The troubleshooting process may require a number of different steps to find a resolution. In this video, you’ll learn about reboots, restarting services, using System File Checker, running Windows Restore, rebuilding a Windows profile, and more.
There’s a reason why we often say that our very first troubleshooting step would be to turn the device off and back on again. The reason we often lead with that reset function is that it often resolves the issues we’re trying to troubleshoot. The reason this works is that there may be software that is causing problems or using more resources than we expect. There might be a software bug inside of router code or an access points firmware, and restarting that device will resolve the problem.
Or maybe that an application is in some mode where it’s using more resources than normally expected, and restarting the application resolves that problem as well. There might even be an application that has a memory leak that is slowly eating away at the available memory inside of your system, and restarting your computer now makes that memory available to other applications on the computer. This is why it’s very common when we sit down at a computer to troubleshoot that we’ll bring up the Task Manager.
At the very bottom of the Task Manager it will tell you how long this system has been up and running. And if it’s been up and running for a number of days, we might want to start with a reboot before doing any other troubleshooting. In every operating system, there are applications that run behind the scenes that normally you would never see. In Windows, we refer to these as services. But just because an application is running in the background, doesn’t mean that it won’t have any problems.
Occasionally, you’ll have a service that fails or has some type of software problem, and you’ll need to restart that service to get everything running again. Since you’re already in Task Manager to check on the uptime, this is a perfect place to slide over to the Services tab to see all of the services running on the system. And you can easily right mouse click on any of these services, such as the Print Spooler service, and choose to stop, restart, or modify any of the details associated with that service.
But of course, restarting a service or a system doesn’t necessarily solve every problem. One way to get the application back into working order may require you to uninstall the application and reinstall it on your system. And Windows provide you with a number of different options that might install some or all of that application. To see what options might be available for fixing an application on your system, you can choose Settings, apps, and app and features to be able to find the repair, reset, and uninstall options.
You can also modify some of these application settings from the control panel under the programs and features applet. And if you do choose to uninstall the application, you can then, of course, reinstall the app to see if that resolves any of the issues you’re having. Repairing an application performs a number of different functions that leave the application and the application data intact.
This might be installing missing files for the application, replacing any files that might be corrupted, or fixing problems with shortcuts, registry, entries, or drivers. If you choose the option to reset the app, then you’re going to remove all of the application data, including any of your user data. This is very similar to performing a factory reset on a computer or performing an original installation of that software.
And if you’d like to remove everything with that application in order to perform a new install later, you could choose the uninstall option. If we’ve reset our computer and performed an application repair and we’re still having the problem, we might want to verify the minimum requirements for this application. Normally, a publisher will provide you with how much memory, storage space, and CPU is required just to be able to run the bare minimum for this app.
If you’re not sure what those bare minimums would be, you should check with the manufacturer to see what their official recommendation is for running this app. The manufacturer will provide you with minimums that are very common such as the CPU speed or total amount of memory. But you might also have requirements for video options, particular device drivers, or you may need to install runtime libraries before installing the application.
For example, the manufacturer might tell you that you need a minimum of 8 gigabytes of memory free to be able to run this application. And when you look at the system, you may find that the installed amount of memory is 8 gigabytes, which means that you’re already using some of that memory for the operating system, leaving you a total of 4.8 gigabytes for the application, which of course, is well under the manufacturer’s minimum of 8 gigabytes free.
If you’d like a summary of the hardware configuration, software environment, and other settings on a system, you can run the System Information app and be able to view all of those at a glance. We’ve already looked at a number of resources that were available in Task Manager to understand how much memory, RAM, network, and other resources were in use. And Task Manager is a great place to be able to view this on a per app basis.
But Task Manager, of course, is designed to show you this resource utilization in real time. If you need a longer term view of resource utilization, you might want to choose Performance Monitor so that you can track this information over hours or even days. Once you know what the minimum requirements are from the manufacturer, you can then look at these resources to see if we have enough memory storage space and other resources that are required to run that app.
And if you don’t have enough resources, you may need to upgrade your memory, your storage drive, or in some cases, the CPU of your system. If you’re low on storage space, Windows includes a disk cleanup utility that can go through your downloaded program files, temporary internet files, and other locations on your operating system to remove any files that you may no longer need. This may be able to free up enough storage space to resolve any problems you might be having with your application.
If you feel as if the problem with your application or operating system may be associated with the core operating system files, you can have your Windows perform a check. This would be the SFC utility, that stands for System File Checker. And SFC will scan all of your important system files to verify that these are the original versions that were installed in your OS.
If any of these files are missing, corrupted, or have been changed, SFC will prompt you to replace those files with the original and working versions. This can be a useful utility if you know that your system had been infected with malware, and you’re not sure if the malware made any changes to the underlying OS. If you’re having a problem with Windows booting, you may be able to resolve the issue by running a startup repair.
You can launch this process from inside of Windows from settings, system, and recovery, or you can boot from the original installation media and choose the option to repair Windows. This is the screen you would get if you booted from the original installation media for Windows 11. It looks very similar to the screens you would see for Windows 10. In this case, I will choose Next, you’ll get an option to install now.
But instead of installing Windows, we will choose the option in the bottom left to repair your computer. And if you choose that option, you’ll have the option to continue, turn off your PC, use a device, or troubleshoot. And in this case, we would like to use the option to troubleshoot. Inside of that option is reset this PC. That will allow you to completely reset the Windows installation.
Or you can choose the advanced options. And in the case of a startup repair, we would like to choose the advanced option setting. Because underneath the advanced options at the very top is the selection for startup repair. If you choose that option, Windows will list all of the different Windows operating systems that may be installed on this device. In this case, I only have a single version that is Windows 11.
And if I choose that, it will diagnose the settings for starting up Windows make any necessary changes and restart the computer. One very useful troubleshooting tool inside of Windows is the ability to go back in time and install a previous configuration on your existing Windows desktop. This is referred to as Windows Restore, and you’ll find it under the system properties under System, about, and system protection.
Inside of that window you’ll see an option for system restore where you can undo system changes by reverting your computer to a previous restore point. This process doesn’t modify any of your personal files. You’re going back in time and changing the configuration of Windows but not going back in time and changing any of your personal files. To start this process, we will choose the option for system restore. This will tell us that it can restore and help fix problems that might be making your computer run slowly or stop responding.
We’ll click the Next option. It then gives us a list of all of the restore points that are available on your system. This might be a number of different restore points going back over a number of weeks or even months. In this case, I have a single restore point that I could choose. I’ll select that restore point and choose Next, and Windows will tell us that we will go back in time and restore this from this date and this time to this particular drive.
And if all of this looks correct, you can click the Finish option. Your Windows will go back to that previous configuration and restart the system. Windows is an enormous operating system, and when something goes wrong, it could be anywhere within that OS. So instead of trying to pinpoint exactly what the root cause might be, we might decide that a faster way to resolve this issue is to delete everything in the operating system and load a new version of the OS.
In many cases, this is a much faster process than trying to find a very small needle in the very large haystack of Windows OS. Many organizations will have images ready to go for this type of problem where they can simply delete everything on the computer, restore from an image, and that system is back up and running in a matter of minutes. But if this is a system at home or you don’t have an image for this system, you might want to try the built in recovery options inside of Windows.
From Windows 10 you can reach these under Settings, update and security, and recovery. In Windows 11 it’s almost identical. It’s under Settings, system, and recovery. Inside of the screen is an option to reset this PC, where you can either choose to reset the Windows operating system but leave all of your personal files intact, or do completely remove everything on the system and reinstall a brand new version of Windows.
You might also recall us saying that it’s important to keep your operating system at the latest version. There is a built in update function of Windows called Windows Update that is able to install operating system updates and security patches automatically. You also have a lot of control over this process from inside the Windows Update. You can look at the advanced options such as when the active hours are on your system so that Windows won’t try to reboot your system when you’re using it.
And there are other updates settings in here that can limit downloading of large files, which is especially important if you’re on an internet link with limited bandwidth or you’re paying for the bandwidth that you use. This Windows Update function is designed to keep your operating system up to date. But of course, you also have to keep your applications up to date, and you may need to contact the developer of the application directly to see if you are running the latest version.
In most cases, these updates are provided behind the scenes and are updated automatically without any user intervention. If you’d like to see what Windows has done with the update functions, there is an update history. You can find that Windows 10 under Settings, Update and Security, and Windows Update. Or inside Windows 11, it’s under Settings and Windows Update. You can see you get a comprehensive view of exactly what updates have been installed on a system, and what date those updates were added to your computer.
You can drill down into the update to see additional options. And if you think this update may be causing problems, you could choose the option to uninstall the update. This will bring up a list of the updates from your control panel under Programs and Features and installed updates, and then you can right mouse click on any of these updates and choose the option to uninstall.
If you use Active Directory at work, then then you know every user has a profile associated with their username. And if they log in to multiple systems, that profile will be downloaded and applied to that system. So no matter where they log in, they have exactly the same configuration and the same desktop. Unfortunately though, these profiles can sometimes be damaged or corrupted.
And when you try to log into Windows you’ll get a message that says the user profile service failed to log on, or the user profile cannot be loaded. And you may notice when you log in that the screen is not the same as your normal desktop, or there might be files missing from the desktop itself. To resolve this problem, we need to delete the bad profile. Once that’s deleted from your system, the user can log back in.
Windows will recognize that a profile no longer exists for this user, and it will create a new profile that now will be operational. This is a multi-step process. So let’s go through the entire process from the beginning where we delete the profile. And then we’ll look at the process for creating the new profile. To be able to delete the damaged or corrupted profile, we need to log in with domain administrator rights.
This will allow us to rename the user’s folder on their system. This will allow us to save important files that they may already have within their user folder. We may be able to recover those later. At that point, we need to back up the users registry, and you can see the registry key is here under HKLM/SOFTWARE/Microsoft/WindowsNT/CurrentVersion/ProfileList.
To be able to back this up, we right mouse click on that particular section of the registry and choose the option to export. Once we know that we have a backup of that registry, we can then delete the existing registry, which effectively clears the profile from this system. At that point, we can restart the computer and ask the user to log in. Once the user logs in, Windows recognizes that a profile doesn’t currently exist and it will build a new profile under the existing user’s name folder.
This will create an empty profile. But there may be files in other important documents that the user would like from their original profile. If that’s the case, we’ll need to log out and log back in as the domain administrator so that we can copy over any files that we backed up that the user might need. What you don’t want to do during this step is copy over the old profile onto the new profile.
That’s because the corrupted information may still be within the backup of the original profile. We should only copy files that the user might need and nothing else from their old profile. Once you’ve copied those files over, the process is done, you can log out as the administrator, have the user log back in, and now they have a new working profile that they can use.