Troubleshooting Windows – CompTIA A+ 220-1102 – 3.1

The Windows operating system includes some important utilities for troubleshooting problems. In this video, you’ll learn about troubleshooting frequent shutdowns, sluggish performance, boot errors, application crashes, and more.

Something you never want to see on your system is a Windows stop error. Sometimes we refer to this as a Blue Screen Of Death, or BSOD, because it gives us this blue background and a message saying that a problem occurred, and we’re going to have to restart our system to get back up and running. There could be many reasons for a Windows stop error. It could be hardware that’s going bad. It could be poorly written drivers, or maybe it’s a bad application.

If you believe the problem is related to software, you could try using the last known good log in, use a system restore to roll back to a previous configuration, or if you just installed a driver, you might try rolling back to the previous version. If this is happening during the startup process, you might want to try starting in Safe Mode that could possibly get you to a Windows desktop. And then you can perform some of these troubleshooting steps.

If you think the problem might be with hardware, it could be a bad connection. So if you’ve recently installed hardware or you have something you can remove and reseat, you might want to try that and see if it resolves this stop error. And if this problem continues after performing this troubleshooting, it might be useful to know if the issue is with hardware or with software.

You might want to start with hardware diagnostics. You can sometimes get a hardware diagnostics kit from the manufacturer of your motherboard, and there may be diagnostics built into the BIOS on your computer. This would at least verify that the hardware was working properly. And if that’s the case, you can shift your focus over to the software configuration.

Another common troubleshooting call is that your system is running slowly or it’s acting sluggish. One way to see a real time view of what’s going on with your system resources is to use Task Manager. This will provide you with information about CPU usage, you can see how much memory is being used, and get an idea if any resources may be limited on the system. You might even want to try using the Performance tab to see if you can see any trends with CPU memory disk usage or network usage on the system.

As always, we want to check to see if our operating system is up to date, so you might want to check Windows Update to see if there’s any patches. And then check your disk space to make sure there is enough room available for your operating system to be able to work. On most laptops and some desktop systems, you’ll find that the CPU will slow down as the system becomes hotter. So you might want to check the fans and the vents to make sure that it’s able to cool itself properly. And you might want to try running an antivirus scan or an antimalware scan to see if there’s software running on your system that might be causing some performance problems.

Another problem that’s common to troubleshoot is starting your system and getting a message that says operating system not found or missing operating system. This might occur if you have multiple partitions on a storage drive and you’ve configured one partition for one operating system and another partition for another.

In that situation, the issue may be with the bootloader being improperly configured to launch either of those operating systems. Before making any changes, you may want to confirm that all of your boot drives are properly connected. And if you have any USB drives, you may want to remove those and try rebooting your system. Windows includes a feature called Startup Repair that will go through all of the different startup options and try to fix anything that might be causing these types of issues.

If that doesn’t work, you may need to manually reconfigure your system through the Windows boot configuration database or the BCD. This is something that you’ll find from the recovery console by running the command bootrec /rebuildbcd. This will rebuild the boot configuration database. And the next time the system boots, it will use the new database to hopefully find the proper Windows partition.

If the main bootloader is missing in your Windows operating system, you may see that you’re missing the NT loader or in NTLDR. This name goes back to the days of the Windows NT operating system, and it really is telling us that the proper bootloader does not exist on the system. Windows startup repair can replace the bootloader and you can also manually copy over the files directly to your system.

This is another scenario where removable media might be plugged into a USB drive and your system is incorrectly trying to boot from that removable media. Simply unplugging the USB drive and restarting your system may be able to resolve this problem. The startup repair can also resolve problems of a missing operating system, especially if the BCD or boot configuration data is incorrect. The startup repair will automatically fix the BCD and reboot the system.

And you might also want to try starting in Safe Mode, which could potentially get you to a Windows desktop and ultimately provide you with more troubleshooting options. If Windows is starting, you may find that you have a problem with a piece of hardware not working as expected. You can check Device Manager and Event Viewer to see how this device may be performing for your version of Windows. It will tell you inside of Device Manager whether the hardware is working properly.

And if there is an issue, we can make changes to the driver and the configuration from within Device Manager. It may be that removing the existing driver and loading a newer version may be all that you need to get that hardware working again. Another message you could get on startup is one or more services failed to start. This is referring, of course, to the Windows services that run in the background, and there are a number of troubleshooting steps that might help you resolve this problem.

This could be related to a bad driver or it could be bad hardware. You want to try starting this service manually from the services option. And if it’s not starting, you want to check your account permissions that it does have rights and permissions to start. You want to check any service dependencies. Some services require other services starting first before that service can start.

If this issue is associated with a Windows built in service, you might want to check all of the Windows configuration files associated with that service. If it’s related to an application that you installed, you might want to uninstall the app and reinstall a new version of that application. Application problems can be challenging to troubleshoot especially when all you get is a single error message that says there was an error.

In some cases, you don’t even get an error message. The application simply disappears from your screen. There’s often a lot of really good information inside of the Windows Event Viewer. So you may want to look at the logs to see what happened with that application during that time frame. Another view of these events can be seen in the Windows Reliability Monitor. This gives you a view of how an application has been performing over time.

So you might want to start with Reliability Monitor and use that as a way to drill down into the Windows Event Viewer. And for a quick fix, you may be able to uninstall the application, install the latest version, and see if that correct the issue. Here’s a better view of the Reliability Monitor. You can see a daily update of how applications are performing. And you can see they’re separated into application failures, Windows failures, miscellaneous failures, warnings, and information.

You can get more detail on the lower half of the screen. And from here you can drill down into the logs themselves to see what was happening during that time frame. One of the most important resources on our computer is the memory because that’s where our applications execute. And if we run out of memory, we can’t run the applications. If that does happen, you’ll see a message that says your computer is low on memory.

If that happens, you might want to try closing applications that are using a lot of memory. One way to see that is from the Task Manager. You can look at the Memory tab, sort by that Memory tab, and see which one of your applications is using the most amount of RAM. Windows also has a way to take information that’s in memory and temporarily move it off onto your storage drive. Windows refers to this as virtual memory, and you can change the virtual memory settings in your system, About, Advanced System Settings, Performance, Settings, and Virtual Memory.

You’ll get a screen like this that allows you to either configure this to be automatically set, or you can specify exactly how much virtual memory you’d like to use. The USB devices we connect to our computer take advantage of buffers inside of our system called endpoints. Different USB controllers have a different number of total endpoints that are supported. So the USB controller in your computer might support 96 endpoints, 254 endpoints, or some other value.

Different USB devices will use a different number of endpoints. For example, if you plug in a USB drive, it might use three endpoints. But if you plug in a USB audio device, it might use 10 endpoints. If you exceed the total number of endpoints available on your system, you’ll get a message that says the controller does not have enough resources for this device.

To make the troubleshooting process even more challenging, it’s often difficult to know exactly how many endpoints are used by a particular USB device. So when you see that message in Windows, it says the controller does not have enough resources for this device, the resources they’re referring to are those endpoints. One thing you could try is physically moving the USB device to a different USB interface on your computer.

That’s because different interface types may support a larger number of endpoints, and therefore, allow that USB device to operate. And you may want to examine the USB devices you’re plugging into your network, and that they’re plugged into the appropriate connections. For example, if it’s a USB 2.X device, make sure it’s plugged into a USB 2.X interface. The same thing applies for USB 3.X devices, make sure they are also plugged into a 3.X USB interface.

Moving these devices around may redistribute where these endpoints are used and may give you the proper number of resources to be able to use all of these USB devices. One very challenging problem to troubleshoot is when the system is simply unstable. We have software errors, maybe the system hangs or freezes, or maybe their application errors that appear. These errors are so broad and occur across so many different systems that it’s challenging to know where to start troubleshooting.

So in that case, perhaps a good place to start might be with a full systems diagnostic. You can check all of the hardware in your system to make sure that the video, the memory, the storage, and all other hardware in your computer is working as expected. Many motherboard manufacturers will include diagnostics with their system, and Windows includes a memory diagnostics tool inside of Windows itself.

This might also indicate that some other process has made a change to critical operating system files. So you might want to run SFC, or System File Checker, to perform an analysis of all of your important system files. You might also want to run an antimalware scan just to make sure that there’s not something else on your system that you weren’t expecting.

If you work in a large office, you may already be familiar with a Windows domain. One of the advantages of a domain is that you can log in to any system, and that system will download and use your local profile across all of those different pieces of hardware. This means the same desktop you’re using on one computer will appear on the other computer when you log in.

However, there may be times when you’re trying to log into another machine and it takes a very long time for that profile to download and be used. This could indicate a problem with the network. So you might want to check the latency between you and the domain controller. This latency might cause log in scripts to transfer very slowly to your system. Or it might be slow to apply any policies or updates to your system that are specific to your profile.

There could be hundreds or even thousands of LDAP queries that occur to the domain controller. So having network latency could slow down this entire process. Many organizations will have local domain controllers at their remote sites so they’re not sending all of this traffic over a much slower WAN connection. In some cases, your system may not recognize that there’s a local domain controller, and is trying to pull down all of this profile information from a domain controller across a very slow WAN connection.

You’ll have to check with the domain administrator to see how the configuration is set up at that remote site, and see if they can redirect you back to your local domain controller. If you look at the clock on your computer today and then you look again in 24 hours, you may notice that it’s not very good at keeping time. This is a natural side effect to the way that our computers operate. They don’t have a way to maintain an accurate clock inside of the computer, so they rely on third parties to provide them with updates to the clock.

By creating a synchronization for the clock you’re effectively fixing the symptom and not the actual problem. But since resolving this clock drift would require a complete rearchitecture of our computing systems, that’s probably not a very practical solution. Instead, you can use a synchronization built into the operating system that will always keep that clock at the correct time and date. You can find that under Settings, Time and Language, and Date and Time.

You may need to configure the time zone. But once you do that, you can tell Windows to set the time automatically, and it will update itself constantly to ensure that the proper date and time is configured in your computer.