Windows

Track the behavior of your system with Windows Vista's Reliability Monitor


If you've stumbled around with Windows XP's Performance Monitor utility -- never quite mastering the intricate details of monitoring the performance characteristics of your system using the provided set of counters -- then you're going to love Windows Vista's Reliability Monitor! This new utility provides you with a canned set of preconfigured counters that you can easily use to monitor the reliability of your system over time. In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I'll provide you with an overview of Windows Vista's Reliability Monitor and show you how to use its System Stability Chart to track the behavior of your system over its lifetime.

Getting to the Reliability Monitor

The Reliability Monitor is a snap-in for Microsoft Management Console (MMC) and you can launch it by right-clicking the Computer icon on the start menu and selecting Manage. To launch it quickly, just click the Start button and type reliability in the Start Search text box and press [Enter]. Either way, you'll see a UAC and will need to respond accordingly.

Once you see the Computer Management console, go to the navigation pane and click the arrow next to Reliability and Performance to expand the branch. Then, expand the Monitoring Tools branch and click Reliability Monitor. As soon as you've accessed the Reliability Monitor, you can click the Show/Hide Console Tree and the Show/Hide Action Pane buttons to close those parts of the interface and make the Reliability Monitor fill the window. To get an even better view, you can maximize the window.

Now, to prepare for the next section in this article, drag the scroll bar in the middle of the window all the way to the left. When you do, you will rewind the Reliability Monitor all the way back to the day that you installed Vista and your window will look similar to my example shown in Figure A.

Figure A

By hiding the Console Tree and the Action Pane and maximizing the window, you get a better perspective of the Reliability Monitor.

Taking a look around

As you can see in Figure A, the main feature in the Reliability Monitor window is the System Stability Chart. On the top half of the chart is a graph called the Stability Index. On the day you installed Vista, your system was assigned a reliability rating of 10.00, which is the highest possible score. On the far right, you'll see your current rating. In my example, the current rating is 9.52. Now, if you slowly drag the slider all the way to the right and then all the way back to the left again, you'll see the day-to-day ebb and flow of the Stability Index as various events occur. (Each column represents a day.)

You may also notice dotted and solid lines in the graph. Dotted lines indicate that there was not enough recorded data to calculate a steady System Stability Index. This typically results from days when the system is not in full use -- either turned off or in a sleep state. Solid lines indicate that there was enough recorded data to calculate a steady System Stability Index.

Now, if you shift your attention to the bottom half of the chart, you'll see that there are rows that indicate Reliability Events in five categories: Software (un)Installs, Application Failures, Hardware Failures, Windows Failures, and Miscellaneous Failures. As you look over these rows, you'll see icons that represent the type of event that occurred. As you can see in my example, any type of failure that occurs is marked by a red error icon and you can see the resulting drop in the graph up above the icon. Any day that a problem event occurs, the reliability index goes down quickly. If there are no problems on the next day, the reliability index will go up slightly. If there are several days without any problems, the reliability index will continue its upward turn, albeit very slowly.

Now, if you click on any of the icons, the System Stability Report portion of the window comes into play and you'll be able to see what the exact problems were. For example, clicking the icons in the 4/23/2007 column, as shown in Figure B, shows me that three separate driver installations were successful, but that an Explorer.exe crash caused a problem that brought the reliability index down to 8.72 from the previous day's high of 9.44. The reliability index then very slowly climbed back up and didn't reach the previous high until it hit 9.45 on 5/5/2007. The reliability index finally got back to 10.00 on 5/26/2007.

Figure B

In the System Stability Report, you can see the exact problem that caused a drop in the reliability index.

What's your take?

As you can see, Vista's Reliability Monitor makes it easy to track your system's stability over time. This can  be a big help in troubleshooting problems because it allows you to determine what the problem was and when it occurred. Have you used the Reliability Monitor track stability or troubleshoot a problem? If so, drop by the discussion area and let us hear about it.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

13 comments
skorpion771
skorpion771

If I place the Laptop w/Vista close to the Tower @ GROUND ZERO and get in my car and drive West@ 60 mph for 1/2 hour...I'm still close enough to hear the bang and have an Awesome view of the cloud...Seriously Vista taught me everything I know At This Point several times over... Talk about Love/Hate, its a new "Box of Choclates" everytime it boots.I would be totally confused without TECHREPUBLIC's fine Articles. Vista is my only exposure so far,the PERFMON helps alot but it takes too long to Recover (ie) 8.30-9.4 it is a reliable indicator of what happened,and when. Mike

davegthomas1
davegthomas1

Mine is currently 1.33. Is there a way to start again from 10?

PaleGreen1
PaleGreen1

I started getting BSOD's two days ago on Vista Ultimate SP1 and when I checked the Reliability Monitor, it didn't show any problems. So I don't know how reliable of a monitor it is if a freakin' BSOD doesn't show up.

rickhal
rickhal

Perhaps this will help me troubleshoot why Vista Ultimate has problems with various USB devices. Such as my new Ipod or my Cruzer Mini 4gig usb flash drive. Pop one of these devices into Vista and it can "see" the device but then goes on to tell you that it needs a driver for the device. Which it cannot locate, or if it does find the USB device driver in the system32 folder, cannot install it. Nice that MS has regressed USB functionality back to the dark ages with Vista. Typical too.

gtrapp
gtrapp

Printing this article gives me 1 page of text, 1 page of ads running through a 2nd page of text and 15 pages of junk - seems to be a problem on this site with the new layout.

tim uk
tim uk

Interesting feature. How long does Vista hold system restore points? It would be handy for this monitor to show where one is available. Also, what differentiates between an application fault and a windows fault- it seems to have categorized the explorer error as an application one, yet I feel that explorer is a part of windows, indeed I doubt windows would run correctly if you uninstalled it.

tct
tct

It seems that on TR the banners don't belong with the article or blog that is being presented, anymore. I started noticing this when they introduced the new enlarged banners with photos, about a month ago. In this case, the article is the Windows Vista Report by Greg Schultz but the banner shows Windows on Windows "written by Shannon Kalvar and Steven Warren". The picture shows only Steven Warren. Is this a problem with the new format or am I missing something (always a possiblity!).

skorpion771
skorpion771

MAN I HAD THE SAME PROBLEM AND THE RELIABILITY MONITOR IS SOMETHING I PULLED UP DAILY, GO TO START> ALL PROGRAMS> ADMIN. TOOLS AND OPEN PERFORMANCE /RELIABILITY MONITOR. LOOK AT WHAT IS CRASHING,GOOGLE IT, AND READ THE FORUMS /BLOGS TO FIX THE PROB. I FOUND THE EXPLORER.EXE PROBLEM AND READ THAT GOING TO THE TASK MANAGER AND CHOOSEING SERVICES AND STOPPING EXPLORER.EXE AND RE- TYPING EXPLORER FIXED THAT PARTICULAR PROB. IT'S FUN TO SEE YOUR INDEX GO UP,BUT VERY SLOW.EVENTUALLY YOUR MACHINE WILL RETURN TO HIGH NUMBERS AGAIN,DON'T WORRY.KEEP AN EYE ON WHAT'S GOING ON DAILY TILL YOU GET A FEEL FOR IT,YOU ARE THE ADMIN.FOR YOUR MACHINE AFTERALL.LIVE AND LEARN.HOPE THIS HELPS,NEWBIE MIKE

Fil0403
Fil0403

Nice that you are not aware that driver availability is not responsability of Microsoft, but responsability of the manufacturer of the device and that that is always a temporary problem when upgrading OS. Typical ignorant attitude regarding Microsoft products too. P.S.: iPod is recognized in Vista, especially the new ones, so that's a specific problem of that PC, not evil Microsoft's fault.

Iam_Mordac
Iam_Mordac

The title "Window on Windows" is the Forum Name and in this case the Article has the title "Windows Vista Report" As for the picture, Shannon might be on vacation... or just camera shy. :)

Scott R.
Scott R.

Ditto. I am seeing absolutely no issues whatsoever with those products on the 10 systems I have here. Do you have the ability for Vista to grab drivers off of the Windows Update turned off? I admit, that's the last place you want to ghet drivers from usually, but at least it might help get your products working. Indeed, lack of drivers that support your hardware is not the responsibility of MS, but of the hardware manufacturer. Quit finding excuses for ragging on MS and hit the manufacturer up for their latest driver.

tct
tct

Thanks. That makes sense. However, I would prefer to see the faces of the people actually writing the article. Just my preference though.

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