3 essential Windows troubleshooting tools and their usage

3 essential Windows troubleshooting tools and their usage

Personal Computers: From Hobbyists to Productivity Tools

The world of personal computers has come a long way since its early days as a domain for hobbyists. Gone are the days of rolling up sleeves and diving into debuggers to figure out why something wasn’t working as expected. Today, PCs are powerful productivity tools designed for a wide audience, including those without extensive technical backgrounds. If you fall into this category, you’ll be pleased to know that Windows 10 and Windows 11 come equipped with built-in diagnostic and repair tools to get you back to work quickly. In this article, we will explore three of these tools – Task Manager, Powercfg, and Reliability Monitor – and discover how they can help you troubleshoot and resolve issues on your PC.

1. Task Manager: More Than Meets the Eye 😎

Task Manager, a name familiar to long-time Windows users, offers much more than a simple list of running programs. While it does provide a way to terminate misbehaving apps, its true value lies in its performance-monitoring capabilities.

How to use it:

To access Task Manager, you can right-click any empty space on the taskbar and click Task Manager, open the Quick Link menu (right-click Start or press Windows key + X), and click the Task Manager entry, or use the Task Manager keyboard shortcut, Ctrl + Shift + Esc.

In Windows 11, Task Manager has a navigation menu on the left, allowing you to switch between different pages. The Processes page provides a per-app view of resource usage, while the Performance tab offers in-depth insights into CPU, Memory, Disk, Network, and GPU usage.

Task Manager Performance Tab

What you can do with it:

Task Manager is a powerful troubleshooting tool, enabling you to:

  • Identify resource-hogging apps: The Performance tabs will show you if any system resource, such as CPU or memory, is regularly hitting 100% under certain workloads. Switch to the Processes tab and leave it visible as you work to see which apps are causing the most strain.

  • Kill misbehaving programs: If a program becomes nonresponsive, you can select its name under the Apps heading and click “End Task” to terminate it.

  • Restart the Windows shell: If the taskbar, Start menu, or File Manager stop responding, you can use Task Manager to restart Windows Explorer by selecting it on the Processes tab and clicking “Restart Task.”

For a customized Task Manager experience, you can specify a default tab for Task Manager to open to and control the real-time counters on the Performance page through the settings menu.

2. Powercfg: Unveiling Battery Life Secrets 🔋

When it comes to laptop battery life, there is often a disconnect between the advertised claims and real-world usage. To get a more accurate picture of your laptop’s battery consumption and identify power-hungry apps, the Power Settings Command-Line Tool (Powercfg.exe) comes to the rescue.

How it works:

To use Powercfg, open a PowerShell or Command Prompt window and type “powercfg” followed by the desired command. For a full list of available commands, you can type “powercfg /?” and press Enter.

What you can do with it:

Powercfg offers several useful functionalities, including:

  • Identify sleep-related issues: If your system refuses to go to sleep or wakes up unexpectedly, it’s likely due to an app or service that won’t respond to sleep requests. Use the “powercfg /requests” command to pinpoint the troublesome process.

  • Generate battery reports: With the “powercfg /batteryreport” command, you can create detailed reports providing information about your device’s battery usage over time. These reports include tables, charts, and battery life estimates, offering valuable insights without requiring technical expertise.

To optimize battery life further, be sure to check out our article on “How to maximize the battery life of your Windows PC.”

3. Reliability Monitor: Vintage Troubleshooting Made Easy 🕹️

Despite its nostalgic appearance and its inclusion within the slowly fading Control Panel, Reliability Monitor remains a valuable troubleshooting tool for both technical and non-technical users.

How it works:

To open Reliability Monitor, simply tap the Windows key or click Start and start typing “reli.” This should display the View Reliability History shortcut. For added convenience, you can create a desktop shortcut by right-clicking any empty space on the desktop, choosing New > Shortcut, entering “perfmon /rel” in the wizard, and giving it a descriptive name like “Reliability Monitor.”

What you can do with it:

Reliability Monitor offers insights into system events in an easily understandable day-by-day format. Some key capabilities include:

  • Investigate crashes: When an app crashes or if Windows experiences a system crash (Blue Screen of Death), you can open the event in Reliability Monitor to examine technical details. These details can help you craft specific searches to find potential solutions.

  • Identify causes of crashes or slowdowns: If an app or Windows itself starts misbehaving, Reliability Monitor allows you to see if any recent installations or updates coincide with the issues. By rolling back the installation or uninstalling the app, you can determine whether it is causing the problems.

For a quick overview of a PC’s problem history, you can click “View All Problem Reports” at the bottom of the main window, providing a neatly formatted list of problem reports grouped by source. These reports can be handy when seeking technical support.

In conclusion, Windows 10 and Windows 11 offer a suite of built-in diagnostic and repair tools that can help you troubleshoot and resolve common PC issues. From the comprehensive performance monitoring of Task Manager to the battery insights provided by Powercfg and the vintage yet effective Reliability Monitor, these tools empower users of all technical backgrounds to keep their PCs running smoothly.

So the next time you encounter an issue with your PC, remember that you have these powerful tools at your disposal, waiting to lend a helping hand!