How to review your computer's reliability and problem history in Windows 10

Applications that consistently fail can negatively impact the performance of your computer and productivity. Perhaps it's time to use the Windows 10 reliability monitor.

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Image: relif, Getty Images/iStockphoto

In an attempt to keep life simple for the common user, Microsoft Windows 10 does an exemplary job of hiding certain minor problems like random application failures and shutdown errors. When such problems occur, the Windows operating system troubleshoots a solution and then resolves the problem. Most of the time, the user remains completely unaware that any problem occurred.

While this "ignorance is bliss" approach may be acceptable for many users, applications that consistently fail, or cause other systems to fail, can negatively impact the performance of your PC and ultimately your overall productivity. If you have noticed an unexplained drop in your computer's performance recently, and wish to do something about it, perhaps it is time to assess just how reliable your PC has been over the past few weeks.

This tutorial shows you how to use the built-in Windows 10 reliability monitor to assess the general performance of your PC and to discover what applications have been causing systemic problems recently.

SEE: Windows 10 May 2019 Update: 10 notable new features (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

How to see your computer's reliability and problem history in Windows 10

The Windows 10 reliability monitor is buried deep within the full Control Panel of configuration settings, which makes it slightly difficult to find through menu selection. The best way to load the reliability monitor is by typing "reliability monitor" in the Windows 10 desktop search box and selecting the appropriate item from the list of results. The application should look something like Figure A.

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Figure A

The Windows 10 reliability monitor display is made up of three distinct areas--each area provides specific information on a timeline describing events that took place over the past two weeks. The start of the timeline can be moved to an earlier date, if desired.

The line graph in the top area, highlighted in Figure B, displays a composite stability index for your PC on a scale from 1 to 10. The closer the line is to 10 during any given period, the better. As you can see, my PC seems to be having a slight problem every week or so that drops the index value from about a 9 to about a 7. That warrants at least some investigation.

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Figure B

The next section provides more detail about what has caused the stability index to drop each time. The grid, highlighted in Figure C, places an "X" or other indication in each of the impacted areas the monitor tracks, which includes application failures, Windows failures, miscellaneous failures, warnings, and general information.

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Figure C

Clicking on the dates displayed in the grid will provide more detailed information about which application(s) failed. This information is displayed in the third area of the reliability monitor, highlighted in Figure D.

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Figure D

Most of the application failures recorded by my PC deal with minor applications running in the background. The one warning on the grid represents a failed Windows 10 update, which is often remedied by a restart of the computer, so not a concern. There was a premature shutdown on one day, which may be attributed to the accelerated shutdown sequence I implemented for an earlier Windows 10 tutorial.

The pattern of failures tracked by the Windows 10 reliability monitor can be used to assess just how stable your PC is during a specific period; it can also reveal patterns of behavior that could impact your productivity. Perhaps a particular application is misbehaving on a regular basis, causing a problem that would suggest it may be time to acquire some updated software.

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