What Is an Application Error?

By Kevin Lee

Computer users dislike them and software developers hate them. Application errors occur when a web-based or desktop application fails to work according to plan. These errors will always exist because it is impossible to test every conceivable condition that causes them and to verify that all hardware and networking components on a computer are always in perfect working condition.

Misconceptions

If an application does not crash, that doesn't mean there aren't any application errors. Problems can occur behind the scenes as programs execute. These problems may never appear to the user. Developers often code programs so that they detect minor errors and log them to databases. Such errors are usually noncritical and do not affect the functionality of an application or the integrity of its data.

Causes

Sometimes a program that works perfectly will suddenly display application errors. This might happen if a new program modifies a shared file during the installation process. Any programs that use the shared file could fail to function correctly. However, most application errors occur because developers either unknowingly introduce logic errors into their code or do not discover potential problems during an application's test phase. Viruses and faulty hardware are also causes of application errors. A sound card, for example, may partially fail and affect a media player application. A software driver is a small program that manages or runs a hardware device such as a printer. If a driver experiences problems, a printing program could display an application error.

Implications

The consequences resulting from an application error range from minor inconvenience to catastrophic loss of income. If a program displays a message that says, "Error: Please, choose another color," you can simply choose another color. A more serious application error could cause a corporation to lose millions of dollars because a program module failed to account for a decimal point in a global sales application. Program errors also cost time and money. Microsoft, for example, continually provides software fixes and updates for the Windows operating system. To do so, it must pay developers whose sole job is to correct application errors.

Solutions

Keep computers updated and maintained. Defrag your hard drive regularly and maintain adequate free disk space on your hard drive. Use antivirus programs to protect from viruses and other malware. Most important, download and install the latest security updates and hot fixes from software developers and Microsoft. If an application error exists, the application's developers may already know about it and have software updates available.

Interesting Fact

One of the most famous and potentially catastrophic application errors occurred when Apollo 11 was about to touch down for the first time on the moon. The spacecraft's primitive on-board navigational computer experienced an application error causing it to direct the Lunar Module toward a dangerous boulder-filled crater. Neil Armstrong, the commander, disregarded the computer's instructions and manually landed the spacecraft safely on the moon.