Microsoft

Dr. Watson: More than just a sidekick

We're not all Sherlock Holmes when it comes to uncovering the mysteries of computers. Thank goodness Dr. Watson is available to help find the answers to our PC problems.


In the famous words of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” If only troubleshooting problems with a PC were that easy… You have to be a veritable Sherlock Holmes to figure out some of the mysteries of the computer. So, if you are the Great Detective, where’s your sidekick, Dr. Watson? Well, he’s right there in your PC! That’s right, Dr. Watson has been placed in your PC to help you find solutions to all your unanswered questions about PC problems.

Included in your Windows 98 software is a utility called Dr. Watson (Drwatson.exe). Like the Dr. Watson from the Sherlock Holmes adventures, this utility gathers information for you to use in solving Windows’ mysteries. With a double-click of the icon or at the occurrence of an error, Dr. Watson records information about your system, tasks, startup, kernel drivers, user drivers, MS-DOS drivers, and 16-bit modules. You can save this information to a folder of its own under the Windows directory and review it later. Just before and at the time an error occurs in an application, the Dr. Watson utility creates a log of your system and places it in the folder, labeling it with a .wlg extension. In this log file, Dr. Watson puts pertinent information, such as the name of the program that causes the fault, the program that had the fault in it, and the memory address where the fault occurred.

To access Dr. Watson, click Start | Programs | Accessories | System Tools | System Information. Now, choose the Tools menu and click Dr. Watson. An easier way is to place a shortcut to the Drwatson.exe file in your startup menu. Each time you start your PC, Dr. Watson will be waiting for you. If you prefer not to have the program start each time you turn on your PC and don’t want to go through the long version above, simply go to Start | Run and type Drwatson. Doing so allows you to choose the utility from the Run menu when you need it. Once it’s started, Dr. Watson will run minimized, represented by its icon in the system tray.

Double-click the Dr. Watson icon in the system tray to view the various systems being scanned as information about them is collected. As it gathers this information, the utility determines if any problems exist with these areas. Once this snapshot of the system is completed, a window containing the Diagnosis tab appears. The tab is divided into two areas. The top pane provides information about any problems existing with the areas of your system that have already been scanned. The bottom pane is a notepad where you can input comments about what you were doing with the system when the error occurred. Clicking the OK button won’t save the information automatically —you’ll have to save manually.

An advanced view enables you to view each area. Click View and select Advance to view the tabs for the different areas. Use the scroll buttons at the top of the window to browse the options.

The System tab provides general system information, such as your version of Windows, processor type, and the percentage of free resources. The remaining tabs list drivers, applications, and modules.

You also can customize Dr. Watson. Select Options | View to make changes in these areas:
  • ·        Log Files enables you to change the path where the files will be saved. The default path is the Dr. Watson folder under the Windows directory.
  • ·        Disassembly enables you to change the amount of stack frames and CPU instructions that are reported in each log file.
  • ·        View enables you to choose whether you want Dr. Watson to open in the Normal view (showing only the Diagnosis tab) or the Advance view (showing all tabs).

If you have application faults that are reproduced easily, Dr. Watson will be very helpful. Simply load Dr. Watson and cause the fault to occur. The information about the fault becomes available by clicking the Details button on the application fault message and looking under Diagnosis. If the application fault isn’t reproduced easily, place a shortcut to Dr. Watson in your Startup folder, and Dr. Watson will open automatically each time you start Windows 98.

Paul Suiter received his first taste of the deadline rush as a photographer for the Montgomery Advertiser, where he earned four photography awards. After receiving degrees in economics and business management from Auburn University, Paul entered the college book business. After managing two bookstores for three years, Paul became a business analyst for EDS. Four years later, Paul continues with EDS, taking its equipment apart, while working with G3 switches and advanced imaging programs. But, he’s finally getting back to one of his favorite pastimes—writing. (Of course, he also enjoys spending time with his wife and son.)

The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein, but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.

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