Solve your PC problems with Windows’ troubleshooting tools

Solve your PC problems with Windows’ troubleshooting tools

Find out how to resolve common PC issues with the help of Windows’ own built-in fix-it tools

When something goes wrong with your PC, it can be both worrying and frustrating. Thankfully, Windows comes equipped with a number of tools that can help you get things working again, but not all of them are well known. In this guide we’ll introduce you to some of the critical repair tools provided by Windows should the need arise.

Remember, if all else fails you can always call on the services of our KNOWHOW™ repair teams to help fix your problem. Visit knowhow.com and click Services to find out more.

1. Use the Action Center

The hub of Windows’ troubleshooting tools can be found in the Action Center (US spelling), which is accessible via the white flag icon in the Notification area of the taskbar . Clicking it may reveal that it’s already aware of the problem plaguing you, allowing you to click the link and hopefully take steps to resolve it.

2. Use a Windows Troubleshooter

Alternatively, click the Open Action Center link to open the Action Center proper. If your problem isn’t listed here, click the Troubleshooting link to access a range of troubleshooters, which you can browse by category or search for specific keywords. Select one and follow it through to resolve many common problems with both Windows and hardware.

3. Open Task Manager

Misbehaving applications often become unresponsive. If closing them via the pop-up window that appears has no effect, try right-clicking the taskbar and choosing Start Task Manager (alternatively, press [Ctrl] + [Alt] + [Del]). Select the troublesome application from the Applications tab and click End Task. If this doesn’t work, right-click it and choose Go To Process, then click End Process to see if that has the desired effect.

4. Resolve compatibility issues

Older programs may not run correctly in the latest version of Windows, but so long as they’re not system tools like security software or PC optimisation suites, you may be able to get them to work using compatibility settings. If you’re able to install a program, but not run it, right-click the program shortcut and choose Properties > Compatibility tab. From here click Help me choose the settings or – if you’re confident you know what settings to apply – set them yourself.

5. Check PC reliability

Some seemingly unrelated issues may be linked. If your PC has been exhibiting strange behaviour over a period of time, click the Start button, type “reliability” into the search box and click View reliability history. A graph with problems (red crosses), warnings (yellow exclamation marks) and information (blue ‘I’ icons) will appear on a daily basis. Select a day and you can review these events. Look for links under Recommended Action, such as Check for a solution. Click this, and the Problem Reporting tool will spring into action. If a solution is found, follow the instructions; if not, double-click an entry to view more technical details about the problem in question. Make a note of any filenames or error codes, which you can use in a Google search to track down more information about the problem.

6. Resolve hardware issues

Problems with hardware, such as non-functioning webcams, may be resolved by typing “device” into the Start menu’s search box, then clicking Device Manager. A list of all installed hardware devices will appear. Look for any marked with yellow exclamation marks. Double-clicking one will reveal an error message and potential solution. If no links are provided, use the error code and description to track down a solution using Google, or you can post your problem on our user forum.

7. Roll back drivers

If your problem coincided with a recent driver update, you can return to the previous, working driver by double-clicking the affected hardware device in Device Manager, switching to the Driver tab and clicking the Roll Back Driver button, rebooting when prompted.

8. Explore Event Viewer

If you’re still struggling to diagnose a problem, and are a relatively confident user, take a look at Event Viewer (type “event” into the Start menu’s Search box to locate it under Programs). Expand Windows Logs in the left-hand pane and select the System or Application log to browse it for potential problems. Click Filter Current Log in the right-hand pane and tick Critical, Warning and Error, before clicking OK to view all potential problems.

Now select an event in the middle pane to reveal more details about the problem being reported. Scroll down and click Event Log Online Help and click Yes to see if more information – and occasionally – a solution is available online.

9. Check system files

Click Start and type “cmd” into the search box. Right-click cmd.exe when it appears in the list and choose Run as administrator. Now type “sfc / scannow” into the command prompt window and press [Enter]. Windows will scan your drive for corrupt or missing system files, replacing any it finds with working versions and fixing many seemingly strange problems in the process.

10. Run a memory diagnostic

Seemingly random crashes and start-up problems can sometimes be traced to faulty memory. Give your computer’s memory a quick check by pressing [Win] + [R] to open the Run dialogue box. Type "mdsched.exe” into the box, click OK and then choose the option to restart your PC to run a memory test. If errors are found, you’ll need to replace your memory.

11. Roll back your PC

System Restore takes regular snapshots of key system and program files on your PC, allowing you to roll back your system should strange behaviour occur after installing programs or updating hardware or Windows. It can be launched via the recovery options if your PC won’t start, but you can also access it in Windows itself: click Start > All Programs > Accessories > System Tools > System Restore to launch it. Start with the most recent restore point, working your way back if the problem persists. Make a note of which programs and Windows components will be affected by the changes.

12. Start-up repair tools

If your problems are so severe that Windows won’t even load properly, you should see a screen offering you various repair options. Just follow the prompts to get Windows loading again, or follow our guide to restoring or reinstalling Windows.