Runtime Error: What It Is and How to Fix It

What to do when you see runtime errors

A runtime error occurs while a program is running or when you first attempt to start the application. The error sometimes goes away on its own by simply reopening the app, but if not, there are a number of things you can try.

Runtime Errors

runtime error message

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Depending on the situation, there are a few reasons why a runtime error might occur:

  • There's a bug in the software.
  • Memory or another system resource is in short supply.
  • You've entered a foreign character into a text field, or performed some kind of action that isn't allowed.

The error usually appears as a small window, often with an indication of the program that's being affected, and sometimes with an error code and message. The prompt might also include a suggestion to contact a support team or administrator.

Here are some examples:

A runtime error has occurred. Do you wish to debug?
Runtime error! 
Program: <path to app>
This application has requested the Runtime to terminate in an unusual way.
Run-time error '<custom error code>: 
<custom message>

Paying close attention to what the error says, if possible, is the best way to address it. If the error is too general to diagnose right off the bat, then follow the below steps in order. If it's particular, however, and mentions something like Microsoft Visual C++Runtime Library, then that's the step you should start at.

How to Fix a Runtime Error

Runtime errors pop up in a variety of situations, so the possible fixes are all over the board:

  1. Restart the computer. This is the likely solution if your computer suddenly feels like it's running much slower than usual.

    Some runtime errors are caused by memory-related issues, and restarting is the quickest way to close everything that's currently running on your PC. This will free up those previously used system resources for the program that's throwing the error.

  2. Update the program to its latest version. The runtime error might be caused by a bug that hasn't yet been patched in the release that you're using.

    For example, some users report a runtime error when they use NVIDIA GeForce Experience to check for graphics card updates. In this scenario, you'd update the NVIDIA program.

    You might need to re-download it from the software maker's site if there isn't a built-in method for checking for updates.

    This is a good time to also check for Windows updates.

  3. Fully delete the program, and then reinstall it. An installation that doesn't quite finish properly can be the cause of the runtime error.

    The update procedure in the previous step might have done this, but if you're still getting the error, it's time to completely delete the program and confirm that it's being reinstalled from scratch.

    Some uninstallers don't do a great job at erasing every remnant of the file from the registry and hard drive. Try a dedicated program uninstaller if the normal tool from the app maker doesn't fix the error.

  4. Install the latest Microsoft Visual C++ Redistributable package. If your error says something about the runtime components of the Visual C++ libraries, this is likely solution.

  5. Use SFC scannow to repair corrupted Windows files. The SFC command is executed in a Command Prompt window, and might be the fix for the runtime error.

  6. Run System Restore to return your computer to a previous state. This could fix the runtime error is if it's caused by the Windows Registry being corrupt.

  7. Reinstall Windows. If focusing on a specific program didn't fix the runtime error, or if it's interfering with the way Windows works as a whole, resetting is your last option.

How Programmers Can Prevent Runtime Errors

If you're the software maker, GeeksforGeeks suggests several ways to avoid runtime errors. Follow that link for a deeper dive into the different types of runtime errors, with examples of why they're happening and what you can do to prevent them. Some fixes include avoiding variables that haven't been initialized, and not declaring too much stack memory.

  • Why am I getting a runtime error when opening a PDF in Internet Explorer?

    With Internet Explorer shut down for good, you won't be able to update the browser to try and fix the problem. However, if you insist on using IE rather than moving to a new web browser, check your Adobe Acrobat plugin as it may contain an error. Update Acrobat Reader if possible, or reinstall it and try opening the PDF again.

  • What do I do if I get a runtime error when uninstalling software?

    First, perform a clean boot of your Windows machine and see if that takes care of the problem. If not, you'll need to use an uninstaller program to try and get rid of the software.

  • Why am I getting a runtime error in Chrome?

    First, verify that the problem is Chrome by attempting to visit the website giving you the error in a different web browser. If Chrome is the problem, clear out the cookies for that site in Chrome, restart the browser, then visit the website again. If the problem persists, check Chrome for updates.

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