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Crash To Desktop (CTD): Causes and Treatment - A NatVac FAQ

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  00:18:51  13 September 2007
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Senior Resident

On forum: 06/15/2007

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09/13/2007 2:53:57
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Crash To Desktop (CTD): Causes and Treatment - A NatVac FAQ

You have a problem. Maybe we can help. You can help yourself by helping us help you.

1. Give us a clue that you have a clue. Before you post anything, do your homework.

Search the forums and the Internet for the possibility that others are also experiencing your problem, and they may already have been helped, with exactly the answer you seek. If you are using the forum's search facility, consider extending the search range by changing the default of "10 days" to "All the time".

You can also use Google to search this forum by adding the following to the search terms, after a space:


Read the stickies in the "Single Player Bugs" section, especially Decane's "A Guide To Help Eliminate Stutter!" A major solution to many CTD problems is simply to increase one's pagefile size (step #10).

Got Vista? Got growing pains. About five percent of computer users are using Vista, but they make half of the bug reports. Microsoft and the video card manufacturers are still refining their software, and have recently provided updates for improved gaming. Search for Mad Murdock's or jmb's posts, starting with this thread:

"Vista Quicksave (and maybe some others) Crash - Fix"

2. Find your log file.

STALKER uses two places on your hard drive to store information. The game and associated resources are in the STALKER installation directory, which by default is on the C: drive in the \Program Files\THQ\S.T.A.L.K.E.R. - Shadow of Chernobyl\ directory.

The saved games and logs are on the C: drive by default in the STALKER-SHOC subdirectory. In Vista this subdirectory is under \Users\Public\Documents\ while in XP this is found in \Documents and Settings\All Users\Documents\. You can also access this directory by entering %ALLUSERSPROFILE%\Documents\STALKER-SHOC in the Windows Explorer address bar.

The latest error log, called xray_<your_user_login>.log* is under STALKER-SHOC in the logs\ subdirectory, while the saved games are stored in savedgames\.

*<your_user_login> is usually your name, the one you see at the top of the menu when you click on the start button on the taskbar in XP. If your user name is Robert, for example, then you would find a file named xray_Robert.log.

At the end of that file is usually a section that starts with "FATAL ERROR" and has lines beginning with "[error]". Include those lines in your post to give us an idea of what is wrong. Sometimes there is only a single error line, but it might be enough.

3. Determine the category of your problem.

Think about the possible type of problem it might be, with the information you see below.

a) Hard lockups are usually due to a hardware problem. Use MEMTEST86 or the "plus" version to test your memory; see the [link][/link] website. Update drivers for all components; sometimes older drivers are better.

b) CTD errors involving xrCore.dll are usually due to a driver and/or hardware problem. Other causes are attempts to re-initialize hardware resources, caused by bad mods or duplicated lines in fsgame.ltx. Updating drivers for video cards and sounds cards (especially if you have a Creative sound cards) have fixed some crashes.

c) CTDs when mods are involved.

d) Any other kind of CTD.

4. Post in the right place.

Are you running any mods? Problems while running a mod or mods are most likely due to the mod or mods. You should post in the correct forum for that mod. If that mod was downloaded from FileFront, for example, you should first look there for support. If the mod is listed in the Mod Downloads section here, post in the Mod Discussion forum section, in the corresponding thread for the mod.

Read the forum section's rules before you post. Misplaced posts will lower your reputation and make us think you are semi-literate, having an ability to write without a corresponding ability to read.

Do not post in another's thread unless you are having the same problem. Create a separate thread for your problem, and please, please, PLEASE give the post a meaningful title, like "Unusual CTD in Army Warehouses", and NOT "Problem" or "Question".

Especially don't post your problem in this thread!

5. Post with the right info.

In your post, please include the following information:

    PC particulars: processor, amount of RAM, video card, sound card (even if "on-board" )
    Operating system with version (e.g., XP Professional - SP2, Vista Home Premium)
    STALKER locale and version info (e.g., world-wide patch 1.0004, US 1.0)
    What mods, if any.
    The level where the problem occurred.
    The log file "FATAL ERROR" section, and [b]ONLY that section[/b], unless requested.
    A [i]brief[/i] description of what you were doing when the crash occurred.
    Anything that you think might be useful for us to know.

Please don't post the DXDIAG info unless requested. That request is outdated.

6. Be courteous. And give us some time to respond.

We are almost all volunteers here. Please don't double-post unless you have received no response in a couple of days, and understand that some might not reply if they don't have an answer.

No, it's not against the rules to be a jerk. But it's not against the rules to not answer jerks.

7. Feedback is very, very useful to us -- and others!

Please tell us what worked if a suggestion solved your problem, or if it didn't. You will be helping others when you do this, and we won't be left wondering what happened.

If you have anything constructive to add to this thread (e.g., to correct errors), please feel free to do so, but remember the topic's purpose in your post. Thanks for reading!

Edited: Forum makes non-links into links, which breaks subsequent valid links. Bad forum, bad!

Search keywords: CrashToDesktop, NatVacFAQ, NoCureForSemiLiteracy
  02:06:33  20 September 2007
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Senior Resident

On forum: 06/15/2007
Messages: 4303
Some additional qualifications about the log file (step 2):

The file might not have the extension ".log" because it is already associated with Notepad or other editor, and you have "hide extensions for known file types" checked on Windows Explorer's Folder Options dialog, View tab, in the "Advanced Settings" box.

In that case, you can just double-click the file in Explorer to open it.
  12:07:00  20 September 2007
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Senior Resident

On forum: 04/23/2007
Messages: 549
Thanks NatVak for your restless state, Thank you.
  07:27:57  27 September 2007
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Senior Resident

On forum: 06/15/2007
Messages: 4303
Add to section 3):

e) CTDs when upgrading to a new patch: If you see "Rebuild Spawn", you are likely using an incompatible save with your version of the game. This might be caused by playing with a patched game, but loading a saved game created in the retail game. It might also be caused by using a mod that isn't compatible with your game version.

Thanks, Gilgamesh_Uruk. From you that is a great compliment.
  10:17:08  27 September 2007
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The Wrinkled One


On forum: 08/01/2007
Messages: 2299
NatVac, I don't think you realize how much we appreciate the work you do for us. Many, many thanks!!
  14:36:21  5 October 2007
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On forum: 06/11/2007
Messages: 56
nice post NatVac!

it's amazing how many threads i read where the person doesn't include their log file in their post when they are needing help finding a soution to a crash or similar problem...

wish you could make the "2. Find your log file. section title blink and glow and play music and tap dance or anything to get people's attention...

it would be awesome if there was a 'locked' sticky on page 1 of this forum section that gave guidelines for "how to ask for help / find a solution for a problem" where only a few senior people / mods could post error conditions with links & solutions only...

the "Problems -> Solutions (Make it easy)" almost does this, but there are WAY too many posts of comments in between the posting of solutions / links...
  07:29:52  8 October 2007
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Senior Resident

On forum: 06/15/2007
Messages: 4303
Bluesman posted a tip elsewhere that mentioned a useful command line parameter: "-silent_error_mode". This will avoid some hard lockups that occur after the game has already written to the log file. It simply shuts the game down after an error occurs; you don't see the Bug Trap dialog with this parameter added to the end of the target on the shortcut you use to launch STALKER.

Edit: This will create a fairly large (~400KB) zipped file in your directory when it does crash, consisting of the crash dump and log data. You may have to remove these from time to time, although it is nice to have a copy of the original error log, since STALKER overwrites the log each time you start the game.

To use this tip: Right-click on the shortcut you use to launch STALKER. Select "Properties". On the Shortcut tab of the dialog that appears, click in the Target field, press the END key, type a space followed by "-silent_error_mode" (without the quotes). (Remember to separate parameters by spaces.)

Thanks for the feedback, Fatrap and drivetheory! Yes, the log file info is probably the most important. And folks do tune out very quickly, especially when it's mostly "noise". Even the first post here is too long, in retrospect, but I can no longer edit it...
  06:05:27  6 November 2007
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Senior Resident

On forum: 06/15/2007
Messages: 4303
When posting on this forum, please be aware that the software this forum uses is very quirky. Posting verbatim excerpts from your log file will have smilies where there should not be any, and will be missing backslashes.

Here are some forum behavior workarounds:

To use a backslash, escape it; use two backslashes in a row, even in text formatted with [pre][/pre]. Editing your post removes backslashes; you'll have to add them back in. You can't edit your post after a few days.

I put "[i][/i]" in between a double quote and a close parenthesis, and between a colon and just about anything else, to avoid the smilies. To get a plus sign (+), I put in the escape code for it: &#x2B; -- even in formatted text.

The "D" in the word "don't" is always lowercased. And you can't directly say "Cordon" followed by "trader" without automatically getting an apostrophe between them. You can use the same "[i][/i]" separator trick to fake out the forum software.
  17:00:04  5 July 2008
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Senior Resident

On forum: 06/15/2007
Messages: 4303
This is a minor update: The forum software has been revised, so some information I posted earlier in this thread now has formatting characters that are no longer supported. Please ignore them. Backslashes no longer need to be escaped with another backslash in paths, and the colon followed by a backslash is no longer treated as a smiley.

Please ask your mod-related bug questions in the Mod Discussion section of this forum. Again, please don't post bug reports in this thread.

You can now print a plus sign (+) directly, although you can still use %2B or &#x2B; as well. Lots of good improvements should make posting about your problem a little easier.

And the uptake of Vista is expected to increase now that its predecessor has been taken out back and shot.

A Fable to Relate the Answer to a Common Problem

The cry of fathomless pain behind me sent an electric chill of fear down my spine. I turned in dread, and there I saw it languishing amidst the towers of amassed Knowledge in the vast hall, wailing in bewilderment: a Nymlit.

Oh, it looked human, but I knew it for what it was, a creature that could not read text unless its name was present. Perhaps in another Age, it would have acquired the critical skills of Reading Comprehension and Thinking, but here it starved in the midst of plenty, a Millidiot with techno-induced ADD.

"Help me!" it cried with an omnidirectional broadcast. I could have turned and run, or cloaked, letting another mercifully apply a salve of healing. But I saw the putrefying sores that beset the Nymlit, and knew the complex alchemy of ill-matched mods and patches that had wreaked such havoc. My heart sank.

I could still escape; the Nymlit was unaware of me and did not yet know my name. But its emanations were great, and someone would valiantly try to help; this place is filled with kind souls. Perhaps they would succeed. Perhaps.

Or perhaps they would be overwhelmed by the strength of the fog-like miasma pouring from the sores, not knowing that their wisdom was indeed true but simply not enough. My name would then be uttered in an incantation to invoke my presence. Who could blame them? For I was a relatively-rare beast among the strong technomages here, openly sharing my gift of deep understanding even though I did not ken the Cyrillic runes.

Armed with the Nymlit's name, I connected to its extended tendril, choosing in my abysmal conceit to ignore the threat assessment warning that appeared on the neural link. I can solve this problem, I thought. Maybe I can even break down some of the Nymlit's barriers and help it to help itself.

"You found the log file, and reported the [error] lines at the end that told you what your problem is: hFile>0. Now search on this site for that error (here, hFile>0) with the search range set to 'All the time'. Or use Google with the parameter. Also search the Internet in general."

But the dialog went nowhere; the Nymlit could parrot the words of wisdom it found in the towers of Knowledge with my instruction, but it could not understand them. In frustration I abandoned the attempt to explain the answer-finding tools to the Nymlit, and yielded the answer it implacably demanded:

"You have a mod that is incompatible with the patch version you are using. You might be able to fix it by setting current_server_entity_version in system.ltx to the correct value for the patch you are using (6 for patch 1.0004 and 7 for patches 1.0005 and 1.0006), but all saves made while the value was wrong will not work. You might still have problems due to other incompatibilities; contact the mod author if so."

"It doesn't work," came the reply after a suitable pause. Exasperated, I asked, "What doesn't work?" Said the Nymlit, "It doesn't work."

The subtle contamination of my logic processing center was complete. It fractured like glass and imploded. Just before I collapsed into a quivering, burbling mass of weepy protoplasm, I realized the threat assessment warning had said, "Remote end does not pass Turing test."

Edit: P.S. If you actually read this, you already know you are not a Nymlit by definition.

Sorry, there is no "reload last save" in RealLife 1.0.
  04:52:06  6 July 2008
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On forum: 09/10/2007
Messages: 1322
bwahahahah, great post NatVac
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