Documenting Windows Errors With Problem Steps Recorder

When working with a tech support person to resolve an issue with your computer, a screen image can be the most useful tool for showing the actual problem. Being able to show the exact error message goes a long way toward communicating what’s actually happening on your computer. Screen recording software, which can create a video of the steps that led to the error, is even better but it’s expensive and often unavailable.

A new utility in Windows 7 and 8 offers a handy compromise between the single screenshot and a full screen recording.Problem Steps Recorder (PSR) creates a report that shows all the steps involved, complete with screen images and annotations describing each user  action. This comprehensive report is self-contained in a single document file which can be viewed in Internet Explorer and copied to a tech support person for analysis of the problem. It’s also easy enough for users at all skill levels to work with.

To use PSR in Windows 7 or Windows 8, press both the Windows (Start) and the R keys simultaneously on your keyboard to bring up the Run dialog box, type ‘PSR’ in the dialog box and click OK to load the program.

PSR has three simple buttons; ‘Start Record’, ‘Stop Record’ and ‘Add Comment’ for adding a comment to the report. To begin, click on the ‘Start Record’ button and follow the necessary steps to get whatever error message or other condition needs to be resolved. Each time you click the mouse or take any other action, PSR will automatically capture the screen, highlighting the windows that you’re working with and add the image to the report. To add a comment to the report at any time, use the ‘Add Comment’ button and the comment will be added as its own step.

Once all the steps are complete, click the ‘Stop Record’ button in PSR and the program will prompt you to save the report. The report is saved as an MHT file, which is a web page format viewable in Internet Explorer (but not other browsers). The first half of the report shows the screenshots captured by PSR with descriptions of the action taken. The second half of the report is a detail of the steps taken and includes programs used, program versions and other technical information that can be very helpful when trying to determine the cause of the problem. The screen images are encoded within the file so everything is kept in one file. This file is automatically compressed into a ZIP file by PSR so it can be easily sent through e-mail.

Andrew Comeau

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