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What The Heck is a Memory Dump File?

A memory dump file is also a log, it is a log of the memory when an exception or error occurs...

And how would you use it?

When your computer has a system failure (crash or BSOD) the default setting is for the OS to write a "memory dump file" or a "debugging information" file.

To find the settings right click on My Computer, select Properties from the menu, go to the Advanced tab. Or from the Control Panel click the System applet.

Select Startup and Recovery, go down to the "System failure" block.

Under the options the "Write debugging information" -

The options are:

  • none
  • Small memory dump (64 KB)
  • Kernel memory dump

And the dump file will be located at the C:\Windows\ folder it is called MEMORY.DMP 

For normal operation you can set the "Write debugging information" to none. Why have a service running that you don't need?

If your computer starts crashing for no apparent reason (say after a scheduled update by Microsoft) or after you install a software program activate the memory dump file to either the Small or Kernel memory dump.

Now you have a file that will tell a trained tech what is causing your problems.

You can open this file in notepad but not much of the file will be readable because it is a binary file, that is it is in hex code.

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To read the file you either can send it to Microsoft and pay to have it debugged (that is find the cause of the system failure) or you can go to Microsoft Tech Net and do a search for the program that will read the file. I will warn you how ever that unless you have used a compiler/debug program it will be confusing to read.

Note: A little story - When I was a Systems Admin the company I worked for decided every major installation would have a firewall and proxy server. I was the Admin assigned to get the server hardware, load the Server Operating System then turn it over to the software tech who would load and configure the firewall and proxy software. This was the first server to be built so in a way it was an experiment. After it crashed a few times the tech doing the software install asked me to help figure out what was causing the server to crash when the software was started. To find out what was causing the crashes we had to use the memory dump file, we waited a week while both MS and the software company pored over the file. What it came out to be was the software was not compatible with the network cards in the computer.

If on the other hand you are having a problem with your OS crashing after a software install then set it for the dump option for what program publishers Tech Support or MS needs to assist you.  (If you are having a problem with a program crashing your computer your first choice is the program publishers Tech Support or if you want to pay Microsoft [at whatever the current rate is] to look at your problem you will have to activate the dump file, get it from the effected computer and send it to which ever tech support you are using to assist you.

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Now we know what the heck a Memory dump file is.

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