Solving Windows 7 and Application problems quickly using Problem Steps Recorder (PSR)

by [Published on 17 Sept. 2009 / Last Updated on 17 Sept. 2009]

Windows 7's "Problem Steps Recorder", how to use it and how it can save you time.

Introduction

The new Windows 7 “Problem Steps Recorder”, how to use it, and how it can save you time. The “PSR” is able to quickly and easily document any problem in Windows 7, step by step, in written form. The best thing about PSR is that even an end user can use it to document issues for you.

I am sure that like me, many of you have spent years of your life listening to end users describe issues with their computer system that they want you to fix. Many times, they cannot even reproduce these issues, they may lead you down the wrong path, or forget important pieces of the problems’ description. All of these things cause further struggle in order to get their problem fixed. More headaches await you when, for example, you are trying to resolve a problem that you, perhaps, have never even seen before.

What if you could see every problem that happens for yourself? And you were provided with the exact steps that were taken to create that problem? Think about how much time that could save. Well, the new Windows 7 “Problem Steps Recorder”, or PSR, as I will call it, can do all that for you.

Let me show you how it works…

What can the Windows 7 Problem Steps Recorder (PSR) do for me?

PSR (Problem Steps Recorder), can be run by a regular user or by an administrator. The following is a list of things that a person can do with it once its installed:

  1. Record a series of actions performed in your computer, step by step
  2. Document those actions, in the order that they were performed using text and screen captures at the moment that the action was performed
  3. This documentation will include where the user clicked on each option on the screen
  4. The documentation WILL NOT include anything that the end user typed for privacy reasons
  5. PSR will allow the user running it to create “Comments” throughout the process. These comments will include the text that the person opts to enter in the comments section AND they will also include the area of the screen that the user selects when creating this note (I’ll demonstrate this in a little bit)
  6. The PSR report will show the version of the operating system and even the URLs of any web pages that the user was accessing during the process

Running the Windows 7 Problem Steps Recorder (PSR)

You will not find the PSR in any Windows 7 start menu. The only way to run the PSR is to run the executable – PSR.exe.

Note:
This shows up as being a control panel item when you search for it, however, so far, I have not been able to start it when navigating through the control panel.

While you would not need to specify the location of the executable to run it, PSR.exe can be found at:

C:\Windows\System32\psr.exe

The easiest way to run the PSR is to go to Start and in the Search box just type psr, then press ENTER, as you see in Figure 1.

Using the Windows 7 Problem Steps Recorder (PSR) to solve a network problem

Let us say that you want to document for some junior network admins how to properly configure the Windows Firewall in Windows 7. You have done this a number of times and now you need to show them how to do it. Sure, you could do screencaptures, paste them into Word, and add some notes. However, PSR can make that process much, much easier. With PSR, all you have to do is to press record, perform your process, stop recording, and you have a document. Let me show you how.

First, run PSR by going to Start and type psr in the search box. Press Enter.


Figure 1: Running PSR using the Windows 7 Start Menu

When PSR comes up, press Start Record or use Alt-A.


Figure 2: Starting Recording with PSR

Now, perform your process. I will perform a number of steps but here is one part of the Windows Firewall process that I will perform. You can see all my steps in the downloadable PSR report.


Figure 3: Performing the process that I want to record

Do not forget to enter comments during your process to make your documentation even better. When you enter comments, you will be asked to mark an area of the screen that will be added to the PSR report.


Figure 4: Entering comments during the PSR process

When you are done with the process you want to document / record, press Stop Record and you will be prompted for the name to give your report, as you see in Figure 5.


Figure 5: Stop the PSR Recording

Now you are ready to view your report! Click here to see what it looks like. 

Note that to record administrative tasks, you need to run PSR as an administrator, like this:


Figure 6: Running PSR as an Administrator

Notice in the PSR report the many steps that I performed, the screencapture, and the comments along the way. Now, I can print out or email this documentation to the junior network admins to show them how to configure the Windows 7 Firewall!

Of course, I could also use PSR to document a problem in Windows and send that report to Microsoft tech support. Another example would be that I could ask an end-user to use PSR to document a problem they are having in Office 2007.

Document Anything with PSR

I know that it is called the “problem” steps recorder but why do you only have to document problems with it. Why not use it to document any steps you take, to perform some critical task, on your computer. What if you wanted to document how to do a mail merge in Word 2007 or how to create payroll checks in Quickbooks? You could document any series of steps that you or an end user performs on their computer using the PSR.

In fact, here is PSR output on how to change your DNS servers to point to a static IP address in Windows 7.

Conclusion

In this article, I covered the new Windows 7 “Problem Steps Recorder”, how to use it, and how it can save you, as a Windows Admin, so much time. Because the “PSR” is able to quickly and easily document any problem in Windows 7, step by step, in written form, it is a great way to document any series of steps on your computer or an end user’s computer.

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