We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is a Soft Error?

By Alex Newth
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A soft error occurs in a computer when a datum or signal is incorrect and interferes either with chip or system processes. While the name seems to imply an error with software, because of the word "soft", this is not the case. A soft error, unlike a hard error, will not cause permanent damage to the computer and can usually be corrected with a cold boot. Severe soft errors may require work to be done on the computer, but any work done will not require a change in the circuitry; only the data stored in the computer will need to be altered.

There are two levels of soft errors: chip-level and system-level. Chip-level is the less severe of the two and is caused when a positive charge enters a computer chip, changing the energy signal. This occurs when the chip begins to decay, which will take about 10 years or longer for modern computers. To fix this soft error, aside from rebooting the computer, the memory chips can be swapped out for newer chips. This will correct the decay problem, because the new chips will contain pristine materials.

The second, and more severe soft error, is a system-level error that can occur at any time and often affects the data bus. When datum is hit with a noise or static, the computer can mistakenly think this noise is a new bit of datum that needs to be processed. This is not a real bit, so an error occurs. On its own, this error can usually be fixed with just a boot. If the fake bit remains in the data bus, because the computer saves it into memory, then it can keep returning to cause the same error.

Correcting a soft error is usually easy. The most common repair method is shutting the computer down for several minutes and then turning it back on. Restarting a computer from the desktop will not fix the error, because power will remain in the computer with a restart, while a cold boot removes all power. While this commonly works, severe errors will need to be looked at by a technician, who will have to either change the chip or change the data process. No matter how severe the soft errors become, they will never affect the hardware, only the data being processed.

A hard error can appear similar to soft errors by affecting the computer’s processes. Unlike the soft variety, a hard error does affect hardware, usually memory chips, and cannot be corrected from a cold boot. In this instance, the memory chip must be replaced, not because it is decaying but because it is faulty.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.