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Memory dump

Memory dump

(also core dump, system dump)

Memory dump definition

A memory dump is taking all the information in your device’s working memory (RAM) and creating a copy of it in your computer’s hard drive. This process happens automatically when a computer crashes and right before the power turns off. Memory dumps help developers gather diagnostic information about the device crash, learn more about the event, and troubleshoot issues. However, they also pose privacy and security risks.

Common types of memory dumps

Complete memory dump: contains a copy of all the data used in physical memory.

Kernel memory dump: contains about one-third of the physical memory on the system.

Small memory dump (64 KB): contains very little information (e.g., a list of loaded drivers, blue-screen information).

Automatic memory dump: contains the same information as a kernel memory dump.

Sensitive data memory dumps may contain

A complete memory dump will contain all data from memory (RAM) when the device stopped, including information like:

  • Activities the user has undertaken in a session.
  • Detailed system information.
  • Disk passwords and encryption keys.
  • Details of documents that were open.
  • Account usernames and passwords.

Privacy and security concerns

Hackers can launch attacks on computer systems in several ways (e.g., viruses, malware). If hackers gain access to your memory dump that contains sensitive information, they may find your passwords or decryption keys, exposing you to serious risks.

Further reading

Ultimate digital security