Forcing Windows to Crash

By Neil J. Rubenking  |  Posted 2003-09-02 Print this article Print

Here's a Registry tweak that will let you crash Windows 2000 or XP in order to test your recovery options.

You can force Windows 2000 and XP to display the blue screen of death. Hopefully, the only reason to do this is that youll never see it otherwise! In the Registry key HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\System\ CurrentControlSet\Services\i8042prt\Parameters, find or create a DWORD value named CrashOnCtrlScroll. Double-click on the value and set its data to 1. Restart your computer. Now you can cause a crash by holding the right-hand Ctrl key and pressing the Scroll Lock key twice.

Dirk A. D. Smith

Actually, a valid reason to crash your computer deliberately is to test your recovery options. Windows 2000 and XP can be configured so that in the rare event of a crash, a memory dump will be saved for debugging purposes and your system will restart automatically. If your system needs maximum uptime, it behooves you to verify how well it recovers from a crash.

First, make sure the recovery configuration is correct. Right-click on My Computer and choose Properties, then click on the Advanced tab. If you are running Windows XP, click on the Settings button in the Startup and Recovery pane. If youre running Win 2000, click on the button titled Startup and Recovery. In the System Failure pane youll generally want all three of the following options checked: Write an event to the system log, Send an administrative alert, and Automatically restart.

If you choose the 64KB Small Memory Dump, each occurrence is written separately to the folder specified. The Kernel Memory Dump is larger, and a Complete Memory Dump requires that you have a paging file large enough to hold all physical RAM plus 1MB; this is the largest option. By default, the two larger options are written to the file Memory.dmp in the Windows folder, with each occurrence overwriting the previous. Once you get the settings as you want them, close any open programs and use the special keystroke to crash the system. You can verify that the desired memory dump is written and check how long it takes to restart after a crash.

Neil J. Rubenking Neil Rubenking served as vice president and president of the San Francisco PC User Group for three years when the IBM PC was brand new. He was present at the formation of the Association of Shareware Professionals, and served on its board of directors. In 1986, PC Magazine brought Neil on board to handle the torrent of Turbo Pascal tips submitted by readers. By 1990 he had become PC Magazine's technical editor, and a coast-to-coast telecommuter. His 'User to User' column supplied readers with tips and solutions on using DOS and Windows, his technical columns clarified fine points in programming and operating systems, and his utility articles (over forty of them) provided both useful programs and examples of programming in Pascal, Visual Basic, and Delphi. Mr. Rubenking has also written seven books on DOS, Windows, and Pascal/Delphi programming, including PC Magazine DOS Batch File Lab Notes and the popular Delphi Programming for Dummies. In his current position as a PC Magazine Lead Analyst he evaluates and reports on client-side operating systems and security solutions such as firewalls, anti-virus, anti-spyware, anti-spam and full security suites. He continues to answer questions for readers in the ongoing 'Solutions' column and in PC Magazine's discussion forums.

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