I've written a great deal about how Windows Vista's Performance and Reliability tools help users understand and solve problems and how greater levels of instrumentation and error reporting are what drives Vista's now native update application. It's time to share a bit more and perhaps help Windows Vista users discover the details around the real causes for the problems and errors they encounter.
While it's nice of Microsoft to take ownership of nearly all faults users encounter while running Windows (especially Windows Vista), sometimes their willingness to blame all things on Windows doesn't quite tell the entire story and in many cases digging for the real cause of reported problems, reveals that the underlying fault doesn't have much to do with Windows at all. Errors reported as: "Problem caused by Windows" very often have little to do with the operating system directly.
While error reporting and fault information as reported to users by Windows Vista is often clear and leads to readily available solutions, sometimes the information about a reported problem isn't as immediately helpful as it could be. When a Windows Vista user goes to Control Panel, then System and views the system panel, There is a link in the lower left for Performance. This opens the Performance Information and Tools panel - a one stop, quick look at what the Windows Experience Index scores and base score is. In the lower left of the Performance Information and Tools panel is another link for Problem Reports and Solutions. Clicking this link opens a panel used to Solve problems on your computer. - the focus of this post.
QUICK TIP: Use Vista's Instant Search and simply enter the term, Problem and click the link Instant Search returns at the top of the Start menu
As you can see in the figure below, Windows has reported a problem, but it only reflects that "Windows" caused it. Pretty nebulous, but good of the operating system to step up and take the blame for the fault... BUT IS IT REALLY Windows' fault...?
When a user clicks on the reported error, "Problem caused by Windows" one most often receives a generic report and a recommendation to "Install high-priority updates from the Microsoft Update website." Well... there are a couple of things wrong with this generic error report and recommendation. I mean... what if all updates and performance patches have already been applied? and worse.. "Microsoft Update Website???" Huh? This is Windows Vista and while updates come across the web, Vista has a built-in Windows Update APPLICATION! that is part of the error reporting and response system, which automates reporting and solutions distribution. Aside from missing an important marketing opportunity opposite the benefits of using Windows Vista, the information is simply wrong.
See the image below
Rather than guess what the problem Windows thinks it has is, there is a way to drill deeper and perhaps discover what process is actually at fault. In the image above, there is a small link where users can "See related problems." Clicking that link opens another panel with greater detail about what caused Windows to record an error.
See image below
Now we're getting somewhere... In the image above, we can see that a Logitech LVPrcSrv Module has stopped working a number of times. While the added information provides a good start, Windows Vista is also reporting that there is More Information available and while most users are happy to search for LVPrcSrv, it is better to have some context... like, is it in a system file, or user space, and is it an executable, or some other file that perhaps is missing...?
By double-clicking on the line item, users are presented with a lot more information about the error. For this error, one can see that LVPrcSrv is an executable in user space and the exact application version is reflected. A quick glance around the affected system reveals that only one Logitech device is connected - a Logitech QuickCam Ultra Vision SE
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Well armed with much better and more complete information about what caused the fault Windows assumed was with itself, quickly (in this case) leads to a solution from -geepers Sr. Software Engineer, QuickCam Install/Build/Configuration Team, Logitech Inc. Who states that users experiencing this error should: "Clear the check-box in MSCONFIG for the LVSrvLauncher Service and reboot the machine." I did this and it worked. No more related errors and I can still use all of the Logitech software installed on the computer.
Looking back at the Problem Reports and Solutions panel, there is one more action users should consider. Users should regularly clear their solutions and problem history - once problems have been solved, and then click the link in the upper left of the panel for "Check for new solutions." Checking for new solutions gathers up all recorded errors and sends them, without personally identifying information, to Microsoft engineers. Once a problem has been reported as few as five-hundred times, Microsoft engineers will begin to work on the problem and assist the device manufacturer, or independent software vendor as required. Periodically, solutions will be delivered to a user's computer and an alert will appear in the system tray offering access to newly discovered solutions - as reported by the automated Problem Reports and Solutions support mechanism.
See figure below
There is a lot more to the automated problem and error reporting system working under the hood in Windows Vista than is immediately evident and a lot more information than is apparent to users is available - if they dig a bit deeper. Microsoft could be clearer about how end users can access this information and I recommend BETA testers of the next version of Windows request that a comprehensive Problem Reports and Solutions Center be expanded to present and make clearer, all of the steps involved in discovering fault related information. While the classic view of the Control Panel in Windows Vista already has an icon for Problem Reports and Solutions, not all of its options are as apparent as they could be. For more seasoned Windows Vista users and certainly for trained IT/MIS professionals, Windows has always provided a wealth of error reporting information - it's just easier to access and make use of in Windows Vista. Enterprise network and systems engineers have been accessing this information for years and as such, they have been running very stable Windows computers for a long time. Windows Vista begins to leverage this data and make it available to all users of all types.