Windows 7 Feature Focus
Windows Troubleshooting

Windows Troubleshooting is a new software platform that proactively monitors your system and tries to fix any problems that come up. It surfaces through a series of troubleshooters that try to step you through the process of fixing any issues it may have discovered. As with other Action Center functionality, these troubleshooters alert you via the Action Center pop-up window and via the main Action Center control panel. But unlike notifications in previous Windows versions, these alerts won't ever pop-up in your face and disrupt what you're doing.

Secret: Some Windows Troubleshooting tasks actually run at periodic intervals in the background. Others pop-up automatically when the system discovers that something went wrong. A good example of this latter case is an older application that doesn't install correctly in Windows 7; in such a case, a troubleshooting window will appear automatically and ask if you'd like help reinstalling it.

To access the Windows Troubleshooting interface, load Action Center (Start Menu Search, action). As you can see below, there is a prominent Troubleshooting link.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Windows Troubleshooting
Action Center provides a handy front-end to Windows 7's new Troubleshooting functionality.


When you click this link, the Windows Troubleshooting control panel appears.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Windows Troubleshooting
Windows Troubleshooting

Configuring Windows Troubleshooting

Before examining Windows Troubleshooting, however, let's make sure it's configured correctly. The first thing to look at is in the main Troubleshooting control panel. You will see a link at the bottom of the window called Get the most up-to-date troubleshooters from the Windows Online Troubleshooting service. Make sure this option is checked, as Microsoft periodically updates the troubleshooters and releases new troubleshooters.

Now, click the link titled Change settings in the left-side task list. The Change settings interface appears, as seen below. Here, you can actually disabled Windows Troubleshooting, which is not recommended. You can also control whether Windows can find troubleshooters online and whether they should pop-up when you interactively run into a problem. Both of these options should be selected as well.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Windows Troubleshooting
There are only a handful of Windows Troubleshooting options. Make sure they're correctly configured.

Examining the Troubleshooters

Back in the Troubleshooting control panel, you will see a list of built-in troubleshooter categories, including such things as programs, hardware and sound, network and Internet, appearance and personalization, and system and security. Windows Troubleshooting can't solve every problem you could encounter, but it does try to hit the high points. To see how a typical troubleshooter works, let's try out the Programs troubleshooter.

Troubleshooting offers two links around Programs. The first, for the Programs heading itself, will display a Troubleshoot problems - Programs window when clicked. This interface provides links to all of the troubleshooters in the Programs category.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Windows Troubleshooting
Windows 7 includes several troubleshooters just for programs.

Note that not all of the troubleshooters are designed to find or fix issues. Some simply provide you with a way to return an application to its default state. For example, you can troubleshoot issues with media files not appearing in Windows Media Player, which is a pretty obvious issue, but there's also a troubleshooter that returns Windows Media Player to its default settings.

When you click on a specific troubleshooter, a troubleshooter window appears. These troubleshooters are essentially wizard-based applications that step you through the process of fixing a specific problem.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Windows Troubleshooting
Let's figure out why DVDs won't play on this PC.

When you click Next, the wizard tries to figure out what's gone. Next, you'll either see a recommendation or a firm message, like that shown below, that explains the issue.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Windows Troubleshooting
Ah, that actually does make sense.

If you do solve the problem, you're told to close the troubleshooter or explore additional options. This brings up the Additional Information view, which provides access to other troubleshooting resources, including Help and Support, Windows Communities (online newsgroups that are populated with snobby Microsoft sycophants and should thus be avoided), and a link to find related troubleshooters. There are also links for Remote Assistance (which debuted back in Windows XP), the new Recovery tools, and online support.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Windows Troubleshooting
Additional Information provides you with other avenues for support.

The Find related troubleshooters link is particularly interesting because it actually searches the available troubleshooters for any that may in fact be related to the issue you just tried to fix. As you can see, it often does a pretty good job of finding related issues.

Windows 7 Feature Focus: Windows Troubleshooting
Didn't find exactly what you wanted? Troubleshooting tries to help.

But wait, there's more...

There's more to learn about Windows Troubleshooting and related technologies in Windows 7, but you'll have to check out Windows 7 Secrets for the rest, including real-world troubleshooting, Troubleshooter Packs, Microsoft FixIt, Problem Steps Recorder, the Windows Recovery Environment, and System Restore. The book is available now from Amazon.com and other booksellers. Click here to find out more about Windows 7 Secrets.