Soft Error

An error occurence in a computer’s memory system that changes an instruction in a program or a data value. Soft errors typically can be remedied by cold booting the computer. A soft error will not damage a system’s hardware; the only damage is to the data that is being processed.

There are two types of soft errors:

  • chip-level soft error: These errors occur when the radioactive atoms in the chip’s material decay and release alpha particles into the chip. Because an alpha particle contains a positive charge and kinetic energy, the particle can hit a memory cell and cause the cell to change state to a different value. The atomic reaction is so tiny that it does not damage the actual structure of the chip. Chip-level errors are rare because modern memory is so stable that it would take a typical computer with a large memory capacity at least 10 years before the radioactive elements of the chip’s materials begin to decay.
  • system-level soft error: These errors occur when the data being processed is hit with a noise phenomenon, typically when the data is on a data bus. The computer tries to interpret the noise as a data bit, which can cause errors in addressing or processing program code. The bad data bit can even be saved in memory and cause problems at a later time.

Contrast with hard error.

Webopedia Staff
Webopedia Staff
Since 1995, more than 100 tech experts and researchers have kept Webopedia’s definitions, articles, and study guides up to date. For more information on current editorial staff, please visit our About page.

Top Articles

The Complete List of 1500+ Common Text Abbreviations & Acronyms

UPDATED: This article was updated April 6, 2021 by Web Webster   From A3 to ZZZ we list 1,559 text message and online chat abbreviations to...

How to Create a Website Shortcut on Your Desktop

UPDATED: This article was updated April 6, 2021 by Web Webster   This Webopedia guide will show you how to create a desktop shortcut to a...

Windows Operating System History & Versions

The Windows operating system (Windows OS) refers to a family of operating systems developed by Microsoft Corporation. We look at the history of Windows...

What are the 5 Generations of Computers?

UPDATED: This article was updated on April 6, 2021 by Web Webster   Learn about each of the 5 generations of computers and major technology developments...

Random Access Memory (RAM)...

UPDATED: This article Updated April 6, 2021 by Web Webster   Random Access Memory (RAM)...

OEM – original equipment...

UPDATED: This article was updated April 6, 2021 by Web Webster OEM (pronounced as...

Best ERP Software for...

UPDATED: This page was updated April 6, 2021 by Web Webster   Enterprise resource planning...