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What is a runtime error, and how to fix it

Why do runtime errors occur, what are they, and how the heck can you fix them?

Published onSeptember 22, 2023

Runtime errors can be frustrating and confusing for computer users, especially when they interrupt an otherwise smooth workflow. Whether you’re working on a complex software application, using a spreadsheet program like Microsoft Excel, or browsing the web, you might encounter a runtime error. In this guide, we’ll discuss what runtime errors are, their most common causes, and how you may be able to fix your runtime error.


Runtime errors are problems that occur when a specific application encounters a problem and crashes. There are many possible ways to fix runtime errors, including restarting your computer, updating or restarting your application, and closing other applications that may be conflicting.


What is a runtime error?

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A runtime error is a type of computer error that occurs while a program is running, hence the term “runtime.” Unlike compile-time errors, which the compiler detects before a program is executed, runtime errors occur while a specific program is running. These errors often lead to a program crashing or other unexpected behavior, frustrating developers and users. There are many different causes of runtime errors, but these are some of the most common:

Common causes of runtime errors

  1. Memory leaks: A memory leak occurs when a software program drains your PC’s RAM (random access memory). This can happen when using software that hasn’t been updated, including running on an OS (operating system) that hasn’t been updated to its newest version.
  2. Memory issues: Memory-related problems can also lead to runtime errors. This includes issues like attempting to access an area of memory that is not allocated or trying to free memory that has already been freed up.
  3. File not found: A runtime error can occur if a program tries to access a file that doesn’t exist or is located in a different directory. This is a common issue in applications relying on external data files. To fix this issue, ensure that whatever file a program requires access to is present and is in the right location.
  4. Function calls: Incorrect usage of functions or calling functions with the wrong number or type of arguments can lead to runtime errors. This is particularly relevant in programming languages that have strict type-checking rules.
  5. Encoding errors: An encoding error can occur when utilizing software that renders a file (like a video or image) to convert it to a different file format. Because the encoding process is highly resource intensive, an error sometimes occurs when the program uses more power than a system can handle. The user may encounter messages such as “encoding overloaded” or “encoding failed.”

How to fix a runtime error

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Dealing with runtime errors can be challenging and tedious, but they aren’t insurmountable. Here are some steps you can take to fix runtime errors effectively:

1. Reset your PC

Sometimes, runtime errors can be caused by temporary glitches or conflicts in the operating system or system resources. Something as simple as just restarting your computer can help to clear these issues. It’s a simple step but can often resolve minor runtime errors.

2. Close other programs

Running multiple programs simultaneously can strain your computer’s resources, leading to runtime errors. To free up system resources, close unnecessary applications or background processes. This can help ensure that the program encountering the runtime error has enough resources to operate correctly and is often the solution for the error.

3. Update the application

Software developers regularly release updates to fix bugs and address compatibility issues. Check if an update is available for the application triggering the runtime error. Updating the software to the latest version may resolve the issue, as developers often include bug fixes in their updates.

4. Reinstall the application

If updating the application doesn’t solve the problem, consider reinstalling it. This can help replace any corrupted or missing program files that may be causing the runtime error. Be sure to uninstall the existing version of the software before reinstalling it to ensure a clean installation.

5. Seek outside help

If you cannot resolve the runtime error alone, don’t hesitate to seek assistance. Depending on the nature of the error and the software involved, you can consider the following options:

  • Contact support: Many software developers offer customer support services. Visit the developer’s website or documentation to find contact information and reach out for assistance.
  • Online forums and communities: Online forums and communities dedicated to specific software or programming languages can be valuable resources. You can describe your issue and seek advice from experienced users or developers who may have encountered similar problems.
  • Check event logs: In some cases, the Windows Event Viewer can provide additional information about the error, which may be helpful when seeking assistance from others or troubleshooting further.

Remember that the specific steps to fix a runtime error may vary depending on the software, operating system, and error message you encounter. It’s essential to approach each issue methodically, starting with the simplest solutions and progressing to more complex ones if necessary. Additionally, maintaining a backup of your important data and regularly updating your software can help prevent runtime errors from occurring in the first place.

In conclusion, runtime errors can be a frustrating aspect of computer usage, but they can often be resolved with patience and the right approach. By following these steps and seeking assistance when needed, you can effectively tackle runtime errors and enjoy smoother computing experiences.

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