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What is a Run-Time Error?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated May 16, 2024
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In speaking of computer applications, an error is a mistake or discrepancy in the execution of a program or in a file or calculation. A computing error can be caused by several factors. One is operator or user error. For example, if a user accesses the "Paste" command when nothing has been copied, this would be an example of a user error that could happen in any program at any time. Other errors that occur involve the software itself. Two important classes of errors are the compile-time-error and the run-time error.

A compile-time error happens as the program is being compiled, that is, in the process of the source code becoming an executable program. Run-time is the execution of a computer program, as opposed to installing, loading, or exiting the program. A run-time error is a glitch, bug, or problem that arises as a program is being executed on a particular computer at a particular time. Many errors are caught in static software testing when a program is compiled — if it is compiled. Catching run-time errors is a key focus of dynamic testing of software.

In diagnosing a run-time error, it is essential to consider the run-time environment. The run-time environment is a similar concept to the operating environment. It refers to the hardware and software configuration under which the run-time error occurred or occurs, if it is reproducible. The run-time environment includes factors such as the operating system on the computer, the type of CPU (Central Processing Unit), as well as system software or run-time engines that the application draws on and requires to run properly.

Various types of run-time errors can arise while using a program. Some of them are user errors, such as failing to connect or turn on a peripheral advice or giving an invalid instruction, like "Paste" when nothing has been copied. Missing resources is another situation that can cause a run-time error. A computer virus or a memory issue can also cause a run-time error, as can a conflict with another program.

If a run-time error occurs, the user may see an error message. Sometimes this message simply states “A Runtime Error has occurred” and offers a chance to debug. Others are more specific, like the Java run-time error messages “StackOverflowError,” “OutOfMemoryError,” or “VerifyingError.”

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Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for EasyTechJunkie, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.
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Mary Elizabeth
Mary Elizabeth
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
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