The Microcode. Especially on SMP systems, the CPUS may need an
upgrade. Since the Pentium division disaster, Intel have their
CPUs field upgradable! The CPU can be bumped a few versions by a
special instruction from the BIOS. These upgrades usually come
with your BIOS, so make sure you're running the latest BIOS,
especially if you have an SMP system. -- Jeffrey Friedl (Email withheld).
RAM timing problems? I fiddled with the bios settings more than a
month ago. I've compiled numerous kernels in the mean time and nothing
went wrong. It can't be the RAM timing. Right?
Wrong. Do you think that the RAM manufacturers have a machine that
makes 60ns RAMs and another one that makes 70ns RAMs? Of course not!
They make a bunch, and then test them. Some meet the specs for 60 ns,
others don't. Those might be 61 ns if the manufacturer would have to
put a number to it. In that case it is quite likely that it works
in your computer when for example the temperature is below 40 degrees
centigrade (chips become slower when the temp rises. That's why some
supercomputers need so much cooling).
However "the coming of summer" or a long compile job may push the
temperature inside your computer over the "limit".
-- Philippe Troin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I got suckered into not buying ECC memory because it was slightly
cheaper. I feel like a fool. I should have bought the more expensive
ECC memory. Right?
Buying the more expensive ECC memory and motherboards protects you
against a certain type of errors: Those that occur randomly by passing
Because most people can reproduce "signal 11" problems within half an
hour using "gcc" but cannot reproduce them by memory testing for hours
in a row, that proves to me that it is not simply a random alpha
particle flipping a bit. That would get noticed by the memory test
too. This means that something else is going on.
I have the impression that most sig11 problems are caused by timing
errors on the CPU <-> cache <-> memory path. ECC on your main memory
doesn't help you in that case.
When should you buy ECC? a) When you feel you need it. b) When you
have LOTS of RAM. (Why not a cut-off number? Because the cut-off
changes with time, just like "LOTS".) Some people feel very strong
about everybody using ECC memory. I refer them to reason "a)".
Memory problems? My BIOS tests my memory and tells me its ok. I have
this fancy DOS program that tells me my memory is OK. Can't be memory
Wrong. The memory test in the BIOS is utterly useless. It may even
occasionally OK more memory than really is available, let alone test
whether it is good or not.
A friend of mine used to have a 640k PC (yeah, this was a long time
ago) which had a single 64kbit chip instead of a 256kbit chip in the
second 256k bank. This means that he effectively had 320k working
memory. Sometimes the BIOS would test 384k as "OK". Anyway, only
certain applications would fail. It was very hard to diagnose the
Most memory problems only occur under special circumstances. Those
circumstances are hardly ever known. gcc Seems to exercise them. Some
memory tests, especially BIOS memory tests, don't. I'm no longer
working on creating a floppy with a linux kernel and a good memory
tester on it. Forget about bugging me about it......
The reason is that a memory test causes the CPU to execute just a few
instructions, and the memory access patterns tend to be very
regular. Under these circumstances only a very small subset of the
memories breaks down. If you're studying Electrical Engineering and
are interested in memory testing, a masters thesis could be to figure
out what's going on. There are computer manufacturers that would want
to sponsor such a project with some hardware that clients claim to be
unreliable, but doesn't fail the production tests......
Does it only happen when I compile a kernel?
Nope. There is no way your hardware can know that you are compiling a
kernel. It just so happens that a kernel compile is very tough on
your hardware, so it just happens a lot when you are compiling a
kernel. Compiling other large packages like gcc or glibc also often
trigger the sig11.
- People have seen "random" crashes for example while installing
using the slackware installation script.... --
- Others get "general protection errors" from the kernel (with
the crashdump). These are usually in /var/adm/messages.
- Some see bzip2crash with "signal 11" or with "internal
assertion failure (#1007)." Bzip2 is pretty well-tested, so if it
crashes, it's likely not a bug in bzip2. -- Julian Seward
Nothing crashes on NT, Windows 95, 98, Milennium or XP. It must be
something Linux specific.
First of all, Linux stresses your hardware more than all of the above.
Some OSes like the Microsoft ones named above crash in unpredictable
ways anyway. Nobody is going to call Microsoft and say "hey, my
windows box crashed today". If you do anyway, they will tell you that
you, the user, made an error (see
the interview with Bill
Gates in a German magazine....) and that since it works now, you
should shut up.
Those OSes are also somewhat more "predictable" than Linux. This means
that Excel might always be loaded in the exact same memory area.
Therefore when the bit-error occurs, it is always excel that gets
it. Excel will crash. Or excel will crash another application. Anyway,
it will seem to be a single application that fails, and not related to
What I am sure of is that a cleanly installed Linux system should be
able to compile the kernel without any errors. Certainly no sig-11
ones. (** Exception: Red Hat 5.0 with a Cyrix processor. See
Really Linux and gcc stress your hardware more than other OSes. If you
need a non-linux thingy that stresses your hardware to the point
of crashing, you can try winstone. -- Jonathan Bright (email@example.com)
Is it always signal 11?
Nope. Other signals like four, six and seven also occur occasionally.
Signal 11 is most common though.
As long as memory is getting corrupted, anything can happen. I'd
expect bad binaries to occur much more often than they really
do. Anyway, it seems that the odds are heavily biased towards gcc
getting a signal 11. Also seen:
The first few ones are cases where the kernel "suspects" a
kernel-programming-error that is actually caused by the bad memory.
The last few point to application programs that end up with the
- free_one_pmd: bad directory entry 00000008
- EXT2-fs warning (device 08:14): ext_2_free_blocks bit already
cleared for block 127916
- Internal error: bad swap device
- Trying to free nonexistent swap-page
- kfree of non-kmalloced memory ...
- scsi0: REQ before WAIT DISCONNECT IID
- Unable to handle kernel NULL pointer dereference at virtual
- put_page: page already exists 00000046
invalid operand: 0000
- Whee.. inode changed from under us. Tell Linus
- crc error -- System halted (During the uncompress of the Linux kernel)
- Segmentation fault
- "unable to resolve symbol"
- make : *** [sub_dirs] Error 139
make: *** [linuxsubdirs] Error 1
- The X Window system can terminate with a "caught signal xx"
-- S.G.de Marinis (firstname.lastname@example.org)
-- Dirk Nachtmann (email@example.com)
What do I do?
Here are some things to try when you want to find out what is wrong...
note: Some of these will significantly slow your computer down. These
things are intended to get your computer to function properly and allow
you to narrow down what's wrong with it. With this information you
can for example try to get the faulty component replaced by your vendor.
The hardest part is that most people will be able to do all of the
above except borrowing memory from someone else, and it doesn't make a
difference. This makes it likely that it really is the RAM. RAM used
to be one of the priciest parts of a PC, so you would rather not arrive
at this conclusion, but, I'm sorry, I get lots of reactions that in the
end turn out to be the RAM. However don't despair just yet: your RAM
may not be completely wasted: you can always try to trade it in for
different or more RAM.
I had my RAMs tested in a RAM-tester device, and they are OK. Can't be the
Wrong. It seems that the errors that are currently occurring in RAMS are
not detectable by RAM-testers. It might be that your motherboard is
accessing the RAMs in dubious ways or otherwise messing up the RAM
while it is in YOUR computer. The advantage is that you can sell your
RAM to someone who still has confidence in his RAM-tester......
What other hardware could be the problem?
Well, any hardware problem inside your computer. But things that are
easy to check should be checked first. So, for example, all your cards
should be correctly inserted into the mother board.
Why is the Red Hat install bombing on me?
The Red Hat 5.x, 6.x and 7.x install has problems on some machines.
Try running the install with only 32M. This can usually be done with
mem=32m as a boot parameter.
It could be that there is a read-error on the CD. The installer
handles this less-than-perfect..... Make sure that your CD is
flawless! It seems that the installer will bomb on marginal CDs!
People report, and I've seen with my own eyes, that Red Hat installs
can go wrong (crash with signal 7 or signal 11) on machines that are
perfectly in order. My machine was and still is 100% reliable
(actually the machine I tested this on, is by now reliably dead).
People are getting into trouble by wiping the old "working just fine"
distribution, and then wanting to install a more recent Red Hat
distribution. Going back is then no longer an option, because going
back to 5.x also results in the same "crashes while installing".
Patrick Haley (firstname.lastname@example.org) reports that he tried all memory
configurations up to 96Mb (32 & 64) and found that only when he had
96Mb installed, the install would work. This is also consistent with
my own experience (of Red Hat installs failing): I tried the install
on a 32M machine.
NEW: It seems that this may be due to a kernel problem. The kernel may
(temporarliy) run low on memory and kill the current process. The fix by
Hubert Mantel (email@example.com) is at:
If this is actually the case, try switching to the second virtual
console (ctrl-alt-F2) and type "sync" there every few seconds. This
reduces the amount of memory taken by harddisk-buffers... I would
really appreciate hearing from you if you've seen the Red Hat install
crash two or more times in a row, and then were able to finish the
install using this trick!!!
What do you do to get around this problem?...
- Use SuSE. It's better: It doesn't crash during the
installation. (Moreover, it actually is better. ;-)
- Maybe you're running into a bad-block on your CD. This can be
drive-dependent. If that's the case, try making a copy of the CD in
another drive. Try borrowing someone elses copy of Red Hat.
- Try configuring a GIGABYTE of swap. I have two independent reports
that report that they got through with a gig of swap. Please report to me
if it helps!
- Modify the "settings" for the harddisk. Changing the setting from
"LBA" to "NORMAL" in the bios has helped for at least one person. If
you try this, I'd really appreciate it if you'd EMail me: I would like to hear
from you if it helps or not. (and what you exactly changed to get it
- I got my machine to install by installing a minimal base
system, and then adding packages to the installed system.
- Someone suggested that the machine might be out-of-memory when
this happens. Try having a swap partition ready. Also, the install may
be "prepared" to handle low mem situations, but misjudging the
situation. For example, it may load a RAMDISK, leaving just 1M of
free RAM, and then trying to load a 2M application. So if you have 16M
of RAM, booting with mem=14M may actually help, as the "load RAMDISK"
stage would then fail and the install would then know to run off the
CD instead of off the RAMDISK. (installs used to work for >8M
machines. Is that still true?)
- Try, in one session to clear the disk of all the partitions that
are going to be used by Linux. Reboot. Then try the install. Either by
partitioning manually, or by letting the install program figure it out.
(I take it that Red Hat has that possibility too, SuSE has it...)
If this works for you, I'd appreciate it if you'd tell me.
- A corrupted download can also cause this. Duh.
- Someone reports that installs on 8Mb machines no longer work, and
that the install ungracefully exits with a sig7. -- Chris Rocco
- One person reports that disabling "BIOS shadow" (system & VIDEO),
helped for him. As Linux doesn't use the BIOS, shadowing it doesn't
help. Some computers may even give you 384k of extra RAM if you
disable the shadowing. Just disable it, and see what happens. --
Philippe d'Offay (firstname.lastname@example.org).
What are other possibilities?
Others have noted the following possibilities:
- The compiler and libc included in Red Hat 5.0 have an odd
interaction with the Cyrix processor. It crashes the compiler,
This is VERY odd. I would think that the only way
that this can be the case is when the Cyrix has a bug that has
gone undetected all this time, and reliably gets triggered
when THAT gcc compiles the Linux kernel. Anyway, if you just want
compile a kernel, you should get a new compiler and/or libc from
the Red Hat website. (start at the homepage, and click errata).
- Compiling a 2.0.x kernel with a 2.8.x gcc or any egcs doesn't work.
There are a few bugs in the kernel that don't show up because
gcc 2.7.x does a lousy job optimizing it. gcc 2.8.x and egcs just
dump some of the code because we didn't tell it not to. Anyway,
you usually get a kernel that seems to work but has funny bugs.
For example X may crash with a signal 11. Oh, and before you
ask, no it's not going to be fixed. Don't bother Alan or Linus
about this OK? -- Hans Peter Verne (email@example.com)
- The pentium-optimizing-gcc (the one with the version number ending
in "p") fails with the default options on certain source files
like floppy.c in the kernel. The "triggers" are in the kernel, libc and
in gcc itself. This is easily diagnosed as "not a hardware
problem" because it always happens in the same place. You can
either disable some optimizations (try -fno-unroll-loops first) or
use another gcc. -- Evan Cheng (firstname.lastname@example.org)
(In other words: gcc 2.7.2p crashes with sig11 on floppy.c .
Workaround-1: Use plain gcc. Workaround-2: Manually compile
floppy.c with "-O" instead of "-O2". )
- A bad connection between a disk and the system. For example IDE
cables are only allowed to be 40cm (16") long. Many systems come
with longer cables. Also a removable IDE rack may add enough
trouble to crash a system.
- A badly misconfigured gcc -- some parts from one version, some
from another. After a few weeks I ended up re-installing from
scratch to get everything right. -- Richard H. Derr III
- Gcc or the resulting application may terminate with sig11 when a
program is linked against the SCO libraries (which come with
iBCS). This occurs on some applications that have -L/lib in their
- When compiling a kernel with an ELF compiler, but configured for
a.out (or the other way around, I forgot) you will get a signal 11
on the first call to "ld". This is easily identified as a software
problem, as it always occurs on the FIRST call to "ld" during the
build. -- REW
- An Ethernet card together with a badly configured PCI BIOS. If
your (ISA) Ethernet card has an aperture on the ISA bus, you might
need to configure it somewhere in the BIOS setup screens.
Otherwise the hardware would look on the PCI bus for the shared
memory area. As the ISA card can't react to the requests on the
PCI bus, you are reading empty "air". This can result in
segmentation faults and kernel crashes. -- REW
- Corrupted swap partition. Tony Nugent (T.Nugent@sct.gu.edu.au)
reports he used to have this problem and solved it by an mkswap on
his swap partition. (Don't forget to type "sync" before doing
anything else after an mkswap. -- Louis J. LaBash Jr.
- NE2000 card. Some cheap Ne2000 cards might mess up the system. --
Danny ter Haar (email@example.com) I personally might have had
similar problems, as my mail server crashed hard every now and
then (once a day). It now seems that 1.2.13 and lots of the 1.3.x
kernels have this bug. I haven't seen it in 1.3.48. Probably got
fixed somewhere in the meantime.... -- REW
- Power supply? No I don't think so. A modern heavy system with two
or three harddisk, both SCSI and IDE will not exceed 120 Watts or
so. If you have loads of old harddisks and old expansion cards
the power requirements will be higher, but still it is very hard
to reach the limits of the power supply. Of course some people
manage to find loads of old full-size harddisks and install them
into their big-tower. You can indeed overload a powersupply that
way. -- Greg Nicholson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A faulty power supply CAN of course deliver marginal power, which
causes all of the malfunctioning that you read about in this file....
-- Thorsten Kuehnemann (email@example.com)
- An inconsistent ext2fs. Some circumstances can cause the kernel
code of the ext2 file system to result in Signal 11 for Gcc.
-- Morten Welinder (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- CMOS battery. Even if you set the BIOS as you want it, it could be
changing back to "bad" settings under your nose if the CMOS battery is
bad. -- Heonmin Lim (email@example.com)
- No or too little swap space. Gcc doesn't gracefully handle the
"out of memory" condition. -- Paul Brannan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Incompatible libraries. When you have a symlink from "libc.so.5"
pointing to "libc.so.6", some applications will bomb with sig11.
-- Piete Brooks (email@example.com).
- Broken mouse. Somehow, a mouse seems to be able to break in a way
that it causes some (mouse related) programs to crash with Sig11.
I've seen it happen on an X server that would crash if you moved
the mouse quickly. Matthew might not even have been moving his mouse.
-- REW & Matthew Duggan (firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Badly seated RAM. Make sure your RAM is correctly seated into the
socket.... -- Carroll Kong (email@example.com).
I found that running ..... detects errors much quicker than just
compiling kernels. Please mention this on your site.
Many people email me with notes like this. However, what many don't
realize is that they encountered ONE case of problematic hardware.
The person recommending "unzip -t" happened to have a certain broken
DRAM stick. And unzip happened to "find" that much quicker than a
However, I'm sure that for many other problems, the kernel compile
WOULD find it, while other tests don't. I think that the kernel
compile is good because it stresses lots of different parts of the
computer. Many other tests just exercise just one area. If that area
happens to be broken in your case, it will show a problem much quicker
than "kernel compile" will. But if your computer is OK on that area
and broken in another, the "faster" test may just tell you your
computer is OK, while the kernel compile test would have told you
something was wrong.
In any case, I might just as well list what people think are good
tests, which they are, but not as general as the "try and compile a
Note that whatever fast method you may find to tell you that your
computer is broken, it won't guarantee your computer is fine if such a
test suddenly doesn't fail anymore. I always recommend that after
fiddling with things to make it work, you should run a 24-hour
- Run unzip while compiling kernels. Use a zipfile about as large as RAM.
- use "memtest86" found at: http://www.memtest86.com/.
- do dd if=/dev/hda of=/dev/null while compiling kernels.
- run md5sum on large trees.
Why isn't "memtest86" the first to try if I suspect memory problems?
Feel free to do so. Some of this is black magic. However, when
"memtest86" tells you that your RAM is ok, you might be tempted to
believe it. It's telling you that it couldn't find any
problems. It's not telling you that your RAM is flawless.
In my experience, RAM related problems are sometimes not found using a
memory tester. The patterns are all nice and regular. Some problematic
RAM simply works well under that kind of stress, but fails under the
more erratic stress patterns caused by "gcc" or "zip".
So, I still recommend that you try verifying your system using kernel
compiles, and not trusting a memory tester....
I don't believe this. To whom has this happened?
Well for one it happened to me personally. But you don't have to
believe me. It also happened to:
- Johnny Stephens (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Dejan Ilic (email@example.com)
- Rick Tessner (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- David Fox (email@example.com)
- Darren White (firstname.lastname@example.org) (L2 cache)
- Patrick J. Volkerding (email@example.com)
- Jeff Coy Jr. (firstname.lastname@example.org) (Temp problems)
- Michael Blandford (email@example.com) (Temp problems: CPU fan failed)
- Alex Butcher (Alex.Butcher@bristol.ac.uk) (Memory waitstates)
- Richard Postgate (firstname.lastname@example.org) (VLB loading)
- Bert Meijs (L.Meijs@et.tudelft.nl) (bad SIMMs)
- J. Van Stonecypher (email@example.com)
- Mark Kettner (firstname.lastname@example.org) (bad SIMMs)
- Naresh Sharma (email@example.com) (30->72 converter)
- Rick Lim (firstname.lastname@example.org) (Bad cache)
- Scott Brumbaugh (email@example.com)
- Paul Gortmaker (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Mike Tayter (email@example.com) (Something with the cache)
- Benni ??? (firstname.lastname@example.org) (VLB Overloading)
- Oliver Schoett (email@example.com) (Cache jumper)
- Morten Welinder (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Warwick Harvey (email@example.com) (bit error in cache)
- Hank Barta (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Jeffrey J. Radice (email@example.com) (Ram voltage)
- Samuel Ramac (firstname.lastname@example.org) (CPU tops out)
- Andrew Eskilsson (email@example.com) (DRAM speed)
- W. Paul Mills (firstname.lastname@example.org) (CPU fan disconnected from CPU)
- Joseph Barone (email@example.com) (Bad cache)
- Philippe Troin (firstname.lastname@example.org) (delayed RAM timing trouble)
- Koen D'Hondt (email@example.com) (more kernel error messages)
- Bill Faust (firstname.lastname@example.org) (cache problem)
- Tim Middlekoop (email@example.com) (CPU temp: fan installed)
- Andrew R. Cook (firstname.lastname@example.org) (bad cache)
- Allan Wind (email@example.com) (P66 overheating)
- Michael Tuschik (firstname.lastname@example.org) (gcc2.7.2p victim)
- R.C.H. Li (email@example.com) (Overclocking: ok for months...)
- Florin (firstname.lastname@example.org) (Overclocked CPU by vendor)
- Dale J March (email@example.com) (CPU overheating on laptop)
- Markus Schulte (firstname.lastname@example.org) (Bad RAM)
- Mark Davis (email@example.com) (Bad P120?)
- Josep Lladonosa i Capell (firstname.lastname@example.org) (PCI options overoptimization)
- Emilio Federici (email@example.com) (P120 overheating)
- Conor McCarthy (firstname.lastname@example.org) (Bad SIMM)
- Matthias Petofalvi (email@example.com) ("Simmverter" problem)
- Jonathan Christopher Mckinney (firstname.lastname@example.org) (gcc2.7.2p victim)
- Greg Nicholson (email@example.com) (many old disks)
- Ismo Peltonen (firstname.lastname@example.org) (irq_unmasking)
- Daniel Pancamo (email@example.com) (70ns instead of 60 ns RAM)
- David Halls (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Mark Zusman (email@example.com) (Bad motherboard)
- Elizabeth Ayer (firstname.lastname@example.org) (Power management features)
- Thorsten Kuehnemann (email@example.com)
- (Email me with your story, you might get to be mentioned here... :-)
---- Update: I like to hear what happened to you. This will allow me to
guess what happens most, and keep this file as accurate as possible.
However I now have around 500 different Email addresses of people who've
had sig-11 problems. I don't think that it is useful to keep on adding
"random" people's names on this list. What do YOU think?
I'm interested in new stories. If you have a problem and are unsure
about what it is, it may help to
Email me at R.E.Wolff@BitWizard.nl
. My curiosity will usually drive me to answering your questions until
you find what the problem is..... (on the other hand, I do get pissed when
your problem is clearly described above :-)
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