Category : C Source Code
Archive   : C-ALL.ZIP
Filename : TI649.ASC

Output of file : TI649.ASC contained in archive : C-ALL.ZIP

PRODUCT : Borland C++ NUMBER : 649
DATE : September 11, 1991 PAGE : 1/7

TITLE : Common Causes of General Protection Faults


Protected mode development tools permit much larger programs to
be compiled faster than their real mode counterparts. They
accomplish this by allowing the use of a vastly larger memory
area than is available to real mode tools. There is a cost for
this increased capability, however; many of us will have to
change the coding practices and strategies we grew to depend on
with the relatively tolerant real mode development tools.

Central to this change is the increasingly notorious "General
Protection Fault." A GP Fault is generated by what one might
think of as a debugger built into the CPU and is enabled any time
a program is operating in protected mode. This debugger-in-a-CPU
is very, very uncompromising with regard to the rules which a
program must obey while availing itself of protected mode

For example, suppose a block of memory is allocated for use.
Further suppose that we code an errant read or write outside this
block. In real mode this may show up in a variety of more-or-
less unacceptable ways; many of these we can choose to ignore.

The same program executed in protected mode will, in all
probably, display a General Protection Fault error message and
immediately exit to DOS. This illustrates the cost of operating
in protected mode; our right to ignore coding problems is
seriously limited.

There is an upside to this, however: any program that runs for
any length of time in protected mode is likely to be far more bug
free than an equivalent program executed only in real mode.

General Protection Faults are generated, however, by more than
just reads or writes outside proper memory areas.

The following list, extracted from the Intel 386 Programmer's
Reference Manual, serves to suggest the level of "protection"
which we may expect while operating in protected mode:


PRODUCT : Borland C++ NUMBER : 649
DATE : September 11, 1991 PAGE : 2/7

TITLE : Common Causes of General Protection Faults

All protection violations which do not cause another exception
cause a General-Protection Fault. This includes (but is not
limited to):

a. Exceeding the segment limit when using CS, DS, ES, FS, or GS

b. Exceeding the segment limit when referencing a descriptor

c. Transferring execution to a segment which is not executable

d. Writing to a read-only data segment or a code segment

e. Reading from an execute-only code segment

f. Loading the SS register with a selector for a read-only
segment (unless the selector comes from a TSS during a task
switch, in which case an invalid-TSS exception occurs)

g. Loading the SS, DS, ES, FS, or GS register with a selector
for a system segment

h. Loading the DS, ES, FS, or GS register with a selector for an
execute-only code segment

i. Loading the SS register with the selector of an executable

j. Accessing memory using the DS, ES, FS, or GS register when it
contains a null selector

k. Switching to a busy task

l. Violating privilege rules

m. Exceeding the instruction length limit of 15 bytes (this only
can occur when redundant prefixes are placed before an

n. Loading the CRO register with a set PG bit (paging enabled)
and a clear PE bit (protection disabled)

PRODUCT : Borland C++ NUMBER : 649
DATE : September 11, 1991 PAGE : 3/7

TITLE : Common Causes of General Protection Faults

o. Interrupt or exception through an interrupt or trap gate from
virtual-8086 mode to a handler at a privilege level other
than 0

p. The general-protection exception is a fault. In response to a
general-protection exception, the processor pushes an error
code onto the exception handler's stack. If loading a
descriptor causes the exception, the error code contains a
selector to the descriptor; otherwise, the error code is
null. The source of the selector in an error code may be any
of the following:

1. An operand of the instruction

2. A selector from a gate which is the operand of the

3. A selector from a TSS involved in a task switch



Obviously if your applications are going to be subject to GP
Fault errors it stands to reason that the development tools
themselves must abide by the same rules and are subject to this
demanding debugger-in-a-CPU.

It is unlikely that any significant program has ever been bug-
free and Borland's development tools are no different. As you
might expect, we are dedicated to eliminating any bugs that can
be identified. One might guess that this would be an easy task.

Unfortunately the protected mode mechanism does not distinguish
between problems in the code being developed under the tools and
problems with the tools themselves. Consequently, it becomes
necessary for the developer to take additional steps to assure
that their code is not the cause. Although there is little that
Borland can do to make this process easier, we can supply you
with a list of known problems in the BC++ tools that generate
reproducible GP Fault errors. If you find a problem you are
encountering on this list you can eliminate your program as the

PRODUCT : Borland C++ NUMBER : 649
DATE : September 11, 1991 PAGE : 4/7

TITLE : Common Causes of General Protection Faults

- Moving the mouse while BCX is setting up to run your
program can cause a GP Fault. This can happen if the
mouse is moving when BCX switches from compiling to
linking also but not nearly as often as choosing RUN|RUN
and moving the mouse after the link or dependency check.

- Window Resize/Move- Clicking the mouse almost anywhere
outside of a BCX window set up for resizing or moving
(green bordered)

- Using the ,m (memory dump) option in a BCX watch window

- Doing a Repaint Desktop in BCX with a HERCULES card
attached (and any video cards doing Hercules simulation)

- Compiling a program under BCX using the ternary operator
with the second or third variables undefined

- Compiling a program with the OPTIONS|DIRECTORY|INCLUDE box
filled to its maximum

- Inspecting on a static member of a class with the BCX

- Compiling the DLLDEMO examples program under BCX using
different segment names for BSS or DATA

Ok, so the problem can't be in your application because you have
reduced it to the point where all it does is print "Hello, world"
and it's still giving you a GP Fault; and it's not on the list of
known problems.

There are two final sources of General Protection Faults that
have little to do with either the tools or the application under
development; the Operating System configuration, the
configuration of the hardware and, on occasion, the hardware


GP Faults generated by OS configuration are not uncommon. Most
of them find their cause in the variety of memory management

PRODUCT : Borland C++ NUMBER : 649
DATE : September 11, 1991 PAGE : 5/7

TITLE : Common Causes of General Protection Faults

standards (or lack thereof) which characterize use of extended
and expanded (EMS) memory.

Since the advent of the IBM PC the industry has progressed from
the total absence of a standard, as exemplified by IBM's VDISK,
through VCPI to today's most likely candidate, the DPMI standard.
However, even DPMI remains unfinished at revision 0.9.

As you might guess, writing a development tool or application
which will not clash with any potential user of memory is very
difficult, if not impossible, to do without an industry-accepted
memory standard.

To resolve these inevitable incompatibilities, the user is at the
mercy of the contending utilities. If they can be manually
configured to avoid conflict, the problem can be resolved;
otherwise, the user must assure they they are never loaded at the
same time. Many modern utilities (e.g., QEMM & MAX386) provide
the options necessary to resolve such contentiousness. Many
older utilities (e.g., VDISK) do not.

To quickly eliminate OS configuration (device drivers, TSR's,
etc.) as a source of difficulty, simply boot your computer from a
vanilla DOS disk. If a vanilla DOS disk isn't available, rename
your system's CONFIG.SYS and AUTOEXEC.BAT to something else
(e.g., CONFIG.TMP and AUTOEXEC.TMP) and reboot your computer.
Note that "vanilla" means without any drivers or TSR's INCLUDING
the mouse driver. For some of us, running for any length of time
without a mouse is excruciating; you will simply have to grin and
bear it for a short time.

Now execute the offending process; if the problem persists,
contact Borland Technical Support (see final section for
procedures). If the problem seems to have been eliminated,
however, you will need to begin the tedious but rather
undemanding process of identifying the offending driver/TSR
through stepwise restoration of your normal operating

PRODUCT : Borland C++ NUMBER : 649
DATE : September 11, 1991 PAGE : 6/7

TITLE : Common Causes of General Protection Faults


Finally, there are some GP Fault problems which cannot be
resolved without replacing the computer or some part of the
computer. Often the problem revolves around the system BIOS or
some unique aspect of the computer's architecture.

For instance, a problem that occurs often enough to be well known
involves GP Faults generated when the UPARROW and DOWNARROW keys
are pressed with NUM LOCK enabled. For some computers, the
manufacturer provides a ROM BIOS update which solves the problem.

In addition, any 80x286 based computer is more likely to be
affected by GP Fault errors in protected mode than are 80x386 or
80x486 computers. This is largely due to the speed with which
these computers can switch between protected mode and real mode.
For instance, use of a mouse in protected mode represents
hundreds of protected/real mode exchanges per second; any failure
on the part of the hardware to realize this demand will
inevitably result in a GP Fault error.

Identification of this type of problem usually requires running
the failing installation on a different computer, trying to
change as little as possible. Although such "in vivo" testing is
unlikely to be absolutely conclusive, it will often serve as a
tiebreaker for a final decision.


Assuming that the problem is independent of the program you are
developing, occurs under a vanilla operating system as well as
under your normal operating system configuration and is not on
the list of known GP fault problems, it is time to contact
Borland Technical Support. When contacting Technical Support
regarding a GP Fault, it will be most efficient if you have the
following information available:

1. A set of steps to reproduce the problem (including any
code that may be required)

2. A description of the problem

PRODUCT : Borland C++ NUMBER : 649
DATE : September 11, 1991 PAGE : 7/7

TITLE : Common Causes of General Protection Faults

3. The GP information which was displayed just prior to the
exit to DOS. It looks like:

GP at 0020 0FC8

The following information may also be requested by the
Technical Support Engineer, depending on the problem:

4. BIOS date, manufacturer and revision

5. Computer make and model

6. Memory configuration

7. Operating system revision

8. Graphics adapter make, model and Video BIOS revision/date

  3 Responses to “Category : C Source Code
Archive   : C-ALL.ZIP
Filename : TI649.ASC

  1. Very nice! Thank you for this wonderful archive. I wonder why I found it only now. Long live the BBS file archives!

  2. This is so awesome! 😀 I’d be cool if you could download an entire archive of this at once, though.

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