Windows 7 / Getting Started

How to Troubleshoot Unpredictable Symptoms

Hardware, driver, and disk problems can cause unpredictable symptoms when Windows is running, including:

  • Failing applications and services
  • Stop errors
  • System resets
  • Accessories that behave unreliably

Many different types of problems can cause these symptoms. To identify the source of these problems and possibly fix the issue, follow these steps. After each step, determine whether the problem continues.

  1. If Windows will not start.
  2. Use Reliability Monitor to determine how long the problem has been occurring and what other related symptoms might be occurring. For more information, read the section titled "How to Use Reliability Monitor" later in this tutorial. Then use Event Viewer to find any related events that might provide useful information for diagnosing the problem. Typically, drivers will add events to the System Event Log. However, drivers could add events to any log. For information about using Event Viewer, see the section titled "How to Use Event Viewer" later in this tutorial.
  3. Install any updates available from Windows Update.
  4. Install updated drivers available directly from the hardware manufacturer, including BIOS and firmware updates for all hardware accessories and your computer.
  5. Roll back any recently updated drivers. For more information, see the section titled "How to Roll Back Drivers" later in this tutorial.
  6. Troubleshoot disk problems by using ChkDsk to identify and possibly fix disk-related problems. To resolve problems related to low free disk space, run the Disk Cleanup Wizard. For more information, see the section titled "How to Troubleshoot Disk Problems" later in this tutorial.
  7. Test your memory for problems by using Windows Memory Diagnostics. For more information, see the section titled "How to Use Windows Memory Diagnostics" later in this tutorial.
  8. Remove unnecessary hardware features one by one. If the problem disappears after removing a hardware feature, that feature likely is causing the problem. Continue troubleshooting that specific feature by following the steps listed in the section titled "How to Troubleshoot Problems with Existing Hardware" earlier in this tutorial.
  9. Perform a system restore to attempt to return the computer to the latest state when it was functioning correctly. To use System Restore, see the section titled "How to Use System Restore" later in this tutorial.
  10. Contact your computer manufacturer for support. You might have a hardware or software failure, and your computer manufacturer can assist with additional troubleshooting.
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In this tutorial:

  1. Troubleshooting Hardware, Driver, and Disk Issues
  2. Windows 7 Improvements for Hardware and Driver Troubleshooting
  3. Windows Troubleshooting Platform
  4. Built-in Troubleshooting Packs
  5. Windows Troubleshooting Platform Components
  6. Creating Custom Troubleshooting Packs
  7. Running Troubleshooting Packs Remotely
  8. Windows 7 Reliability Monitor
  9. Windows 7 Resource Monitor
  10. Windows Memory Diagnostics
  11. Disk Failure Diagnostics
  12. Self-Healing NTFS
  13. Improved Driver Reliability
  14. Improved Error Reporting
  15. The Process of Troubleshooting Hardware Issues
  16. How to Troubleshoot Problems That Prevent Windows from Starting
  17. How to Troubleshoot Problems Installing New Hardware
  18. How to Troubleshoot Problems with Existing Hardware
  19. How to Troubleshoot Unpredictable Symptoms
  20. How to Diagnose Hardware Problems
  21. How to Use Device Manager to Identify Failed Devices
  22. How to Check the Physical Setup of Your Computer
  23. How to Check the Configuration of Your Hardware
  24. How to Verify That System Firmware and Peripheral Firmware Are Up to Date
  25. How to Test Your Hardware by Running Diagnostic Tools
  26. How to Simplify Your Hardware Configuration
  27. How to Diagnose Disk-Related Problems
  28. How to Use Built-In Diagnostics
  29. How to Use Reliability Monitor
  30. How to Use Event Viewer
  31. How to Use Data Collector Sets
  32. How to Use Windows Memory Diagnostics
  33. Memory Failures
  34. How Windows Automatically Detects Memory Problems
  35. How to Schedule Windows Memory Diagnostics
  36. How to Start Windows Memory Diagnostics When Windows Is Installed
  37. How to Start Windows Memory Diagnostics from the Windows DVD
  38. How to Configure Windows Memory Diagnostics
  39. How to Troubleshoot Disk Problems
  40. How to Prepare for Disk Failures
  41. How to Use ChkDsk
  42. ChkDsk Examples
  43. ChkDsk Syntax
  44. How to Use the Graphical ChkDsk Interface
  45. How to Determine Whether ChkDsk Is Scheduled to Run
  46. ChkDsk Process on NTFS Volumes
  47. How to Use the Disk Cleanup Wizard
  48. How to Disable Nonvolatile Caching
  49. How to Troubleshoot Driver Problems
  50. How to Find Updated Drivers
  51. How to Roll Back Drivers in Windows 7
  52. How to Use Driver Verifier
  53. How to Use the File Signature Verification
  54. How to Use Device Manager to View and Change Resource Usage
  55. How to Use Windows 7 System Restore
  56. How to Troubleshoot USB Problems
  57. How to Solve USB Driver and Hardware Problems
  58. Understanding USB Limitations
  59. How to Identify USB Problems Using Performance Monitor
  60. How to Examine USB Hubs
  61. How to Troubleshoot Bluetooth Problems
  62. Troubleshooting Tools
  63. DiskView
  64. Handle
  65. Process Monitor