What Does a Runtime Error Mean?


Run-time errors can be very frustrating. Just like rush-hour traffic can bring out the worst in the best drivers, run-time errors can bring out the worst in users and programmers alike. The definition of run-time errors, the causes, the types and their descriptions help users to employ possible remedies.


  • Run-time errors usually occur when a program is started, but can also occur in the middle of a program instruction. These errors result from internal program conflicts with the particular runtime (a program suddenly halts or crashes).

    Run-time errors can be as predictable as running a specific program every time or crop up suddenly. Because so many internal mechanisms are involved, it may be difficult to trace the conflicting culprit. Alerts for these runtimes show as gray pop-up boxes on the screen.

    If a run-time error occurs only when a particular program is started, then the program may be the culprit. If an error repeatedly occurs with the same runtime, the runtime may be suspect. If the run-time error involves the operating system, it may crash the computer, and a reboot would be necessary. This is usually known as the "Blue Screen of Death," or BSOD. The BSOD goes back to Windows 98.

    Windows XP and later versions tend to be more stable and tend to deal with runtime errors better.


  • The most common cause of run-time errors is software conflict. This is where a runtime gets the wrong command from a program or the runtime doesn't recognize a command. The program can be a web browser, media player, word processor or even another runtime.

    A second common cause is missing or misconfigured hardware or peripheral devices. Sound and video cards, the motherboard, and disk controllers are examples of internal hardware. Printers, scanners, monitors and iPods are examples of external hardware (peripheral devices). The device may be turned off, causing the error.

    Other causes of run-time errors may be viruses, spyware, defective hardware or a poorly written program.

Common Software Errors

  • Illegal Function Call--occurs during an internal program conflict, while executing a command or while "calling" an external function or DLL file.

    DLL Not Supported--occurs when a DLL version is not compatible with the runtime version or if the DLL file is corrupted.

    File Not Found--occurs if a necessary file is missing, has been deleted or has been renamed.

    Out of Memory--occurs when too many programs are running or if the computer does not meet the hardware requirements for that runtime.

Common Hardware Errors

  • Disk Full--occurs when there is inadequate disk space to perform the runtime. A disk cleanup utility may be needed to clean up extraneous files.

    Device Unavailable--occurs when a device is being used by another program or when it may not appear to be available. Checking the cables and power switch to the devices may help on this error.

    Operating System Error--occurs if the Operating System is incompatible with the particular runtime version. This will not necessarily cause a system crash.


  • There are several remedies that can reduce runtime errors:

    1. Run the Windows Disk Cleanup Wizard. This utility is accessed by the "Start," then "Programs," then "Accessories," then "System Tools" and then "Disk Cleanup." Follow the instructions from there.

    2. Update Windows and the antivirus software with the latest patches or versions. This procedure varies depending on the software, but navigating to the "Update" feature or "Options" will help.

    3. Run the antivirus software and antispyware software.

    4. Get the latest updates or version of the runtime. It would be a good idea to do the same for all other software you frequently use.

    5. Reinstall the offending program or runtime.

    6. Contact the software vendor.

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