Windows 7 : How to Use Built-In Diagnostics

9/22/2012 9:28:27 PM
Windows 7 includes several different tools to assist you in diagnosing the source of hardware problems. The following sections describe the most important tools.

1. How to Use Reliability Monitor

To view Reliability Monitor, click Start, type Reliability and then click View Reliability History. The chart provides a day-by-day report of any problems or significant changes. To view events that occurred on a specific day, click the day in the chart and then view the reliability details for more information. You can also click the drop-down list in the upper-right corner and then click Select All to view a report that contains all events that Windows has recorded.

From Reliability Monitor, you can access capabilities that were part of Problem Reports And Solutions in Windows Vista. At the bottom of the page, click View All Problem Reports or Check For Solutions To All Problems.

2. How to Use Event Viewer

Event Viewer provides a central location for operating system and application event logging. On most computers, Event Viewer contains thousands of events generated by Windows, drivers, and applications. Most of these events can be safely ignored. However, when troubleshooting problems, you should examine the event log to find events that might be related to your problem. It is entirely possible that no events will be related to your problem, however, because not all problems may initiate an event.

To open Event Viewer and view hardware-related events, follow these steps:

  1. Click Start, right-click Computer, and then click Manage.

  2. Under System Tools, expand Event Viewer.

  3. Under Event Viewer, expand Windows Logs and then click System.

  4. In the Actions pane, click Filter Current Log.

  5. In the Filter Current Log dialog box, select the Critical, Warning, and Error check boxes. Click OK.

Browse through the displayed events. Most of the events will not be related to your problem, but it is important to evaluate each event to determine any potential impact. In particular, pay close attention to events with a source of Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI), PlugPlayManager, or another source related to the hardware feature that is experiencing problems. 

3. How to Use Data Collector Sets

The Performance snap-in includes data collector sets and corresponding reports that perform detailed analysis of different aspects of a computer's configuration and performance.

To use data collector sets and reports, follow these steps:

  1. Click Start, right-click Computer, and then select Manage.

  2. Expand Performance, expand Data Collector Sets, and then click System.

  3. In the middle pane, right-click the data collector set you want to analyze and then click Start. For example, to analyze the computer's hardware, right-click System Diagnostics and then click Start. Windows 7 will begin collecting data.

  4. Right-click the data collector set and then click Latest Report. Windows shows the report status while data is being collected (this might take several minutes). After enough data has been collected, the report is displayed. Figure 1 shows a System Diagnostics report.

Figure 1. The System Diagnostics report includes detailed information about the computer, including possible sources of hardware problems.

Examine the report to determine whether any of the causes might be related to the problem you are troubleshooting.

4. How to Use Windows Memory Diagnostics

Memory problems are one of the most common types of hardware problem. Memory problems can prevent Windows from starting and cause unpredictable Stop errors when Windows has started. Because memory-related problems can cause intermittent failures, they can be difficult to identify.


Memory Failures

Because of the massive number of memory chips that hardware manufacturers produce and the high standards customers have for reliability, memory testing is a highly refined science. Different memory tests are designed to detect specific types of common failures, including the following:

  • A bit may always return 1, even if set to 0. Similarly, a bit may always return 0, even if set to 1. This is known as a Stuck-At Fault (SAF).

  • The wrong bit is addressed when attempting to read or write a specific bit. This is known as an Address Decoder Fault (AF).

  • A section of memory may not allow values to change. This is known as a Transition Fault (TF).

  • A section of memory changes when being read. This is called a Read Disturb Fault (RDF).

  • One or more bits lose their contents after a period of time. This is known as a Retention Fault (RF) and can be one of the more challenging types of failures to detect.

  • A change to one bit affects another bit. This is known as a Coupling Fault (CF) if the faulty bit changes to the same value as the modified bit, an Inversion Coupling Fault (CFin) if the faulty bit changes to the opposite value as the modified bit, or an Idempotent Coupling Fault (CFid) if the faulty bit always becomes a certain value (1 or 0) after any transition in the modified bit. This behavior can also occur because of a short between two cells, known as a Bridging Fault (BF).

Given these types of failures, it's clear that no single test could properly diagnose all the problems. For example, a test that wrote all 1s to memory and then verified that the memory returned all 1s would properly diagnose an SAF fault in which memory is stuck at 0. However, it would fail to diagnose an SAF fault in which memory is stuck at 1, and it would not be complex enough to find many BFs or CFs. Therefore, to properly diagnose all types of memory failures, Windows Memory Diagnostics provides several different types of tests.

Fortunately, Windows includes Windows Memory Diagnostics, an offline diagnostic tool that automatically tests your computer's memory. Windows Memory Diagnostics tests your computer's memory by repeatedly writing values to memory and then reading those values from memory to verify that they have not changed. To identify the widest range of memory failures, Windows Memory Diagnostics includes three different testing levels:

  • Basic Basic tests include:

    • MATS+

    • INVC

    • SCHCKR (which enables the cache)

  • Standard All basic tests, plus:

    • LRAND

    • Stride6 (which enables the cache)

    • CHCKR3

    • WMATS+

    • WINVC

  • Extended All standard tests, plus:

    • MATS+ (which disables the cache)

    • Stride38


    • WStride-6

    • CHKCKR4

    • WCHCKR3

    • ERAND

    • Stride6 (which disables the cache)

    • CHCKR8

Although the specifics of each of these tests are not important for administrators to understand, it is important to understand that memory testing is never perfect. Failures are often intermittent and may occur only once every several days or weeks in regular usage. Automated tests such as those done by Windows Memory Diagnostics increase the likelihood that a failure can be detected; however, you can still have faulty memory while Windows Memory Diagnostics indicates that no problems were detected. To minimize this risk, run the Extended tests and increase the number of repetitions. The more tests you run, the more confident you can be in the result. If you have even a single failure, it indicates faulty memory.

After Windows Memory Diagnostics completes testing, the computer will automatically restart. Windows will display a notification bubble with the test results, as shown in Figure 2, and you can view events in the System Event Log with the source MemoryDiagnosticsResults (Event ID 1201).

Figure 2. Windows Memory Diagnostics displays a notification bubble after logon.

If you do identify a memory failure, it is typically not worthwhile to attempt to repair the memory. Instead, you should replace unreliable memory. If the computer has multiple memory cards and you are unsure which card is causing the problem, replace each card and then rerun Windows Memory Diagnostics until the computer is reliable.

If problems persist even after replacing the memory, the problem is caused by an outside source. For example, high temperatures (often found in mobile PCs) can cause memory to be unreliable. Although computer manufacturers typically choose memory specifically designed to withstand high temperatures, adding third-party memory that does not meet the same specifications can cause failure. Besides heat, other devices inside the computer can cause electrical interference. Finally, motherboard or processor problems may occasionally cause memory communication errors that resemble failing memory.

4.1. How Windows Automatically Detects Memory Problems

When Windows analyzes problem reports, it can determine that memory problems might be a source of the problem. If this happens, the Action Center prompts the user to run Windows Memory Diagnostics. Users can click a link to either restart Windows and test for memory errors immediately or wait until the next time the computer is restarted.

4.2. How to Schedule Windows Memory Diagnostics

If Windows is running, you can schedule Windows Memory Diagnostics for the next startup by following these steps:

  1. Click Start, type mdsched.exe, and then press Enter.

  2. Choose to restart the computer and run the tool immediately or schedule the tool to run at the next restart, as shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. You can schedule Windows Memory Diagnostics to run when you next restart your computer.

Windows Memory Diagnostics runs automatically after the computer restarts.

4.3. How to Start Windows Memory Diagnostics When Windows Is Installed

If Windows is already installed, you can start Windows Memory Diagnostics from the Windows Boot Manager menu. To do this, follow these steps:

  1. Remove all floppy disks and CDs from your computer and then restart your computer.

  2. If the Windows Boot Manager menu does not normally appear, press the spacebar repeatedly as the computer starts. If you are successful, the Windows Boot Manager menu will appear. If the progress bar appears, restart your computer and try again to interrupt the startup process by pressing the spacebar.

  3. On the Windows Boot Manager menu, press the Tab button on your keyboard to select Windows Memory Diagnostics, as shown in Figure 4, and then press Enter.

Figure 4. You can start Windows Memory Diagnostics from the Windows Boot Manager menu.

Windows Memory Diagnostics will start and automatically begin testing your computer's memory. 

4.4. How to Start Windows Memory Diagnostics from the Windows DVD

If Windows is not installed, you can run Windows Memory Diagnostics from the Windows DVD by following these steps:


If Windows 7 is installed but will not start, you can start System Recovery tools faster by pressing F8 before the Starting Windows logo appears and then choosing Repair Your Computer from the Advanced Boot Options screen.

  1. Insert the Windows DVD into your computer.

  2. Restart your computer. When prompted to boot from the DVD, press any key. If you are not prompted to boot from the DVD, you may have to configure your computer's startup sequence. 

  3. Windows Setup loads. When prompted, select your regional preferences and then click Next.

  4. Click Repair Your Computer.

  5. Select your keyboard layout and then click Next.

  6. System Recovery scans your hard disks for Windows installations. If the standard drivers do not detect a hard disk because the drivers were not included with Windows, click the Load Drivers button to load the driver. Select an operating system to repair and then click Next.

  7. The Choose A Recovery Tool page appears. Click Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool.

Windows Memory Diagnostics will start and automatically begin testing your computer's memory. For information on how to configure the automated tests, read the next section. 

4.5. How to Configure Windows Memory Diagnostics

As shown in Figure 5, you can configure different options for Windows Memory Diagnostics. You can use these options to configure more thorough (and more time-consuming) diagnostics.

Figure 5. You can configure Windows Memory Diagnostics to use more thorough testing procedures.

To view Windows Memory Diagnostics options, start Windows Memory Diagnostics and then press F1. You can configure three different settings, which you select by pressing the Tab key:

  • Test Mix The default set of tests, Standard, provides efficient testing while catching most common types of memory failures. To reduce testing time (and the types of failures that might be caught), choose Basic. To increase the types of failures that might be caught (as well as testing time), choose Extended.

  • Cache Some tests use the cache, while others disable the cache. Tests are specifically designed to use or disable the cache to identify problems with different memory features. Therefore, you should typically leave this as the default setting.

  • Pass Count This defines the number of iterations. Increase this number to provide more thorough testing and to increase the likelihood that you will identify any existing problems. The higher the Pass Count, the more likely you are to find problems.

After you have configured settings, press F10 to apply your changes. Windows Memory Diagnostics will then restart the tests.

  •  Windows 7 : Developing Migration Files, Using USMT in Microsoft Deployment Toolkit
  •  Windows Server 2003 : Using Backup - Planning for Failure, Handling Backup and Restore Problems, Third-Party Backup Utilities
  •  Windows Server 2003 : Using Backup - Restoring Data
  •  Windows 7 : Monitoring and Adjusting Performance (part 2) - Resource Monitor, Reliability Monitor, Using Windows ReadyBoost, Trading pretty for performance
  •  Windows 7 : Monitoring and Adjusting Performance (part 1) - Performance Monitor
  •  Windows 7 : Performance Tuning Your System - Maximizing CPU and Memory Resources
  •  Windows XP : Verifying Digitally Signed Files, Reviewing Event Viewer Logs, Setting Up a 10-Step Maintenance Schedule
  •  Windows XP : Checking for Updates and Security Patches
  •  Dream Machine 2012 - The Future Is Now (Part 2)
  •  Dream Machine 2012 - The Future Is Now (Part 4)
    Most View
    Samsung Ultra 535 AMD-powered Ultraportable Laptop (Part 1)
    Floorstanding Loudspeaker Focal Aria 926 Review (Part 2)
    The State Of Mobile Processors (Part 4)
    Web Design: Where To Start (Part 3)
    Windows 7 : Programming Drivers for the User Mode Driver Framework - Windows I/O Overview, Brief COM Information, UMDF Architecture
    Sigma 120-300mm F/2.8 DG OS HSM S Lens Review
    Starcraft II Gaming Mouse & Marauder Starcarft II Gaming Keyboard
    AMD A10-5800K - Taking Has To Newer Heights
    Tried And Tested ā€“ November 2012 (Part 1)
    Windows Vista : Managing Windows Images - Executing Common Tasks (part 2) - Incorporating scripts in a Windows PE image
    Top 10
    2014 Honda City Compact Sedan Review
    2014 Porsche Cayman S Quick Review
    Boxster & ā€˜Sā€™ Porsche Boxster 2.5 986 Review
    Crystal Baller Mercedes-Benz S-Class Coupe Review
    2014 Superzoom Lenses Group Test (Part 4)
    2014 Superzoom Lenses Group Test (Part 3)
    2014 Superzoom Lenses Group Test (Part 2)
    2014 Superzoom Lenses Group Test (Part 1)
    R&D Spending Hike Points To New Products At Apple (Part 2)
    R&D Spending Hike Points To New Products At Apple (Part 1)