Supporting Computers Running Windows Vista

9/5/2010 9:43:07 AM

To successfully manage a computer, diagnose problems, and troubleshoot support issues, you need to know how the computer is configured. Support tools you can use to get information on a computer's configuration include:

  • Computer Management Computer Management is a Microsoft Management Console that provides access to important system, services, and storage management tools.

  • System System is a tool for viewing basic information about a computer and managing system properties. The default view for the System tool replaces My Computer Information.

  • System Information System Information is a tool for obtaining detailed system statistics regarding configuration and resource availability. You can also use System Information to troubleshoot system problems.

  • Performance Rating And Tools Performance Rating And Tools is a tool for viewing a computer's performance rating and determining whether there are any issues causing performance problems.

In this section, I'll discuss techniques for working with these tools. A related tool for maintaining system performance is the Problem Reports And Solutions console.

Working with the Computer Management Console

The Computer Management console is designed to handle core system administration tasks on local and remote systems. If you've added the Administrative Tools menu to the Start menu as discussed previously, you can start the Computer Management console by clicking Start, clicking Administrative Tools, and then clicking Computer Management. You can also start the Computer Management console by following these steps:

  1. Click Start and then click Control Panel.

  2. In Control Panel, click the System And Maintenance category heading link.

  3. Click Administrative Tools and then double-click Computer Management.

As Figure 1 shows, the main window has a multi-pane view similar to that in Windows Explorer. You use the console tree in the left pane for navigation and tool selection. The Action pane, on the far right, is similar to the shortcut menu that is displayed when you right-click an item. To display or close the Action pane, you need to click the Show/Hide Action Pane button on the console toolbar. Tools are divided into three broad categories:

  • System Tools General-purpose tools for managing systems and viewing system information

  • Storage Provides access to drive management tools

  • Services And Applications Used to view and manage the properties of services and applications installed on the server

Image from book
Figure 1: Use the Computer Management console to manage network computers and resources.

Within these categories are the following available tools:

  • Task Scheduler View and manage scheduled tasks. Scheduled tasks are used to automate processes, such as disk cleanup or diagnostics testing.

  • Event Viewer View the event logs on the selected computer. Event logs record important events that have taken place on the computer and can be used to determine if a computer has configuration issues or other types of problems.

  • Local Users And Groups Manage local users and local user groups on the currently selected computer. Each client computer has both local users and local groups, which are separate from domain users and groups.

  • Performance Diagnostics Provides monitoring and reporting tools that you can use to determine a computer's current performance and to track performance over time. You can also use Performance Diagnostics to track a computer's reliability and stability relative to software changes and component failures.

  • Device Manager Use as a central location for checking the status of any device installed on a computer and for updating the associated device drivers. You can also use it to troubleshoot device problems.

  • Disk Management Manages hard disks, disk partitions, and volume sets. Windows Vista supports disk spanning and disk striping. Disk spanning enables you to create a single volume that extends across multiple disks. Disk striping enables you to write data stripes across multiple disks for fast access to data. Neither technique provides failure protection, however, and if any disk in a spanned or striped volume fails, the entire volume fails.

  • Services View and manage system services running on a computer. In Windows Vista, every service has a recovery policy. If a service fails, Windows Vista will try to restart it automatically and automatically handle both service and nonservice dependencies as well. Any necessary dependent services and system components start prior to attempting to start a failed service.

  • WMI Control View and manage Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI). WMI gathers system information, monitors system health, and manages system components.

When working with Computer Management, you can select a remote computer to manage by completing the following steps:

  1. Right-click the Computer Management entry in the console tree and then select Connect To Another Computer. This opens the Select Computer dialog box.

  2. Choose Another Computer and then type the fully qualified name of the computer you want to work with, such as, where cspc85 is the computer name and is the domain name. Or click Browse to search for the computer with which you want to work.

  3. Click OK.

Getting Basic System and Performance Information

You use the System console to view and manage system properties. To access the System console, follow these steps:

  1. Click Start and then click Control Panel.

  2. In Control Panel, click the System And Maintenance category heading link.

  3. Click System.

As Figure 2 shows, the System console is divided into four basic areas that provide links for performing common tasks and a system overview. These four areas are:

  • Windows Edition Shows the operating system edition and version.

  • System Lists the processor, memory, performance rating, and type of operating system installed on the computer. The type of operating system is listed as 32-bit or 64-bit.

  • Computer Name, Domain, And Workgroup Settings Provides the computer name, description, domain, and workgroup details. If you want to change any of this information, click Change Settings and then click the Network ID button in the System Properties dialog box.

  • Windows Activation Shows whether you have activated the operating system and the product key. If Windows Vista isn't activated yet, click the link provided to start the activation process and then follow the prompts. If you want to change the product key, click the Change Product Key link and then provide the new product key.

Image from book
Figure 2: Use the System console to view and manage system properties.

When you're working in the System console, links in the left pane provide quick access to key support tools, including the following:

  • Device Manager

  • Remote Settings

  • System Protection

  • Advanced System Settings

Clicking Change Settings under Computer Name, Domain, And Workgroup Settings displays the System Properties dialog box. Using System Properties to manage a computer's configuration .

A computer's Windows Experience Index rating is important in determining which operating system features it supports. If the computer has not yet been rated for performance, you can click Score This Computer under System to start the performance rating process. Once you've rated a computer, you can click the Check Your Computer's Windows Experience Index Base Score link under System to access the Performance Rating And Tools console, shown in Figure 3.

Image from book
Figure 3: Use the Performance Rating And Tools console to rate or view a computer's performance.

The main part of the Performance Rating And Tools console shows the system's overall rating and lists the installed hardware in five categories:

  • Processor Shows the processor and processor speed

  • Memory Shows the total physical memory

  • Primary Hard Disk Shows the total capacity and total free space of the computer's system disk


    The system disk is the one where the operating system is installed. Typically, the system disk is also the boot, page file, and crash dump disk.

  • Graphics Shows the graphics card installed on the computer

  • Gaming Graphics Shows the amount of physical memory on the graphics card

Windows Vista uses the computer's overall rating and subratings to determine which personalization features should be configured for use. If a computer has a low rating, Windows Vista will recommend turning off some features, such as Aero glass, to improve system performance. Based on performance over time, Windows Vista may also recommend turning off or modifying other features to improve performance.


Several factors can adversely affect the performance rating, including the primary disk running low on free disk space. If you install new hardware on a computer or resolve a performance issue that affects the computer rating, such as low disk space, you can click Update My Score to update the computer's performance rating.

In Performance Information And Tools, any current performance issues can be reviewed by clicking Problem Reports And Solutions under See Also, and then, under Tasks, clicking See Problems To Check. Clicking the related View Details link for an issue enables you to view a detailed description of the problem. (See Figure 4.) Selecting the related check box for an issue and then clicking Check For Solutions enables you to get possible solutions to the problem.

Image from book
Figure 4: Windows Vista offers solutions that may help you resolve performance issues.

Once you've resolved all performance issues, you can remove the list of problems by following these steps:

  1. Click Start and then click Control Panel.

  2. In Control Panel, click the System And Maintenance category heading link.

  3. Click Problem Reports And Solutions.

  4. In Problem Reports And Solutions, click Clear Solution And Problem History.

  5. Click Clear All.

Getting Advanced System Information

When you want to get detailed system information or check computer information on remote systems, use System Information (MSINFO32.EXE). You can access system information by clicking Start, typing msinfo32 into the Search box, and then pressing Enter. As shown in Figure 5, you can view system summaries by selecting the System Summary node. All configuration statistics provided are collected using the WMI service.

Image from book
Figure 5: Advanced System Information can help you troubleshoot system configuration problems.

The System Information tool provides detailed information on several major areas of the operating system:

  • Hardware Resources Provides detailed information on input/output (I/O), interrupt requests (IRQs), memory, direct memory access (DMA), and Plug and Play devices. A key area you'll want to check if a system is having a device problem is the Conflicts/Sharing node. This area provides a summary of devices that are sharing resources or causing system conflicts.

  • Components Provides detailed information on installed components from audio codecs to input devices to universal serial bus (USB) ports. A key area you'll want to check if a system is having a component problem is the Problem Devices node. This area provides information on components that have errors.

  • Software Environment Provides detailed information on the running configuration of the operating system. When you are troubleshooting problems with a remote system, you'll find the Software Environment area to be extremely useful. In addition to drivers, environment variables, print jobs, and network connections, you can also check running tasks, services, program groups, and startup programs.

If you want to browse configuration information for a remote computer, follow these steps:

  1. Access System Information. Select Remote Computer on the View menu. This displays the Remote Computer dialog box.

  2. In the Remote Computer dialog box, select Remote Computer On The Network.

  3. Type the computer name in the field provided.

  4. Click OK.

The account you use must have the appropriate administrator access permissions for the domain or the local machine as appropriate. If you have other problems obtaining information from a remote system, you may need to check the namespace used by the WMI service, as discussed in the following section of this chapter.

Working with WMI Control

Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) is a key part of the Windows Vista operating system. It is used to gather system statistics, monitor system health, and manage system components. To work properly, WMI relies on the WMI service. This service must be running and properly configured for the environment.

You control the configuration of the WMI service through WMI Control, which can be accessed on a local or remote system using the following steps:

  1. Click Start, All Programs, Administrative Tools, and then click Computer Management. Alternatively, access Control Panel, click the System And Maintenance category heading link, click Administrative Tools, and then double-click Computer Management.

  2. Right-click the Computer Management entry in the console tree and select Connect To Another Computer. You can now choose the system that has the services that you want to manage.

  3. Expand the Services And Applications node by clicking the plus sign (+) next to it. Next, click WMI Control to select it. (This is necessary so the control is read in.) Right-click WMI Control and then select Properties.

  4. You can now use the WMI Control Properties dialog box to configure WMI.

As shown in Figure 6, the WMI Control Properties dialog box has the following tabs:

  • General Fields on this tab provide summary information for the system and WMI. WMI uses the credentials of the current user to obtain system information.

  • Backup/Restore Statistics gathered by WMI are stored in a repository. By default, this repository is located in %SystemRoot%\System32\Wbem\Repository. These statistics are automatically backed up at regular intervals. You can back up or restore the repository manually using the fields on this tab.

  • Security Security settings determine who has access to different levels of WMI statistics. By default, the Administrators group has full access to WMI, and the Authenticated Users group has permissions to execute methods, enable accounts, and write gathered statistics.

  • Advanced Advanced settings determine the default namespace for WMI. The default namespace is used in WMI scripting when a full namespace path isn't set for a WMI object. You can change the default setting by clicking Change, selecting a new default namespace, and then clicking OK.

Image from book
Figure 6: WMI Control is used to manage the configuration of the WMI service.


WMI maintains error logs that can be used for troubleshooting problems with the WMI service. These logs are stored by default in %SystemRoot%\System32\ Wbem\Logs. WMI maintenance files, logs, and repositories can use up a considerable amount of disk space on a system. On average, these files used 65 MB on my test systems—the bulk of this (40–50 MB) being used to maintain repository backup files.

Information gathered by WMI is stored in a collection of system files called a repository. By default, the repository files are stored under %SystemRoot%\System32\ Wbem\Repository. The repository is the heart of WMI and the Help And Support services framework. Information is moved through the repository using a staging file. If repository data or the staging file becomes corrupt, WMI might not function properly. This condition is usually temporary, but you can safeguard against it by backing up the repository file manually.

To back up the WMI repository manually, complete the following steps:

  1. Access the WMI Control Properties dialog box and click the Backup/Restore tab.

  2. Click Back Up Now. Next, use the Specify A Name For Your Backup File dialog box to set the file location and name of the WMI backup file. Then click Save.

  3. The Backup In Progress dialog box is displayed while the recovery file is being created. The recovery file is saved with an .rec extension, and its size depends on how much information is being stored. Usually this file is between 20-30 MB in size.

If you later need to restore the WMI repository from a backup file, complete these steps:

  1. Access the WMI Control Properties dialog box and click the Backup/Restore tab.

  2. Click Restore Now. Next, use the Specify A Backup File To Restore dialog box to set the location and name of the existing recovery file. Then click Open.

  3. The Restore In Progress dialog box is displayed temporarily, and then you'll see a warning prompt. Click OK.

  4. Your connection to WMI Control is broken. Once the restore operation is complete, you can reconnect to the computer. To do this, close and reopen the WMI Control Properties dialog box. This forces WMI Control to reconnect to the local or remote computer, but you can only do this if the restore is complete.


    If the connection fails, it usually means that WMI Control isn't finished restoring the repository. Wait for another 30 to 60 seconds and then try again.

  •  Using System Support Tools in Vista
  •  Managing System Properties
  •  Introducing Automated Help And Support in Vista
  •  Working with the Automated Help System
  •  Installing and Maintaining Devices in Vista: The Essentials
  •  Getting Started with Device Manager
  •  Working with Device in Vista
  •  Managing Hardware in Vista
  •  Customizing Hardware Device Settings
  •  Managing Internet Time in Vista
  •  Optimizing Windows Vista Menus
  •  Customizing the Taskbar in Vista
  •  Optimizing Toolbars in Vista
  •  Working with Desktop Themes in Vista
  •  Optimizing the Desktop Environment in Vista
  •  Screen Saver Dos and Don'ts in Vista
  •  Modifying Display Appearance and Video Settings
  •  Installing Programs in Vista: The Essentials
  •  Configuring Program Compatibility in Vista
  •  Managing Installed and Running Programs in Vista
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