When it comes to hidden gems in Windows, nothing beats the Reliability monitor tool, hidden behind a link inside of another tool that you don’t use either. Why Microsoft doesn’t shine more light on this really useful troubleshooting tool, we’ll never know.
Reliability Monitor tracks the history of your computer — any time an application crashes, hangs, or Windows gives you a blue screen of death. It also tracks other important events, like when software is installed, or Windows Updates loads a new patch.
It’s an extremely useful tool. And yes, it’s in Windows 7 and 8… and even 8.1. It might be in Vista, but who uses that anymore?
So How Does This Work?
Imagine your computer has started flaking out and locking up for the last week, and you aren’t quite sure why. All you have to do is open up Reliability Monitor and check what happened to start the crashes in the first place. You can click on each day that has a crash, then go back in the list to before all the crashes started and figure out what was installed to make things break… and remove it from y0ur PC.
So how do you open this tool, you ask? Well, Microsoft buried it behind a lot of clicks, so we’re not even going to give you all those steps. If you open up the Action Center, you can use the “View reliability history” link to get there, but we’d recommend opening the start menu or start screen and searching for “reliability”, which is probably faster.
The top part of the view is arranged into either days or weeks, depending on what you select. You can see each day (or week) that had a crash or other event, and you can click on any of them to understand what happened during that time period. It’s an extremely useful way to do some analysis when you’re asked to fix somebody else’s computer.
That squiggly line is Microsoft’s assessment of how stable your system is on a scale from 1 to 10 — you want that line to be a solid 10 across the board. It’s a useful metric to use when you sit down to troubleshoot a computer, so you can see whether the perception of system stability matches what Windows thinks internally.
Once you select a time period, you’ll see the events in the bottom part of the screen. You can use the “Check for a solution”, which every now and then will have an actual solution (don’t hold your breath, though). You can also view the details for each of the updates, which will help you figure out what exactly that update did.
Of course, the easiest thing to do is click that “Check for solutions to all problems” link at the bottom of the window, and hope that Microsoft already knows about a fix for one of the solutions, which would likely be a driver update. Nope? Well that’s fine, maybe you’ll win the BSOD lottery next time.
So the next time somebody tells you that their computer has been crashing lately, you should open up the Reliability Monitor and figure out what really caused all that crashing — because there’s no way that person is going to remember the super toolbar awesome game they downloaded last week.
Programmer by day, geek by night, The Geek, also known as Lowell Heddings, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on Google+ if you'd like.
- Published 07/2/13