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Troubleshooting Windows 7 With Microsoft's Built-In Tools

Other Tools: Resource Monitor, Computer Management, And System Info

The Windows Resource Monitor is a useful tool for monitoring overall resource use under Windows. It’s actually not as useful as it was under Windows XP, where power users could easily exhaust available system handles. Still, it’s interesting to check out overall system resource usage; it can help you, for example, determine if adding more memory might be a good thing.

More useful is the Computer Management Console. You can run this by bringing up the Run window and typing "compmgmt.msc."

Computer Management is a central place for accessing many system admin functions.

From the main management window, you can get to a number of useful tools. Using this applet is worth an article or several just by itself, so we’ll mention just a couple of tools in passing.

The first is the System Diagnostics panel, which is under Performance -> System -> System Diagnostics. There’s a wealth of data here to drill into, and most of it, even the ones flagged as errors, aren’t really all that useful. But you do occasionally find nuggets of information that can lead you to problem solutions.

The Services panel (Services and Applications -> Services) shows you a list of services that are running or dormant. This has proven useful a couple of times. For example, I had an early version of Acronis True Image that I’d installed and uninstalled. When I checked the services panel, I found the Acronis License manager running, and consuming memory and resources. So I had to track it down and uninstall it.

System Information is another moderately useful tool, which you can run by typing "msinfo32.exe" in the run window. The most useful bit here is the "Problem Devices" listing. In this example, I’ve got an extra copy of my printer set up, but not active, so I need to uninstall it. I also have a PS/2 keyboard port with nothing attached. This is a little more useful than trying to peruse the Device Manager listings.

System Information lets you check out the state of your hardware.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of system troubleshooting tools in Windows 7. We haven’t touched on the performance monitor, event viewer, or (if you have Microsoft Office installed), Microsoft Office Diagnostics. All can be useful, depending on how deep you want to dive and what types of problems you’re encountering.

Understanding what tools are available, however, should help you better solve problems you encounter. The tools in Windows 7 are more comprehensive and easier to use than past versions as well. So before you reach for the phone to call tech support, maybe diving into one of these tools may save you some time and money, plus give you the satisfaction of solving your own problems.