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Why do systems crash?

Why do systems crash? Why do we hear about windows crashing more often than Linux crashing?
Computers can crash for a variety of reasons. These could be placed into two broad categories:

Hardware Problems
These types of problems can be encountered on any type of computer platform from Windows, Linux, to Apple. Hardware problems can originate because of components, cards, or subsystems. Just from using a computer in a dusty environment can lead to a build up of dust on computer cards. Over time this build up impedes the dissipation of heat and increases the probability of hardware failures.

Software Problems
You're correct; Linux is considered a much more stable OS than Windows. Linux is open source and based around the UNIX OS. Because it is open source, known problems can be addressed by anyone willing to tackle the issue although, if you don?t shut down Linux cleanly it can cause some sizeable problems. NT did have stability problems and anyone who has ever worked with it has at one time or another experienced the blue screen of death! Windows 2K and XP are much more stable.

So what does cause common crashes? Many crashes are caused by programming errors. When the OS tries to access an incorrect memory address it can cause a General Protection Fault. Other crashes are caused by buffer overflows, simply stated, the program exceeds the amount of allocated memory. Programming errors can also lock the OS into an infinite loop. To the end user all of these exhibit themselves as a lock up, freeze, crash, or blue screen of death.

This was last published in April 2003

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