More Reviews




Tutorial: Solving Cryptic Memory Error Messages

May, 2001

by Vivian Lynes

In spite of the Macintosh's relative ease of use we all get hit with cryptic error messages from time to time. What do they mean? What did I do? These questions run through the minds of all of us when it happens but they truly strike fear into the hearts of the novice user. There are several shareware programs that offer up technical meanings but they do little to ease the frustration and little to help understand what is happening. Terms such as bus error, address error or illegal instruction error really don't give one an answer to the problem.

Error types 1, 2 and 3 are related to memory problems of one type or another but there are a few things that one can do to relieve these problems. One of the first things to try is to allocate more memory to the program that was running when you got the error message.

To do this, find the application icon, usually buried somewhere on your hard drive, in a folder bearing the application name. When you find it click on it once, to highlight it. See Illustration 1.

Illustration 1

If you keep aliases of your applications handy for launching you may also, highlight the alias, and do a Show Original which is found under the File menu in the Finder. (Command-R is the shortcut.)

Illustration 2

Illustration 3

Next, go to Get Info under the File menu in the Finder and arrow over to the Memory option. See Illustration 3.

The following menu will come up. (For the keyboard shortcut hit the Command-I keys and then arrow over to the memory option.)

Illustration 4

Now, drag your mouse over the Preferred Size and then type in a higher figure. The more physical memory you have the more you can give each program, but it is a good idea to up the figure by at least a 1000 k. You can always add more later.

Having lots of physical memory is one of the easiest ways to keep your applications happy. The cost of ram at the present time is certainly conducive to adding more memory to one's system. Then, whenever a new application is installed, one can immediately up the memory allotted to it. Applications run quicker with more memory and are less likely to generate errors.

Another thing to consider when trying to solve memory errors is when did the message come up. Had you been using different programs over a long time period or had you just recently booted up and opened an application when it happened. If the former is the case, your program may be prone to corrupting memory. A simple restart will mostly likely correct the problem.

Corrupted preferences may also be at the bottom of your problem. Try going to the Preference folder, in the System folder, and trashing the preferences for the application that is causing the trouble. If that doesn't work, you may have a corrupt application and reinstalling it could very likely fix the problem.

If the problem still isn't solved try booting up with the shift key held down. This will keep the extensions, control panels and startup items from loading. If your application runs fine in this scenario then you very likely have a conflict with an extension; but if you still get the same error message while trying to run your application then your system may be corrupted and you will have to replace it. If this is the case, refer to another of my tutorials on using Clean-Install Assistant to help with this chore. {to get Clean-Install Assistant, click HERE. ed}

Try booting up with all non-Apple extensions turned off. Do this by holding down the space bar while you restart. The Extensions Manager will open and you can then turn off all third party extensions. If the application runs fine without those extensions then you probably have an extension conflict. This simply means that one of your extensions is causing the problem by not interacting properly with the rest of the extensions.

It will take some sleuthing to figure out which extension is causing the problem; but if you have Cassady and Green's Conflict Catcher, the process will be fairly simple to diagnose. Just open the control panel and hit the Conflict Test button. This will set in motion a series of restarts with various groups of extensions loaded until the culprit is found.

If you use Apple's Extension Manager it will take a bit more effort to locate the troublesome extension. If you aren't adept at using the Extension Manager, go to Apple for help using this control panel.

With diligence you will solve your conflict problems and will soon be back enjoying your Macintosh, and you will no doubt have gained some knowledge about the inner workings of your computer and be a little more prepared and less apprehensive the next time you are hit with memory errors.

copyright©2001Vivian Lynes

About the Author
Vivian Lynes is a Canadian snowbird that winters in the Sun Cities area of Arizona. While there, she helps out at three different Mac clubs and while in Canada she interacts with a club too.

This article first appeared on and is reprinted here with permission.
All screen captures and textual references are the property and trademark of their creators/owners/publishers.

copyright © Michael Horton 2000-2010 All rights reserved