Automatic Problem Resolution – Part 3 of 5 in Troubleshooting Essentials for Windows Vista

Automatic Problem Resolution – Part 3 of 5 in Troubleshooting Essentials for Windows Vista

Each time you encounter a significant error using Windows Vista, you’ll be asked whether you want to send the information to Microsoft. You might think this is just a one-way street, where you’re providing information that will help Microsoft write software in the future that will prevent whatever problem you’re having.

If you think about it for a moment, that must be one huge store of information being generated by the planet’s users of Windows computers. So, why should one entity be the only beneficiary? Surely there must be a way for ordinary users to leverage this information as well, right? Surely some other user in another corner of the computing globe is – or has had – the same difficulty as you. Right? The answer is yes, and yes. Users can use the information gathered from other users to try to troubleshoot issues, using a utility called Problem Reports and Solutions. If there’s a known solution to a known problem, you can use Problem Reports and Solutions to easily retrieve the fix. Here’s how to put it all to work:

Open the Control Panel, and then open Problem Reports and Solutions. As always, you can type problem from the Start menu. You’ll see the Problem Reports and Solutions window. In this window are several tasks on the left pane and a status area on the right. To see a list of problems that Vista has detected, click the View Problem History link. You’ll see a dialog box. You can view further details about each problem using the links herein. After visiting the Problem History page, you can run a check for solutions by navigating back to the Problem Reports and Solutions home page and clicking the Check Now button. Vista then checks online for any available solutions. If it finds one, you’ll see a dialog box. From there, simply follow the “Solution found” link for instructions on how to resolve the detected issue. Most times, it will involve a software download and install.

Note that much of this problem-checking behavior is completely automated by default. Administrators can govern this, however, by following the “Change settings” link on the left. After clicking this link, you will be able to toggle automatic reporting either on or off, and you will be able to configure a few other options.

Administrators can set exceptions if they have a program that they want Vista to ignore when it reports a problem. It should also be noted here that one user’s setting doesn’t necessarily have to be the setting for other users. If you’re changing the reporting settings for all users, you will be asked for administrative confirmation if User Account Control is turned on.

If you’d like to get my entire book “Windows Vista Administration: The Definitive Guide” by Brian Culp, Publisher: O’Reilly, ISBN-13: 978-0-59-652959-8 (or any of my 20+ other books and tutorials), you can pick it up at my website, or at most major book chains. In addition, I’m always happy to provide additional assistance for free (within reason, mind you…don’t go thinking this is some sort of a free ride). Visit me at my website and submit your questions to me. I’ll get back to you with an answer as soon as possible.

Up Next: in part 4 of this 5-part series, we’ll be discussing the new Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer in Windows Vista.

Brian Culp, MCSE, MCT, is a recognized Microsoft expert who has been teaching and writing about Windows for many years. He is author/coauthor of: seven books including Windows XP Power Tools (Sybex) and Outlook 2003 Bible (Wiley); four MCSE study Guides (McGraw-Hill); and numerous tutorials for the Virtual Training Company. Mr. Culp provides instruction on various administration and networking topics throughout the United States, but can always be reached via his website,

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