List of Common Troubleshooting Tools in Windows

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Before you start

Objectives: Familiarize yourself with the general tools which can be used to troubleshoot problems in Windows.

Prerequisites: no prerequisites.

Key terms: tool, windows, memory, boot, problems, scan, srt, repair, diagnostics, manager


Windows Diagnostic Infrastructure (WDI)

Starting from Windows 7 we have a Windows Diagnostic Infrastructure (WDI) available. WDI is a set of diagnostic tools that identify existing disk, network and memory problems. They detect failures and alert us of potential problems. WDI can show us information about existing problems and help us prevent future problems.

Task Manager

Task Manager is a classic tool which we can use to shut down unresponsive programs or processes. From Windows Vista we have a new tab in Task Manager – the Services tab. On Services tab we can see a list of running services. We can also see a resource overview on the Resources tab. We have a separate article in which we describe Task Manager.

Windows Memory Diagnostics Tool (WMDT)

Starting from Windows Vista, we have a Memory Diagnostics tool available on the Windows system. This tool is used to monitor for defective physical memory in relation to program crashes. It will automatically warn us if it finds any errors. If the WMDT identifies a memory problem, it will mark the defective part of physical memory and prevent it from being used, so that the OS can start successfully and avoid application problems. In most cases, Windows will automatically detect possible memory problems and then ask the user to run the WMDT. However, we can also scan our memory manually. Manual scan is available in different places in different versions of Windows. For example, in Windows Vista it can be found in Help and Support section, in Windows 7 we can find it in Administrative Tools in Control Panel, etc. Another thing we can do is boot our computer from the Windows installation DVD and find  memory diagnostics tool in “Repair my computer” section. Manual scan will test our memory for errors, notify us if any errors exist and log the details of the scan. The test itself can take several minutes.

Windows Network Diagnostics Tool

This tool will perform several tests to troubleshoot network connectivity or performance issues. If there are problems with the connection, this tool will try to diagnose the problem and present some possible solutions. It can be used to troubleshoot different network problems such as Internet connectivity, issues connecting to a shared folder, HomeGroup connectivity issues, and even network printer problems. WNDT will automatically run when it detects a problem.

Problem Reports and Solutions Tool

This tool will automatically check for problems in Windows related to installations and applications. We can also run this tool manually if we have particular problem. This tool also enables us to view the problem history. We can also check for new solutions on the Internet. We can always clear solution and problem history.

Startup and Recovery Options

To manage and maintain startup and recovery settings, we can use the Startup and Recovery options which are available in the System Properties Advanced tab. Here we can specify the default operating system for the startup as well as select a number of seconds in which the list of operating systems will be displayed. This way, if we have a dual-boot or multi-boot system, we can choose which of the operating system will boot by default, and how long the list of operating systems will be displayed before the default OS is booted. We can also choose what will happen if our system stops unexpectedly.

Startup Repair Tool

SRT is used to troubleshoot startup problems. SRT will start automatically if the system detects a startup failure. In order for SRT to work, we have to have Windows Recovery Environment pre-installed (for operating systems before Windows 7). SRT is also available on the Windows installation DVD, so we can use it manually if we boot from the DVD. SRT is used during the boot process to repair common problems automatically. By using this tool we can try and repair the system that will not boot. SRT will try to repair missing or incompatible drivers, system files, boot configuration settings, registry settings, and disk metadata (Master Boot Record or Partition Table). After the SRT finishes repairing the OS, Windows will notify us of what happened and how it was repaired. If SRT wasn’t able to fix the problem, it will roll back the system to a last known working state. If this step is not successful, SRT will provide diagnostics information and support options so we can try and fix the problem on our own. SRT can’t be used to repair hardware problems. We can always run the SRT manually by booting our computer using the Windows installation media and finding the SRT under the “Repair my computer” section.

System Configuration Utility

If we have problems during the startup of the system (after the Windows boots, but during the user logon), we can use the System Configuration utility (msconfig.exe) to troubleshoot the Windows startup process. Msconfig can be used to modify which programs and services run at startup. It can also be used to perform a diagnostics of startup that loads a minimum set of drivers, programs and services. We can also customize a selected startup and control whether to load all or only some of the system services. We have to be careful when disabling certain services because some of the services, applications or even the whole system might depend on the service that we want to disable. Keep in mind that Msconfig will no alter the current state of the service. We have to reboot our computer when we disable a service in msconfig, because it only marks it for being disabled.

Services Console

To start or stop the services in real time, we can use the Services console. The Services console (MMC snap-in) lists detailed information about each service and provides management options. This is the same list as in msconfig, however it provides more information and more management options. Keep in mind that services need some type of authentication to be able to start. By default, most services work with local system account, but we can specify another account to be used when the service wants to start.

Examples

We have a separate article in which we show how to use troubleshooting tools in Vista.