Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Fix Windows Error Messages

Fix Windows Error Messages

Is your PC pestering you with perplexing problems? Wayne Williams reveals the causes and solutions of the 34 most frequent and frustrating error messages in Microsoft’s operating system

When it’s working as intended, Windows is a fantastic piece of software. It’s easy to use and customise, and generally responds to commands appropriately. But when things go wrong, the operating system – whichever version you’re using – can cause major headaches. It’s not just fixing the problem that can be tricky, but understanding exactly what the error means and what’s causing it.

Windows seems to delight in reporting its faults in the most unintelligible way imaginable: ‘Code 80248014’, ‘Stop: 0x00000050’, ‘DLL file is missing’ and – our favourite – ‘Something happened’. What do these baffling error messages even mean?

In this feature, we set out to demystify the most common Windows errors, explaining the most likely reasons for why you’re seeing them, and – most importantly – showing you how to overcome them and prevent them from reoccurring.

We also include some quick explanations of error codes that you can refer to the next time Windows pops up one of its headscratching error messages on your screen.


This program is not responding

What it means:
As you can probably gather, this common error message indicates that a program or app has decided to be anti-social and stop communicating with Windows.

How to fix it:
It’s likely that the program in question has crashed, although it might also have temporarily stalled or simply be too busy to respond. This error will give you two choices of action – end the program or cancel the error. Clicking Cancel will buy the software some more time to wake up and this is usually often the best option if  you have the patience to wait. If not, and if clicking End Now doesn’t solve the problem, right-click the taskbar and choose Start Task Manager. Select the program in the list and click End Task. It may take several attempts to close it if it’s being particularly stubborn.

The application was unable to start correctly (0xc0000018)

What it means:
The program you want to run won’t launch in Windows, even though you know it’s installed and has worked previously without problems.

How to fix it:
Firstly, try rebooting your PC, to see if that fixes the problem. If it doesn’t, try uninstalling and reinstalling the troublesome application, and/or updating to the latest version. If you still get no joy, click Start and type regedit to launch the Registry Editor. Navigate to the entry:

Find APPINIT_DLLS and delete everything in it or, failing that, delete the entire key. If it’s already empty, open Task Manager and click Processes to see what else is currently running on your PC and end any processes that could be causing conflicts.

There was a problem sending the command to the program

What it means:
This error occurs occasionally when using Microsoft Office – Excel in particular. You’ll usually see it when opening or saving a file, and it can prove extremely irritating.

How to fix it:
If you’re using a template, try changing it to something else. In Excel, go to File, Options, Advanced and scroll down to the General section. Tick ‘Ignore other applications that use Dynamic Data Exchange (DDE)’. Depending on which version of Excel you’re using, this setting may be located somewhere else in Options, so hunt around for it.

Not a valid Win32 application

What it means:
Windows doesn’t recognise the program you’re trying to launch as one that it can run. If you got the application from the web, it could be that the download terminated prematurely and didn’t complete, or it’s become corrupted. It’s also possible that the file has been renamed to look like a program (given an ‘.exe’ file extension, for example), but isn’t.

How to fix it:
Try downloading the program again. If that doesn’t work, look for a different source or try a different browser. Make sure you’re downloading a program designed for Windows – and not Mac or Linux – and that it’s the correct version for your operating system (some Windows 8.1 and 10 tools won’t work in Windows 7).

Fatal error during installation

What it means:
While installing a new program, a major error occurred that prevented the installation from completing. Although the word ‘fatal’ sounds rather scary, don’t worry: you haven’t killed your PC!

How to fix it:
Check to make sure that you have enough space on your hard drive to install the program. Next, try emptying your Temp folder. Find its location by pressing Win+R and typing cmd in the box. Click OK, then type set and hit Enter. Make a note of where the Temp directory is located, go to it and delete the contents (but don’t delete the folder). Finally, close any open applications, reboot your PC and try to install the software again.

This app can’t run on your PC

What it means:
This is the modern equivalent of the ‘Not a valid Win32 application’ error. It means that Windows 10 doesn’t recognise the program or app, so it doesn’t
know how to run it.

How to fix it:
If you downloaded the app or program yourself, try downloading it again. Use a different source or browser if the error persists. If you got the app from the Microsoft Store, try downloading it again later, at another time of day.

Runtime error

What it means:
A program has encountered a problem in its code, such as bug or a corruption, which has caused it to crash. This error is particularly common in browsers, especially older ones such as Internet Explorer.

How to fix it:
Try running the software again. If it continues to crash, check to see if there’s an updated version available. You could also try running the software in Compatibility Mode. Right-click the program shortcut, select Properties, click the Compatibility tab, and click ‘Run compatibility troubleshooter’. Finally, although the crash is unlikely to be caused by malware, it’s worth performing a quick scan for malicious code, just in case.

Another copy of the application is already running

What it means:
Most PC users will have seen this head-scratching error at least once. It occurs when you’re trying to run a program that is already running in Windows, even though it’s not visible.

How to fix it:
Sometimes when a program crashes, it disappears from the taskbar, but continues to run in the background. We see this error cropping up most regularly in Firefox. To close the program properly, right-click the taskbar, select Task Manager and find the program you’re trying to run – if you can’t see it on the Applications tab, try looking in the Processes tab. Select the culprit and click End Task or End Process. When it closes, run the software again.


There isn’t enough memory available to create a ramdisk – 0xc0000017

What it means:
This might seem like a rather obscure error that you’re never likely to see – after all, when would you need to create a ramdisk? What the hell is a ramdisk, anyway? But it’s actually something that can occur when upgrading your PC from one version of Windows to another. It means Windows is unable to use the RAM (memory) as a temporary data store.

How to fix it:
There might be a problem with the RAM inside your PC – such as there not being enough memory available or a hardware error – but this is unlikely. To overcome the problem, you need to use the built-in Windows Boot Configuration Data (BCD) command. Right-click Start and launch Command Prompt (Admin). Type bcdedit /enum all and hit Enter. Among other things, you’ll see a list of ‘bad’ memory locations which you can clear, thereby (hopefully) solving the problem. Type bcdedit /deletevalue {badmemory} badmemorylist and hit Enter. Close the Command Prompt, restart your PC and run the Windows installer once more.

Windows could not search for new updates – 80248014

What it means:
8024 errors are usually caused by corruption in the Windows Update agent that prevents you from installing any new updates. This occurs in all versions of Windows, including Windows 10.

How to fix it:
Press Win+R, type cmd into the box and press Enter. In the Command window, type net stop WuAuServ. Press Win+R and type %windir%, then press Enter. In the opened folder, locate ‘SoftwareDistribution’, select it, press F2 and name it ‘SDold’. Press Win+R, and type cmd into the box, then hit Enter. In the Command window, type net start WuAuServ. Try getting an update and, hopefully, it will now work.


Access Denied. You need permission to perform this action

What it means:
When you try to perform a seemingly straightforward task such as deleting a file, Windows prevents you from doing so because you don’t have permission. But if you’re an administrator and it’s your computer, who exactly are you supposed to ask permission from? The Queen?

This error message (usually) refers to system files that are protected to prevent accidental deletion or modification by users who may not fully understand the potential repercussions of their actions. But sometimes it can affect regular files, too.

How to fix it:
The file has probably been protected for a good reason, but that’s not always the case. If you’re sure it’s safe to delete the item, you need to get permission or take ownership. See what permissions you have by right-clicking the folder or file, selecting Properties and clicking the Security tab. To change permissions, select your admin account in the list and click Edit.

If you can’t make the required changes using this method, consider using the powerful free program Malwarebytes FileAssassin (, which can usually remove locked files from your PC and save you a lot of frustration.

You don’t have permission to save in this location

What it means:
This is a straightforward enough error – you want to save a file, such as a Word document or Excel spreadsheet, but Windows won’t let you. This is because – as the error rather snottily tells you – it appears that you don’t have the required permissions to save in that location.

How to fix it:
First, make sure that you’re not trying to save to a read-only location, such as a DVD or a system folder. Next, check the permissions of the folder you’re trying to save to. Right-click the folder in question and select Properties. Switch to the Security tab and click Advanced. Tick the oddly-phrased option ‘Replace all child object permission entries with inheritable permission entries from this object’, then click Apply followed by OK.

If that doesn’t work, try setting yourself as an administrator on your PC (if you aren’t one already). Open the Run box and type netplwiz. Press Enter, select your user account and click Properties. Open the Group Membership tab and make yourself an administrator. Reboot your PC and you should now be able to save files to the previously forbidden location.


This copy of Windows is not genuine. You may be a victim of software counterfeiting

What it means:
Quite self-explanatory this one: it means you’re running a version of Microsoft’s operating system that has been detected as counterfeit or is not recognised as being genuine.

How to fix it:
The obvious solution is to buy and install a proper version of Windows – that is, not a dodgy one from eBay! If you believe that you are running a genuine copy already and have been falsely accused of unsavoury practice, you could try ‘rearming’ Windows. Click Start, and search for cmd. Right-click Command Prompt and select ‘Run as administrator’ – in Windows 10, simply right-click the Start button and select ‘Command Prompt (Admin)’. Type slmgr -rearm and press Enter. Restart your PC to complete the rearming. If that command isn’t recognised, try slmgr /rearm instead.

WerMgr.exe or WerFault.exe – Application Error

What it means:
These system files (found in the System32 folder) collect and send error logs to Microsoft to help identify and fix problems. This error occurs when the file in question has become corrupted in some way.

How to fix it:
Open a Command Prompt as an administrator, type sfc /scannow and press Enter. This will repair important Windows files including (hopefully) WerMgr.exe or WerFault.exe, if they are corrupted. If that doesn’t fix the problem, you could disable the Windows Error Reporting Service. Hit Win+R and type services.msc. Scroll down to Windows Error Reporting Service, right-click it and select Properties. Change its startup type from Manual to Disabled. Click OK and restart your computer.

Inaccessible boot device

What it means:
This is a Blue Screen (or Stop) error that occurs when Windows 10 is no longer able to access the system partition or drive on your PC. This could be caused by corruption of the hard drive.

How to fix it:
Shut down your PC, wait a few seconds, then turn it on again. You can also try removing any hardware that you’ve recently connected. It may be worth disconnecting and reconnecting all your hard drives when your PC is powered off in case of a loose connection. Finally, if you can get into Windows 10, right-click the Start button and select ‘Command Prompt (Admin)’ and type chkdsk /f /r on the system partition. If you can’t boot into Windows 10, use the Recovery Console (press F8 when the manufacturer logo appears) and run ‘Chkdsk /r’.

DLL file is missing/could not be found

What it means:
DLL (Dynamic-Link Library) files contain the code and data needed to perform specific actions in Windows, and can be accessed by any program. Unfortunately, they can go missing, get corrupted or be replaced by incorrect versions, which is why errors relating to them are so common.

How to fix it:
Don’t try to solve the problem by downloading the missing DLL file from the web and copying it to the specified location, because this can make things worse. Instead, restart your computer and, if the error message appears again, run your antivirus software to for malware, because this can often be the cause. Look in the Recycle Bin see if the missing file is there and, if not, try rolling things back using System Restore. You can also try reinstalling the problematic program.

Another option is to open a Command Prompt window as an administrator, type sfc /scannow and hit Enter. This will repair important Windows files including DLLs. If none of this works, you can try registering the DLL file. Open a Command Prompt and type regsvr32 [name of DLL file] reboot the computer.

System thread exception not handled

What it means:
This is another common Blue Screen (or Stop) error that can be caused by problematic programs and drivers. A message tells you that ‘Your PC ran into a problem and needs to restart’. Windows will collect some data and then reboot.

How to fix it:
If the error occurs more than once, check the text next to the error message (before Windows reboots) to see if it provides the name of the file that caused the problem. If it’s listed, search Google to find out what it is, then look to see if there’s a newer version available. If it’s a driver, check the manufacturer’s site or use a tool such as IObit Driver Booster 3 Free ( to install the latest version.


Unspecified error

What it means:
As you can probably guess from the message, an error has occurred, but it’s not one for which Windows has a specific description. Yeah, thanks for that!

How to fix it:
This really is one of the least helpful error messages and deserves a good kicking. The problem could be caused by all manner of things. Try closing all your  applications and rebooting your PC. Beyond that, the only other thing to try is to check if there are any updates available for the program that triggered the error message.

Something happened – 0x80070005-0x90002

What it means:
Another amusingly vague Windows error message that’s been around for quite some time. If you see this while installing Windows 10, it essentially means that the installer can’t work with a required file for one reason for another.

How to fix it:
Disable any running security software (in case this is interfering with the installer), go to and run the Fix It tool there to reset Windows Update components. Then run the installer again.


The error codes that appear when Windows runs into a problem may seem to make no sense, but they do actually mean something and can help you troubleshoot whatever issue you’re facing. There are hundreds of different codes, and their meaning is often very broad. Here are some of the most common examples:

Error code 0 (0x0) – success
The operation completed successfully.

Error code 2 (0x2) – file not found
Your computer could not find a specific file (you may need to reinstall the program).

Error code 5 (0x5) – access denied
Access is denied (obviously). Check that any required username and password were entered correctly and accept any requested authentication.

Error code 20 (0x14) – bad unit
Your system can’t find the device you are trying to use. You may need to reinstall the hardware.

Error code 14 (0xE) or 8 (0x8)
Not enough storage is available to complete the operation you’re trying to perform.

Error 28 (0x1C)
Your printer is out of paper. No prizes for guessing how you solve this one!

Error 303 (0x12F)
The file you’re trying to open is in the process of being deleted, which is why you can’t open it.

Error 1021 (0x3FD)
You’re unlikely to see this error unless you’re fiddling with the Registry, but its official title is ERROR_CHILD_MUST_BE_VOLATILE, which we find quite amusing.

You can view a (very) long list of errors at You can also use the free Error Lookup tool ( to translate error codes into a more meaningful text description.


Thinking of upgrading to Windows 10? Watch out for these potential errors and take a look at Microsoft’s own page at for further advice

A file needed by Windows Update could be missing or damaged.

A program or driver is not compatible with Windows 10.

The upgrade process was interrupted. Try again.

Your PC was unable to connect to the Windows Update servers. Check your internet connection and try again.

0xC1900208 – 0x4000C
An incompatible app on your PC is preventing the upgrade process from completing.

0xC1900200 – 0x20008/0xC1900202 – 0x20008
Your PC doesn’t meet the minimum requirements for downloading or installing the Windows 10 upgrade.

0x80070070 – 0x50011/0x80070070 – 0x50012/0x80070070 – 0x600
Your PC doesn’t have enough free hard-drive space to install the upgrade.