NOBODY LIKES A KERNEL PANIC! Just don’t rush to make assumptions about why it’s happening.

by Tim Standing, VP of Engineering at SoftRAID

October 6 2016

A kernel panic is a crash, the type when your computer just freezes—the mouse stops moving and everything on the screen is still. A few seconds later, your computer reboots and you may have lost all the work you had just been doing.

We pride ourselves in fixing 100% of the bugs in SoftRAID which cause kernel panics. We know how disruptive they can be to your everyday life and don’t want to be responsible for you losing work.

So I was really troubled 6 months ago when I started getting kernel panics on my development Mac, the one I use to create the SoftRAID product. I had just started using new virtualization software allowing me to run several different versions of Mac OS X on the same Mac at exactly the same time. Since the kernel panics started when I started using the new software, it seemed natural that the software was causing the kernel panics.

At first, I encountered the kernel panics every 2–3 weeks, always after I had run the virtualization software. Then they started happening every week, finally every 2–3 days. It was getting to be a real nuisance.

During this time, Mark James, one of our support engineers, was helping a customer who was also experiencing kernel panics. The customer said they were happening on his 2013 Mac Pro, while using a RAID 4 volume, created using SoftRAID, and made of 4 SSDs. The customer naturally assumed the kernel panics were caused by SoftRAID because they started occurring after he created his SoftRAID volume.
The interesting point was that this customer only encountered the bug when 64 GB of RAM was installed in the Mac Pro.

We tried to reproduce the problem, using the same amount of RAM (64 GB). However, we could not get the kernel panics to happen. A few weeks later, I asked Mark if he had resolved the issue with the customer. “Yes,” he said, “it was bad RAM. Once the customer replaced the RAM, the kernel panics disappeared entirely.”

The next day, I purchased replacement RAM for my development Mac. Since I installed it, 6 weeks ago, I haven’t had a single kernel panic.

So even though we all want to believe that kernel panics are caused by inferior software, sometimes it is actually a hardware problem—like bad RAM!

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