Wednesday, January 23, 2013

PC & Adobe Crashes & How To Deal With Them - Part Two

Adobe products crashing at startup and during use is somewhat common across versions (CS3, CS4, etc) and across products. A quick web search will show numerous causes and solutions, and trying each might take some time until you hit on the right solution.

This post outlines some tools and concepts which can help speed your way to a solution by confirming if a potential solution may help in your particular case. Trying things randomly in desperation could in fact make things worse. So it is good to have some confirming information that a potential system or application change may be right for you.

See part Three and part One of this series for other troubleshooting tips.

The Windows Event Viewer (EV) is an important place to look for error message from your application and from the system in general. EV is found (on an XP machine) by going to the Start menu > All Programs > Administrative Tools > Event Viewer. As seen in the EV's main window above an error occurred on 1/23/2014 at 4:56 PM. Doubling clicking that row will take you to the message for that event. This event occurred during a start up crash of Adobe Media Encoder.

I typically take note of keywords used in the message then do a web search to see what can be found such as: amewrapper, event 1000, media encoder. This information might be helpful to Adobe should you need to open a trouble ticket. However there is a better source of information.

I was actually trying to fix Premiere Pro (PP) from crashing, but wanted to see if related applications would also crash. There were no events recorded by EV when PP crashed. Those events were being handled by an Adobe error handler. These error files and dumps are located at

Windows Vista & Win 7: C:\Users\user name\AppData\Roaming\Adobe\Adobe Media Encoder

Windows XP C:\Documents and Settings\user name\Local Settings\Application Data\Adobe\Adobe Media Encoder


Windows XP C:\Documents and Settings\user name\Local Settings\Application Data\Adobe\LogTransport\Logs\Archive\ 

The following is a section at the top of the error log (xml file) from PP created by the Adobe Crash Reporter. A symbolname is tech talk for something that is loaded into memory (at an address) and that memory location has a name which is used by the application to access functionality. In this case the AMEWrapper GetWriterList is involved in some sort of memory access violation.

crash exception="EXCEPTION_ACCESS_VIOLATION" instruction="0x06bc34aa"
stackStatement index="0" address="0x06bc34aa" symbolname="AMEWrapper::GetWriterList"

I'm not an expert in reading these error files but at the very end of this xml file is the following line, and I noticed references to QuickTime throughout the error report.

path="C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe Premiere Pro CS4\MediaIO\writers\QuickTimeWriter.vwr"/

It is suspicious that the error report ended on Quicktime Writer and the AMEWrapper indicates something about getting a Writer List. It is easy to see correlations and jump too quickly to a solution, but by looking at these error files you can create a list of key words to begin your web search. In my case I searched using the following key word in different combinations and I came up with several potential solutions.

> "premiere pro" crash on startup
> AMEwrapper
> Quicktime
> GetwriterList

Here are a few suggested pages and sites which are trust worthy sources of information.

In my case there were a lot of hits on PP not starting due to Quicktime, and actually quite a few other things. I don't use Quicktime so uninstalling it would be a system change that would not affect me nor is there much risk to the system. Other suggested system changes like changing cache settings, removing files, or the ubiquitous suggestion of software reinstallation involve more serious changes. I would need more proof those procedures would actually work in my case. Instead, I simply uninstalled Quicktime and my problem went away for PP and the media encoder.

Lucky guess? Not really. It was based on evidence in my error files combined with many posts stating a crash causing relationship between Quicktime and some Adobe apps, and it was chosen as one of my first attempts because it was low risk. Education guess... you bet!

Video and audio drivers are a common cause of problems and it never hurts do double check that you are on the most current set of bug fixes by updating your drivers. More on this in my next post. In fact, any driver could lead to different types of instability.

After fixing the startup crash, PP would still crash after a little initial use. Applying the procedure outlined I looked at the report generated by the Adobe Crash Reporter and found the following lines after the EXCEPTION_ACCESS_VIOLATION line.


I did a web search on the symbolname and it took me to the Adobe forum where the advice was to look closely at my graphics card. There may be something wrong with its Open GL capabilities. That kind of made sense given the OGL evidence. I habitually look for triangulation on the problem, that is, evidence coming from multiple sources before taking a deep dive into a potential solution. I checked and I was in 32 and not 16 bit mode, and I had already updated my graphics card driver. Consequently, I needed more proof that it was an graphics card issue. Looking further down in the post there were other suggestions which I skipped, but there was one indicating the need to upgrade Microsoft's Intellitype and Intellipoint technologies. These are known to crash Adobe products if the drivers are out of date.

My drivers were out of date by quite a bit. The upgrade would be simple and it would be a low risk operation. I confirmed the problem at other sites. So I did the upgrade and the problem was resolved. I'm glad I didn't spend hours trying to figure out what was wrong with OGL settings.

The take away from this is that out of date, corrupted, or over written drives can caused serious problems. On HP systems it is easy to get a complete report on which drivers you have when working through application and system crashes. The HP Performance Advisor gives a very thorough report on just about everything you need to know about your system. The report includes sections on: System, BIOS, OS, Processors, Storage devices, Security settings, Power Management, Bus Options, Slots and Slot Usage, Graphics Card, Display, Memory, ROM, Sensors, Fans... need I continue. It will just about tell you what color your computer cabinet is.

Of course drivers are listed in Microsoft's System Information tool under Software Environment. Device Manager (found on the Computer Management screen below) also provides an adequate view of your system. See more information on MS Computer management.

The WinZip company has a product called Driver Updater that is supposed to find  updates for your drivers. As much as drivers should stay current I wouldn't go for a wholesale update. If it ain't broke don't fix it. Intel will scan your PC for out of date drivers with their Update Driver Utility for free, but I found it of limited use. Microsoft has their own products too.

Computers can crash simply because a heat sensor has detected that the CPU or other component is too hot. For HP systems the Performance Advisor will graphically show you the current and historical temperature, and the RPM of the fans that are supposed to be cooling the system.

When dealing with mysterious system crashes which do not seem driver related and a web search on key words found in error logs have failed to provide a solution, then the problem may be more insidious, requiring a full system check.

Every component must be checked and eliminated as a cause. If you don't have an HP system there are generic tools out there to help. HWMonitor by CPUID will show you if your system is overheating. Extensive memory checks can be done with MemTest by HCI Design. Hard disk checks can be done with Microsoft's check disk tool found at My Computer > right click the disk of interest > properties > tools > Error Checking. You can find the defrag too there too which should be run as needed. Seagate and Western Digital supply their own disk checking utilities also.

This post has already gotten out of control, but I'll mention one more useful tool for advance debugging and that's the Performance tool which is part of the Microsoft Management Console. This tool enables you to customize monitoring on specific system components, set alerting thresholds, and track system performance over time. The graph below was customized to show memory pages per sec, Disk Queuing, and processor utilization. This is a really cool tool if your problems are resource related and you need to tie system or application problems to resource utilization.

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