Thursday, June 17, 2010

Use Windows Vista/7 Reliability Monitor to track system stability

Windows Vista and its successor has some great tools that give users and administrators the power to troubleshoot system stability issues and monitor performance. One of these tools is the Reliability Monitor.

Reliability Monitor provides an overview of system stability and details about events that impact reliability. It measures hardware and software problems and other changes to your computer and uses the information to calculate the Stability Index shown in the System Stability Chart over the lifetime of the system. The System Stability Chart also displays a graph organized by week and date.

To get to the Reliability Monitor on Windows 7 open Control Panel > Action Center and then expand the section Maintenance. Then, under Check for solutions to problem reports, click View reliability history.

reliability-monitor-w7

In Windows Vista you have to follow a different route. Open Control Panel and click on Performance Information and Tools and then click the Advanced Tools link on the left. There you will find Reliability and Performance Monitor.

An even quicker way is to just search for ‘Reliability Monitor’ in Control Panel.

In Reliability Monitor, you can click any event on the graph to view its details. These events include software installation and uninstallation, system crashes, hardware failure, sudden process termination etc.

reliability-monitor

The blue information icons represent updates to programs and drivers. New software installed or drivers updated will appear as blue icons. The red icons represents critical events such as application failure, Windows failure or hardware failure. The yellow icons indicate non-critical events such as failed software installation.

A dip in the stability graph indicates stability issues on that particular date. This corresponds to critical events as indicated by the red cross marks seen in the screenshot. The more critical the event(s) is, the bigger the dip in stability.

The stability index can be viewed over a period of days or weeks or even the entire lifetime of the system. The wonderful thing is each update, each application install is recorded in the reliability history. In the Action column you can view more information about each event.

An actual usage scenario of Reliability Monitor would be in troubleshooting system crashes. For example, say your system has been crashing for a few weeks now but you don’t remember what triggered the crash. You can open Reliability Monitor and see what software/drivers you installed before the crash started occurring. This way you can find out what events lead to the crash.

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