Troubleshooting Windows – CompTIA A+ 220-1002 – 3.1

The Windows operating system provides a number of tools and utilities that can help you keep things running efficiently. In this video, you’ll learn how to troubleshoot some of the most common Windows issues.

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One of the most challenging problems to troubleshoot is when someone says that their system is slow. There are so many things that can cause slowdowns on a computer. So it’s best to start troubleshooting where the slowdown is actually occurring and then follow your troubleshooting from there.

One of the best places you can start is the Task Manager. This will show you real time information on CPU, memory, disk utilization, network traffic, and so much more. You’re able to sort these categories so that you can narrow down exactly what app or what process may be using the most number of resources. You can also choose the Performance tab to be able to get a graphical view of what may be happening so you can see over time how CPU, memory, disk, and other resources have been reacting to the requirements of the system.

If you think your problem may be related to applications or software that’s on your computer, you may want to run a Windows Update. This will update all of your applications and all of your drivers to the latest version so that you know you’re working with the latest available code. If you’re talking with software developers, the first thing they’re going to ask you to do is to update to the latest code anyway. So this is always a good first step.

Windows reads and writes to disk constantly. So you need to have enough space for Windows to be able to work. If you’re using a spinning hard drive, you might also want to consider performing a defragmentation to make sure that those reads and writes are happening as quickly as possible.

If you’re on a laptop, you may notice that the system runs normally, and then when things get very busy, it tends to slow down. Many laptop CPUs are designed to slow down when the system becomes busy. This is not only to keep the heat down from the CPU, but to also save your battery.

One way to see if your CPU is being throttled is to check the speed of the CPU at any particular time and see if it happens to change between one value and another. If it appears these slowdowns are constant, or you happen to see processes in Task Manager that you don’t recognize, you may want to perform an antivirus or an anti-malware scan to see if this system may be infected by malware.

If you’re having network problems, you may see at the bottom of the screen that your network connection has a yellow triangle with an exclamation mark, or it may say that you have limited or no connectivity, the connection has limited or no connectivity, you might be unable to access the internet or some network resources, the connection is limited. This can also be seen under your network status showing that you have no internet access. And it provides a description of what that limitation might be.

Whenever you run into any problem with the network, one of the first things you want to check is your physical connection to the network, or your connection wirelessly to your local access point. So check to see if a cable has become disconnected, or for some reason if you become disconnected to the access point on your wireless network. Then you can check the IP address configurations for that link to make sure that it’s receiving a DHCP address and that you’re able to communicate properly to other devices locally within your network.

And ultimately, it may be that the entire network subsystem needs to be restarted. And one of the easiest ways to do that is to simply reboot the system. Of course, the problem may not be related to your computer. It may be something external to your system. For example, your wireless router or your wireless access point may be turned off, or may be rebooting. So you need to check and make sure those devices are healthy and working as expected.

You can also, from your workstation, begin pinging each hop along the way to see just how far you’re able to communicate. You can first try communicating to your local router. Then try communicating to an IP address beyond that to see where along the line you may be having a communications issue.

If you turn on your computer, and it’s not able to find an operating system, you’ll see a message identifying that the operating system may be missing. You might also see this message if you’ve installed an additional operating system on your computer for dual booting. The installation process may have modified or deleted the original bootloader.

But the issue may be very simple. It may be that you’re trying to boot from a drive that doesn’t have an operating system on it. If your BIOS is configured to boot from a DVD-ROM or a USB drive, then you may want to disconnect the drives, or remove that media, and then try rebooting the system. Windows includes a startup repair utility that can look at every step along the boot process to determine where the problems may be occurring. And if it does identify any problems, it will correct those and allow you to boot your system.

You may have to perform manual configurations though. And if you get into the command prompt of the recovery console, you can run the Bootrec command with a rebuild BCD. This will rebuild the boot configuration database, which is normally what’s modified if you try to install separate operating systems. The rebuild BCD option will look for installed versions of Windows. And if it finds any, it gives you the option to add those to the boot list so that you’ll have the option to choose that operating system when your system starts.

If your Windows isn’t starting, and you’re seeing a message saying it’s missing the NT loader, this is a reference to the old boot loader from previous versions of Windows. It’s possible that an application may have overwritten the existing boot loader, or you may have media that’s already installed and trying to boot from these old style boot loaders. If you have any DVD-ROMs or USB drives connected, you may want to disconnect those and see if you can boot the system from the normal operating system boot drive.

You can use the Windows startup repair utility to automatically configure the boot loader. Or you can boot to the recovery console and use the Bootrec command to manually configure the boot loader. The startup repair utility is also very good at resolving any problems associated with finding an operating system and starting those files.

So if you have any message that the operating system is missing, or there are files missing from the boot process, startup repair can often fix those issues. And if your system is simply not starting normally, or it’s booting into Safe Mode, you can also use startup repair to check the boot process to see if it’s able to resolve those issues.

We’ve all been working with an application, and suddenly, the application stops working. We could get a message on the screen saying that the program has stopped working. It may be checking to see if there is a solution to this problem. Or occasionally, the application will simply disappear. And you’re back at the Windows desktop. One of the first things you can do is check the event log to see if there’s any messages in the log that talk about the application crashing, or things that may have occurred prior to the application crashing.

If this problem is occurring often, you may want to check the history of this application with Windows Reliability Monitor. Reliability Monitor goes back through the logs and is able to create a description of where the problems are occurring and with which applications. This will help you better understand exactly how often these problems are occurring.

And built into Reliability Monitor is a way to view all the problem reports and check to see if there are any solutions for the problems that are occurring. If none of these problems tend to fix the issue, you may need to contact the application support team and have the developers determine if the problem is related to the software itself.

Here’s a better view of the Reliability Monitor that shows you how many issues have occurred over time. And then it puts them into different categories. You can see application failures, Windows failures, miscellaneous failures, warnings, and information. And with any of these that occur, you can get more detail on those events, check for a solution, or view the detailed problem reports.

If you’re working on your computer, and everything stops, and you get an error message, then you’ve run into a Windows stop error. These are often called blue screens of death because they have a blue color to them, they show a lot of information on the screen, and from this point, the only way to recover is to reboot your system.

Newer versions of Windows give a gentler blue screen of death, but the problem is still the same. You’ve run into a fatal error that has a problem with hardware, with drivers, or with an application. And it has caused the entire operating system to stop.

If you think your problem is related to a recent change to the system, then you may want to roll back to a previous version. You can do this from the Windows Start screens by using the last known good configuration. But you can also use System Restore or Rollback Driver to get to a previous version of the operating system configuration, or the previous version of a driver.

If your system has recently been moved, or you’ve added new hardware, it may be that you simply have a loose connection. So you may want to reseat the hardware, and restart the system, and see if the problem is resolved. If you think your issue may be related to hardware, then you can run a hardware diagnostic. These diagnostic tools are usually available from the manufacturer of your motherboard. And it will test all of the internal components of your computer.

If you turn on your computer, and instead of the operating system, you get a black screen, you might be having a problem with drivers, or with the system files of the operating system. If you recently made changes to your video settings, or you installed new video drivers, then you may want to start your system with generic video drivers by starting in VGA mode. If you choose the F8 option during startup, one of those available options is to start your system in the lower resolution and generic mode VGA.

If you think the problem is related to the operating system files, then you can run an SFC, which is a System File Checker. SFC will go through all of your core operating system files. And it will make sure that none of the files have been damaged, or changed. If SFC does find an invalid file, it will replace that file and allow you to boot your system with the recovered files.

If your problem is related to a video driver, you may be able to start in VGA mode, or you may be able to start in Safe Mode, and then reinstall a new driver. You can also try running the Windows startup repair, or you can choose the operating system refresh option. This will reinstall all of the operating system files without moving or changing any of your personal files. And ultimately, if you’re not able to get the right files installed into the right place, you may just want to recover from a known good backup.

If you’re having a problem with your printer, then you may want to try printing a test page from the operating system to see if the Windows operating system and the printer are communicating properly. There is an option inside the properties of every print driver that allows you to print a test page. This allows you to separate your troubleshooting into printing from the operating system, which would be different than printing from the application.

Many modern printers will allow you to connect to a web-based front end on the printer. And you can perform some diagnostics and print tests from that screen as well. This will allow you to break the troubleshooting into another step so you can perform this test on the printer. You can perform the test in the operating system and then, ultimately, in the application.

Some manufacturers have test utilities on their website that you can download and run as a separate application. And you may be able to find third-party utilities for print tests that are part of a live CD or separate utility pack. If you choose the print test page option from inside the driver, then you’ll get the Windows printer test page. This not only allows you to see how the printer is performing, but it shows details about the print driver that you’re using in Windows.

If your operating system is starting, but a piece of hardware is giving you a problem, you may see that a device is not starting. You can check Device Manager to see what pieces of hardware may not be communicating properly to the operating system. And you can often get more details about the error inside of Event Viewer.

If you feel that the hardware is working properly, then the issue may be related to the driver inside of the operating system. So you can often remove or replace the driver, have the operating system reinstall the driver automatically, or you can manually reinstall the driver and then try restarting the system to see if it communicates properly to the hardware.

When you start your operating system, there are many processes that run in the background. In Windows, we call these services. And if any of those processes have a problem during the startup process, you’ll see a message that says, one or more services failed to start. If you start the Windows Services utility, you can try starting the service manually.

You can also look inside of that utility to see what permissions are being used by the service. It may be that a username and password used by the service have been changed, or may have been deleted. You can also check any service dependencies. There may be certain services that have to start first before this service is going to start.

If this is a Windows service, we can check the services utility to see what executable is being called by that service. And we can make sure that that executable is still on the system. If this is a service installed by an application, it may require an uninstall and reinstall of the application to reinstall all the proper service files. The Windows services utility will show you a list of all of the services running on your system and if they’re running at this particular time.

You can double click or look at the properties on any of these services to see exactly how these are configured. This is the Windows group policy client. This is the executable for the client. And you can see the services currently running. And if you have administrative rights, then you’re able to stop, start, pause, or resume the service. If you click the Dependencies tab, you can see all of the services that are required for this service to run. And you can also see if there are other services that use this service as a dependency.

If you start your computer, and it looks like it’s taking longer to boot this time than normal, then you may have to perform some additional troubleshooting. It may be that an application is slowing down everything during the startup process. You can check the Task Manager under the startup tab and see exactly what apps are configured to start up during that boot process.

You can right click on any of these applications to disable them individually. And then you can restart to see if that was the bad app. Or you may choose to disable all of the applications and slowly add them back one at a time until you find the slow application.

If you’re in a work environment, there are additional things that can slow down the boot process. For example, the roaming user profile is loaded whenever you log into your system. This is a profile that stores all of your local configurations. And it synchronize them on centralized servers. That way, no matter where you log in, you get your desktop on that screen.

This requires that during the login process, all of your profile information is downloaded onto the local computer. And if there’s any network latency, you may find the entire process is slowing down. This will slow down the execution of login scripts and the application of any user policies onto this computer. And there are many different queries that go back and forth between this computer and the domain controller.

This might also occur if your local computer has chosen to synchronize to a domain controller that may be located in another location, rather than using a domain controller that’s local at your facility. This is usually an issue with the local infrastructure. And the Windows Active Directory team can usually resolve this particular problem.