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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Faulty Drivers Often the Cause of Windows Instability

Some users experience a lot more instability than others. It could be they are using different features that lead to the instability. Or maybe they have just one corrupt font installed or way too many fonts. Sure, it could be the fault of the crashing software as no software is perfect. In short, there are many variables that can lead to a crash.

One suspect that is often overlooked is a driver. A user contacted me recently about a series of crashes they were experiencing in CorelDRAW X6. It is not bug-free! But after a month and a half, I'm still waiting for my first crash. It just works for me. This user explained some details that led me to believe the culprit was a printer driver. Previously this user had been running an older version of CorelDRAW in a virtual machine on their 64-bit Windows. It was because their laser engraver only had a 32-bit driver. When they upgraded to CorelDRAW X6, they also installed a 64-bit driver for their laser engraver.

Anytime a number of objects was output to the 64-bit laser engraver driver, CorelDRAW would crash. Sure, it could be a problem with CorelDRAW. I asked the user to do a test and print the exact same thing to a desktop inkjet or laser printer. Both of the drivers are what is called Windows GDI drivers (non-PostScript). When the exact same data was output to the desktop printer, CorelDRAW didn't crash. The only different between crashing and not crashing was printing to a different driver. While there is no way to know for certain, it seems as if the problem here is the driver for the laser engraver. Given that it was just available for 64-bit, I wouldn't be at all surprised if it has a few glitches.

The important thing to understand is that crashes can be caused by a number of different things. There is no doubt at all that the software can be at fault. Yet oftentimes it is other things on your computer like faulty drivers that can be the true problem.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then why are the makers of drivers like those for Graphics and video cards allowed to get away with such defective crap that causes the instability if its not Windows itself?

10:18 AM  
Blogger Foster D. Coburn III said...

Users have to hold the companies accountable. If you find that a manufacturer makes drivers that cause instability, don't buy their products in the future. Also note that there are often two drivers available. You can download one from Microsoft that is "certified", but it probably isn't nearly as fast. Or you can download one from the manufactuer that hasn't gone through the certification process.

10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shouldn't it be the job of Microsoft to hold BOTH the manufacturers of PCS using their software and the drivers to account in causing issues like BSOD to this day?If there are still potential issues like BSOD even With Windows 8 that is pathetic. That should now be a thing of the past in 2012 as I thought was supposed to be mostly the case with the majority of PCS since XP?

You go to Device Manager and ask it to look for updates it says your drivers are up to date up to date which is often contradicted by the drivers websites themselves.Then when you install any "new drivers" that are available it bungles installation or if even "successful" it can do more harm than good compared to the issues with the older driver.

(Shouldn't all driver manufacturers have to have their drivers certified as fit for download and installlation first and shouldn't Microsoft itself be more actively identifying new and better drivers in Device Manager if they actually exist for you?

When I started using Symantec's NIS from 2002 I thought they were unbelievable a lot of the time with issues I confronted but now today their software for download, installation and usability with latest Microsoft operating systems has got in my experience so much better. I just don't have a problem most of the time with them anymore because they seem to put more effort into ensuring that their software works and into rectifying any bugs.So why cant driver manufacturers be more like them?)

Then when you complain to the driver manufacturers they say they recommend you download the latest drivers configured for your specific computer from a PC manufacturer like Dell's website.

Except they don't update their drivers that much (if at all) or act suffiently on complaints by owners of a make of PC having the same issue and that also makes a potential nonsense of being able to try to upgrade your operating system without it causing far more problems than it seems to be worth.(Whatever Microsoft says.)

In short while you get more extensive software with Windows machines shouldn't Microsoft be a bit more like Apple in certifing any product using their software as (within reason) fully fit for purpose? :

Too often when a blue screen IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL " error or "Display driver stopped responding and has recovered" message occurs I feel like I'm having to be an involuntary diagnostic engineer (A bit like in Star Trek) going round in circles online for an elusive analysis and solution that isn't abtusely explained because insufficent effort was made to preempt the issue from occuring in the first place.

If TV's had always had such issues in the middle of watching a programme people would have thrown them out.

6:17 AM  
Blogger Foster D. Coburn III said...

Typically when we talk about a "crash", it isn't a BSOD. It is simply a software program crashing. The only times I can remember experiencing a BSOD in the past few years has been when a hardware component was failing.

7:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well diagnostics on my Dell laptop say no hardware problems and online support BY Dell has identified a "faulty driver" causing this. Even if their solution hasnt completely reolved the issue?

9:30 AM  
Blogger Foster D. Coburn III said...

I didn't say a bad driver can't cause a BSOD, they just generally cause regular old crashes. We have not been pleased with Dell's proprietary video drivers and choose not to purchase their laptops for that reason.

11:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting. So which Windows laptops do you rate and isn't it a rebuke of of Dell as the largest manufacturer of Windows PC's in the world that they can't develop proprietary video drivers then that just work?

12:17 PM  
Blogger Foster D. Coburn III said...

In almost all cases, the "video card" in a laptop is from ATI or nVidia. Both of them come out with updated drivers on a very regular basis. But these drivers can't be installed on a "proprietary" machine without some major trickery. It is much better to find a laptop that allows for the updated drivers. Most recently we have used HP laptops and are generally happy with it. It certainly isn't perfect and we will look around when the time comes to get another one.

12:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My issue seems to have been a faulty driver and maybe the laptop fan/temperature because if I dont get a "Display driver stopped responding and has recovered" message and instead a blue screen IRQL_NOT_LESS_OR_EQUAL " error occurs there is then also a noticeable increase in fan sound and the bottom of the laptop shows a very significant rise in temperature compared to when in normal operation.

6:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Band new PC, windows 8, Corel X-6, lasted video card driver. crashes at different times of high memory use. 8GB of ram. Designed by artists ... obviously. Why is processing and saving a file causing problems through a video card?

12:30 PM  
Blogger Foster D. Coburn III said...

I'm sorry, with the information you've provided, there is no way to answer your question. If you would like to provide details on the files causing problems, EVERYTHING running on your machine and more, I'm happy to give a better answer.

12:39 PM  

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