Leadership

Use the System Diagnostic Report as a troubleshooting aid

The System Diagnostic Report can display the status of hardware resources, system response times, and processes on your computer along with system information and configuration data. Greg Shultz shows you how to use the System Diagnostic Report in Microsoft Windows Vista to gather troubleshooting information in real-time.

As you may know, Microsoft Windows Vista can and will encounter strange problems here and there. Some of them may be catastrophic, in that they cause the system to crash, but others can be more of an annoyance in that they pop up and prevent an operation from completing successfully, yet leave the system running.

Fortunately, Vista comes with a host of troubleshooting tools that you can use to help diagnose all sorts of problems. For example, if you read my article "Track the behavior of your system with Windows Vista's Reliability Monitor," then you know that you can use the Reliability Monitor with its Stability Index graph and Reliability Events information to assist you in tracking down the cause of the problem you are investigating.

While the Stability Index and Reliability Events are great tools, there are many more tools included in the entire Reliability and Performance Monitor system that you can use to help troubleshoot a problem. The System Diagnostic Report can display the status of hardware resources, system response times, and processes on your computer along with system information and configuration data. The neat trick with the System Diagnostic Report is that you can use it to gather troubleshooting information in real time while the problem is occurring.

In this edition of the Windows Vista Report, I'll show you how to use the System Diagnostic Report to gather troubleshooting information in real time. I'll then examine the resulting report.

This blog entry is also available in the PDF format in a TechRepublic Download.

Running the report

While the Reliability and Performance Monitor system has a GUI, the easiest way to run a System Diagnostic Report is from the Command Prompt. Once you initiate the process, the report will be generated and displayed in the GUI.

To begin the process, launch a Command Prompt window by selecting Start | All Programs | Accessories. Once you have a Command Prompt window open, type:

perfmon /report
and then press [Enter]. As soon as you do so, you'll encounter a UAC and will need to respond accordingly. You'll then see the Reliability and Performance Monitor window, shown in Figure A.

Figure A

Once you initiate the diagnostic from the Command Prompt, you'll see the Reliability and Performance Monitor window.

As you can see, the Report Status section indicates that System Diagnostics will be collecting data for 60 seconds. At this point, you can initiate the procedure or task that is causing the problem. If you are successful in recreating the problem condition while System Diagnostics is collecting data, information pertaining to the problem will be added to the report.

As a test, I connected a USB 8-in-1 card reader that I've been having some trouble with, while System Diagnostics was collecting data. After 60 seconds, the Report Status section indicates that System Diagnostics is generating the report, as shown in Figure B.

Figure B

Once the collection operation is complete, the report will be generated.
As soon as the report is complete, it will appear in the Reliability and Performance Monitor window, as shown in Figure C. Any error conditions that existed or that occurred while System Diagnostics was collecting data will appear in the report.

Figure C

Once the report is complete, it will appear in the Reliability and Performance Monitor window.

As you can see, while System Diagnostics was collecting data it picked up and recorded information about the USB 8-in-1 card reader. This information is displayed in the Error section. System Diagnostics also picked up the fact that the hard disk on this test system has the dirty bit set. This information is displayed in the Warning section.

Each of these sections contains five pieces of information:

  • Symptom: This is basically an internal error message. System Diagnostics configures it as a link that you can use to get to a more detailed section of the report.
  • Cause: This is a description of the error condition.
  • Details: This provides more detailed information on the error.
  • Resolution: This provides you with a basic set of instruction on how to fix the problem.
  • Related: This provides you with links to articles on the Microsoft Web site that cover the problem.
When I clicked on the Symptom link in the USB 8-in-1 card reader error section, the report jumped down to the Controller Classes section, as shown in Figure D. While this section doesn't really contain details that would make sense to the average user, it does provide several property names that will make good search terms in Google.

Figure D

This is the Controller Classes section.

When I clicked on the links in the Related area, I encountered a Windows Help and how-to article on solving problems with USB devices as well as a Microsoft TechNet article on finding and configuring device drivers.

What's your take?

While it ended up that I just needed to update the device driver for the USB 8-in-1 card reader, you can see how the System Diagnostics report can help you to determine what you need to do to solve the problem.

Have you used the Reliability and Performance Monitor's System Diagnostic Report as a troubleshooting aid? If so, did you find it useful? Will you use it in the future? Please drop by the Discussion area and let us hear from you.

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.

12 comments
JRL21
JRL21

Cool tool; very, very, very informative! Some programmer must have gotten paid a lot to access all that data.

dennis.debbie
dennis.debbie

I have tried to run the report and the subject message always is displayed. Anyone have any ideas why i am recieving this message. thx dennis

rhine
rhine

I get Error occured while generating report access denied?/How can I fix this?

phantom
phantom

Sound good but can't get to it. Command prompt opens in "Users" directory. All I got was "cannot find path specified" Tried cd\ command and then run it. Same thing. Any ideas?

jjvolk
jjvolk

I find this a very useful tool added to Windows Vista. I am running Windows Vista Ultimate and have been since a few months after it became available. By turning off some features in Vista it runs as fast as XP. One thing Ive found is that sometimes on some systems the recovery partition is too small and continually reports it needs to have some files deleted. This is a real bother with someone who has just purchased a new system and the manufacturers need to be sure the recovery partition is large enough to not cause a LOW DISK SPACE warning! I am enjoying Vista as my OS, however the popular opinion is that people hate Vista.

ezrabm
ezrabm

Well, most of us users have XP, not Vista. So, I put in the same perfmon /report into my command field, and got a response in the form of a continual generated diagram with its peaks and valleys. However, there is no response on clicking the report line, owing to a statment something like- there is no report since there are no items to report. Please advise if there is a better way to diagnose in XP. Thanks ezrab

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Blue Screen has me turning off stuff in my BIOS.I think Blue Screen is a text file and a dll in a numbered folder.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

Have you used the Reliability and Performance Monitor?s System Diagnostic Report as a trouble shooting aid? If so, did you find it useful? Will you use it in the future?

Crash84
Crash84

You can run your cmd line using runas and your admin account. This is the command to use, runas.exe /user:***** cmd This will popup a window asking for your admin account password. Then you should be able to run the Diagnostics.

rhine
rhine

I cannot Generate a report; it continues to fail with an error and message indicating I don't have the neccessary permission level; under further research discovered many diagnostic programs inherit with Vista Home premium will not start up, further investigation showed an indication of a virus but my security suite does not detect it nor does a third party anti-virus I installed, although every time I change sites within IE7; I get a message in my tool bar area that a virus has been detected and removed by my security suite. I feel the only way to rid myself of these problems is to reinstall Vista from a recovery disc I created than restore my computer to a current date by means of a backup I did earlier in the month before I started to have these virus problems; My only concern is that all my music downloads and movie Downloads legally purchased will be lost with no way of recovering them.I will have to go thru pain staking means to contact each download provider to regain my lost songs and movies however there are some that came off of specially marked DVD's, so I am unsure rather redownloading from disc is even possible.my days trying to understand let alone combating daily threats is becomming a full time job, Hell Ishould be on Microsft's payroll ........LOL RebelEagle

waltrutka
waltrutka

why do things like internet explorer exist here there not an application whats all the exe's isn't this sacraligous? how can i tell when a dvd baloon pops up saying i didn't finish a process but i did and keeps doing it on and off when i reboot my system

Sergio11
Sergio11

Be careful, it is not always the Microsoft System Diagnostic tool; there is also a virus/malware with that same name which infects your computer and it is difficult to get rid of. So don't blame Microsoft for what this virus is doing. I am trying to get rid of it myself in one of my computers. It is very difficult.