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What is an Exception Error?

Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2017
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2017
    Conjecture Corporation
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An exception error is an error which occurs when something goes wrong with a computer program. Many programs attempt to handle exceptions behind the scenes, but sometimes the problem is insurmountable for the program, and it displays an error message to alert the user. In the case of a fatal exception error, the program must close down and be restarted. Sometimes the entire operating system becomes unstable and must be rebooted to address the exception error.

Software designers spend a great deal of time working on the programs they design and trying to identify every possible thing which could go wrong. Inevitably, they miss something, even when they comb through a program very carefully. A program might encounter an illegal instruction which confuses the processor, for example, when a user tries to use a program in a way which was not anticipated by the developers. Sometimes a computer simply has a momentary hiccup which causes a conventional operation to go awry.

When a program encounters something which causes it to fail to execute, this is known as an exception. Exceptions can occur for many reasons and at many levels of a program. Depending on the nature of the program, the program may be able to determine what went wrong and to correct the situation. In other cases, an exception error is displayed on the screen, alerting the user to the fact that the program was unable to do something.

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Some exception error messages provide specific information in plain language so that the user knows what occurred. Some may display errors in code. These errors can be theoretically looked up to understand what happened. In other cases, the program simply displays a plain error message with no information about what occurred. When exceptions do occur, they are stored in a program's error log.

Accessing the error log can provide useful information to programmers, which is why some programs display a message when they crash to ask if the user would be willing to send information about the error to the developers. This data is stripped of identifying information and is submitted to the developers so that they can track what happened when the error occurred and integrate this information into future issues of the program.

Exception errors can happen at a wide variety of times and with a broad assortment of programs. Software is periodically updated both to address problems encountered by users and to offer new features. It is advisable to update when new software versions come out.

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