View the error signature from Office Application Error Reporting

Office XP errors generate error signatures that help you troubleshoot the problem. Steve Pittsley describes the most common Office XP errors and how to view their signatures in the Office Application Error Reporting tool and the Windows Event Viewer.

When a Microsoft Office XP application encounters a serious error, you’ll receive an error message that may or may not help you resolve the problem. However, you can get more information by reading the error signature that is generated when the error occurs. In this Daily Feature, I’ll describe some of the causes of these types of errors, how to view the error signature from the Office Application Error Reporting tool as well as the Windows Event Viewer, and how the information in the error signature can help you troubleshoot the problem. I’ll also describe how to view the Office XP application error message in Windows 98 and Me.

Typical errors in Office XP applications
Although the messages that accompany an application error often seem cryptic and vague, the errors they report tend to fall into broad categories. The three general error types that most often occur in an Office XP application are exception errors, invalid page faults, and kernel errors. While you’ll probably see other types of problems, most Office XP errors will fall into these three broad categories.

Exception errors
An exception error alerts you to the fact that something unexpected has occurred in the Windows environment. These types of problems are typically related to memory access, but they can also be generated when a program performs an invalid operation. Here are a few typical causes of exception errors:
  • The program requests data that isn’t currently in virtual memory. When Windows attempts to retrieve the information, it isn’t able to locate the data and load it into RAM.
  • The program attempts to access an illegal instruction.
  • Virtual memory becomes unstable due to a shortage of RAM.
  • Virtual memory becomes unstable due to a shortage of free disk space.
  • Virtual memory is damaged by another program.
  • The program attempts to access invalid data or code.
  • The privilege level of the operation is invalid.

When errors such as these occur, the operating system receives the exception and displays a fatal exception error message. The syntax of the message is A fatal exception <XY> has occurred at xxxx:xxxxxxxx. The letters XY represent the actual processor exception and can range in value from hexadecimal 00 to 0F. The xxxx:xxxxxxxx represents the code segment pointer and the actual address where the exception error occurred.

Invalid page fault errors
Invalid page fault errors usually indicate that the program has attempted to improperly access RAM. For example, the program may have tried to read or write data to a memory location that isn’t allocated to it. This can corrupt the information that was previously stored at that location.

When an invalid page fault error occurs, you’ll receive an error message that has syntax similar to WINWORD caused an invalid page fault in module <module name> at <address>. The module name and the address at which the error occurred can be useful when troubleshooting these types of errors.

Kernel errors
Kernel errors can have many causes, but they often occur when a parameter that is passed between applications causes a program to run an invalid instruction. The general syntax of a kernel error is WINWORD caused an invalid page fault in module kernel32.dll at <address>. Again, the address that is displayed in the error message is useful for troubleshooting the cause of the kernel error.

Viewing the error signature
The Office Application Error Reporting tool starts automatically when an error occurs. It gives you the option of reporting the error to Microsoft technical support or viewing basic information. An error signature, or description, is also created. This signature contains information that you can use to resolve the error. The error signature will give you such information as:
  • The offending application.
  • The date and time that the error occurred.
  • The memory address where the error occurred.
  • The version of the application and program that caused the error.
  • A basic description of the error.

The text of the error message should also have a line that says To see what data this error report contains, click here. Clicking on the word “here” calls up detailed information about the error, including the error signature. In the Error Signature section of the report, you should see information similar to that in Figure A.
Figure A
App name App version Module name Module version Offset
winword.exe 10.0.2627.0 winword.exe 10.0.2627.0 0032a96d

Troubleshooting the error
You can use the information in the error signature to troubleshoot the problem with the help of the Microsoft Knowledge Base. Simply enter the App or Module Name and the Offset into the Search The Knowledge Base box. If someone else has experienced a problem similar to yours, there’s a good chance you’ll find a solution posted to the Knowledge Base Web site.

In addition to using the Microsoft Knowledge Base, the error signature may also point to another program or module that caused the error. For example, if your printer driver is to blame for an error, the module shown in the error signature will alert you to it so that you can take the appropriate action to correct the problem. Unfortunately, application and module names are not always descriptive enough for you to determine where the problem lies. In that case, you’ll have to use the Knowledge Base to resolve the error.

Viewing the error signature using Event Viewer
Application errors can sometimes lock up a computer system, forcing you to reboot before you can view the error signature in the Office Application Error Reporting tool. However, you can obtain the same information from the Windows Event Viewer. This administrative tool gives you easy access to the error signature and all of the troubleshooting information provided by the Office Application Error Reporting tool.

To open Event Viewer in Windows XP, click Start | Control Panel | Administrative Tools | Event Viewer. To open Event Viewer in Windows 2000 and Windows NT 4.0, click Start | Settings | Control Panel. You should then double-click Administrative Tools and the Event Viewer icon. Once you’ve opened the Event Viewer window, the instructions for viewing the error signature are the same for all three of these operating systems.

To view errors generated by Office XP applications, click on the Application Log icon, which is located in the left pane of the Event Viewer window. The error messages displayed in Event Viewer are normally sorted by date and time, in descending order. Thus, the last error to occur is the first one shown. To sort the error messages by Source, click on the column heading to reorganize the errors. This makes it easy to find all of the messages that were generated by a specific application.

All Office XP error signature messages are displayed with Microsoft Office 10 shown in the Source column of the Event Viewer window, making them easy to locate. Once you’ve found the specific error message you need, you can double-click it to retrieve detailed information about the error.

Viewing error signatures in Windows 98 and Me
The Windows 98/Me operating systems use a different method to show the error signatures in Microsoft Office XP applications. After the error occurs, reboot the computer. After rebooting, reopen the application in which the error occurred. For example, if you received a fatal exception error in Microsoft Word, you’d open that application, click on the Help menu, and select About Microsoft Word. After clicking on the System Info button, double-click Office 10 Applications in the folder tree. Finally, click the Office Event/Application Fault folder to view the error signature.

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