What is a Computer Glitch?

Keith Koons

A computer glitch is an error that occurs within a computer system that causes it to malfunction while processing data. The root of the conflict can stem from many different variables, but the most common computing errors are caused by issues within the operating system itself, the presence of a virus or a defective software application. In other scenarios, a computer glitch can occur by improperly entering a string of commands that the system fails to recognize, causing it to infinitely search for a solution that is outside of its programmed boundaries to recognize or handle. Many of the computing errors that can be attributed to human error are relatively simple to correct, but even a minor computer glitch or bug can cause complete system failure if it is not detected immediately.

A glitch that is caused by a hardware problem may require that the system be taken out of service while it is fixed.
A glitch that is caused by a hardware problem may require that the system be taken out of service while it is fixed.

An average program manufacturer dedicates several months or even years of testing compatibility to ensure that computer glitches will not occur, but because there are literally billions of possible combinations when it comes to hardware configurations, operating systems, software applications and other random variables, it is almost impossible for all of them to be diagnosed properly. The presence of cyber criminals complicates the diagnosis of a computer glitch even further, because the system often could be intentionally disabled by means of a virus or security cracking to conceal the loss of personal information. A vast majority of the updates that any computer system receives are to limit all of these vulnerabilities as much as possible, but even with the most meticulous of planning, there still is a small risk of system failure during the update process.

A computer glitch, if not detected immediately, can cause an entire network to shut down.
A computer glitch, if not detected immediately, can cause an entire network to shut down.

One of the most common ways one can diagnose a computer glitch is to examine the commonly used programs and any software that was recently updated on a computer system, starting with the applications that were actively running when the error took place. By eliminating each non-essential function until only the operating system and the required drivers are loaded, a computer technician can then verify that each recently used software application is installed properly and is not creating a conflict. After the actual computer glitch has been identified, it normally can be eliminated by uninstalling the program that is creating the conflict.

One of the most infamous computer glitches is the "blue screen of death" that is seen in response to a number of issues on Windows machines.
One of the most infamous computer glitches is the "blue screen of death" that is seen in response to a number of issues on Windows machines.

In less common situations, a computer glitch can also be caused by faulty hardware, and in these scenarios, the problem can often become much more difficult to discover. If a hardware conflict is suspected, a technician will update each of the drivers that control those items, check for abnormal operating temperatures throughout the computer and verify that the power supply is functioning properly. After the damaged component is discovered, it can be repaired or replaced to restore the computer system back to normal.

A service technician must be familiar with computer hardware issues as well as software problems.
A service technician must be familiar with computer hardware issues as well as software problems.
A computer glitch may be caused by a  computer virus.
A computer glitch may be caused by a computer virus.

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Discussion Comments

Markerrag

In the earlier days of computers, glitches were quite frequently related to hardware. For example, some 6502 CPUs were heavily customized for use in specific computer systems and flaws were inadvertently left in the new designs and were released to the public.

One fascinating thing that came of that process is that people who learned the CPU architecture very well could exploit glitches to add new functionality to a computer.

Hardware glitches are much more rare these days due to both the relative standardization of hardware (individual manufacturers generally don't customize chip sets like they did in the past) and much better quality control by major hardware manufacturers.

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