment of the memory at the time of the crash than the small memory dump. It contains not just the list of drivers and last address in the RAM before the crash, but also the part of the memory that is used by your operating system to run your computer. Operating systems load several drivers and applications in the background during startup and, the entire time your computer is running, these drivers and applications access a part of your RAM and are specified as the kernel memory. When your computer crashes and the kernel memory dump is enabled, it dumps all these into that dump file. For most cases, this already contains useful information to diagnose the cause of the crash, but the kernel memory dump does not contain that part of the RAM that is used by programs you run and those that are unallocated. Depending on the size of your RAM, the size of the kernel memory dump ranges from 150MB to 2GB.

Complete Memory Dump

The complete memory dump dumps everything in your RAM. If you have a 1GB RAM, the complete memory dump will have a size of 1GB plus at least 1MB for dump information. This dump file, named MEMORY.DMP, contains all the information in your RAM at the time of the crash. It takes a lot of disk space and is overwritten every time a new complete dump is made at C:\Windows.

Where To Configure Dump Options

Dump options can be configured by going to System Properties on your computer. Under \"Startup and Recovery\" is a Settings button, which you can click to choose which of the three dump options you'd like to have. It also shows you the file name and location where the dump file is created.