Memory Dump Files

Memory dump files allow you to analyze the root cause of a problem by performing an offline examination of the information stored in the dump file using analysis tools. When a Stop error occurs, Windows 7 writes the information to the paging file (pagefile.sys) on the %SystemDrive% root by default. Then, following a restart Windows 7 uses the paging file information to create a memory dump file in the %SystemRoot% folder.

You can set your system to generate one of the three types of dump files:

Small memory dump file – Also known as Minidump file, as its name implies it contains the least amount of information. The file is quickly written to the disk, allowing Windows 7 to restart faster thus reducing the overall downtime. It is stored in the %SystemRoot%\Minidump folder unlike kernel and complete memory dump files which are saved as %SystemRoot%\Memory.dmp files.

Kernel memory dump file - this dump file records the content of kernel memory and requires larger paging files on the boot device than small memory dump files. It takes longer to create but it records more information which may be required to perform in-depth analysis. When you choose to create a kernel memory dump file, Windows 7 also creates a small memory dump file.

Complete memory dump file – this file records the entire contents of the physical memory when a Stop error occurs. A complete memory dump file size will be slightly larger than the amount of physical memory installed at the time of the error. When you choose to create a complete memory dump file, Windows 7 also creates a small memory dump file.

Windows 7 default setting is the kernel memory dump file but you can change this setting as follows:

  1. Click Start, right click Computer, and then select Properties
  2. Click Advanced System Settings
  3. In the system Properties dialog box, click the Advanced tab and under Startup and Recovery, click Settings.
  4. Use the drop-down Write debugging information list and then select the debugging type – Also, you can change the path where Windows 7 stores dump files
  5. Click OK twice and restart your system if prompted.