Feb 27

Windows 7 has quite a few built-in diagnostic utilities. Trouble is, some are quite hard to track down and there’s no place you can get a list to launch individual utilities. For example, go to the Start button and click Administrative Tools and you’ll find a selection, but not them all. Some are so well hidden you mightn’t know about them at all. Microsoft doesn’t provide a decent manual with Windows software anymore, so I thought it would be useful to try to document what diagnostic tools are available in Windows 7 and some quick ways to access them. There are different ways to get to most of them. This is as much for my benefit as for yours as I forget too! I won’t go into what each tool does in any great detail but I’ll try and point you to good posts about them where I can. Unfortunately, it’s not the most readable of posts, but hopefully it’s informative and a good reference to what’s where.

Windows Task Manager

Access: Ctrl-Shift-Esc

Most of you will be familiar with this one as you can use it to see what applications and processes are running and what’s hogging memory. The listing under the Processes tab can be a bit daunting but you can get a great overview of what’s using up resources by going to the Performance tab and clicking Resource Monitor.

Resource Monitor

Resource Monitor

Access: As above or Start button and type resource in the Search box; then click Resource Monitor.

Resource Monitor gives you an overview of the use of hardware (CPU, memory, disk, and network) and software resources in real time so it’s one of my favourite diagnostic utilities. Have a look under the Memory tab and you’ll get a nice overview of what’s using up physical memory, what’s on standby and what’s free. If you happen to have two monitors, you can watch this utility in action by dragging Resource Monitor to your second monitor, then try opening new Chrome tabs or opening say MS Word and watch the effect on memory. As you can see from the above image, I probably need a bit more RAM in my system.

Performance Monitor

Access: Start button and type performance in the Search box; then click Performance Monitor. Or just type perfmon into the search box and press enter. Or Start Button, Administrative Tools, Performance Monitor.

A reasonable overview of this utility can be found in this post.

Performance and Information Tools

Access: Start button and type performance in the Search box; then click Performance and Information Tools.

One of the useful things you can do with this utility is generate a system health report. First click on Advanced tools in the left column, then click Generate a system health report.

Event Viewer

Access: Start button and type event in the Search box; then click Event Viewer. Or just type eventvwr into the search box and press enter. Or Start Button, Administrative Tools, Event Viewer.

There’s a good overview here.

Device Manager

Access: Start button and type device in the Search box; then click Device Manager.

Here’s how to identify an unknown device with Device Manager.

Problem Steps Recorder

Access: Start button and type record steps in the Search box; then click Record steps to reproduce a problem. Or just type psr into the search box and press enter. This will open Problem Steps Recorder.

Use this to record the problem you’re having with your PC for a friend or repair tech to resolve. You could also use this application to create a step-by-step guide for your friends to show them how to do certain tasks on their PC.

Windows Memory Diagnostic

Access: Start button and type memory in the Search box; then click Windows Memory Diagnostic. Or just type mdsched into the search box and press enter. Or Start Button, Administrative Tools, Windows Memory Diagnostic.

You can use Windows Memory Diagnostic to test your computer’s RAM for errors.

Windows Network Diagnostics or Network Troubleshooter

Access: Start button and type troubleshooter in the Search box; then click Identify and repair network problems. This will open Windows Network Diagnostics.

Here’s an article on using the Network Troubleshooter.

Reliability Monitor

Reliability Monitor1

Access: Start button and type reliability in the Search box; then click View reliability history. This will open the Reliability Monitor Tool.

Here’s an article on getting the most out of it. And here’s how I used Reliability Monitor and Event Viewer to troubleshoot a Windows crash.

Program Compatibility or Compatibility Troubleshooter

Access: Start button and type compatibility in the Search box; then click Run programs made for previous versions of Windows. The Compatibility Troubleshooter helps you determine if older software will run under Windows 7.

Here’s an article on Compatibility Troubleshooter.

Computer Management Console

Access: Start button and type computer in the Search box; then click Computer Management. Or just type compmgmt.msc into the search box and press enter. Or Start Button, Administrative Tools, Computer Management.

You can get access to a number of the diagnostic tools from this console, for example, Event Viewer, Device Manager, Performance Monitor, and Task Scheduler but unfortunately not them all. Here’s an article on the Computer Management Console.

System Information

Access: Start button and type system in the Search box; then click System Information. Or just type msinfo32 into the search box and press enter.

Here’s an article on the System Information Tool.

Task Scheduler

Access: Start button and type schedule in the Search box; then click Task Scheduler. Or Start Button, Administrative Tools, Task Scheduler.

Schedule various tasks, for example, check if disk defragmentation is already scheduled and when.

So there’s a quick run through of Windows 7 built-in diagnostic utilities and how to access them. Please bookmark this post if you like for future reference on how to quickly access these utilities. And if you know any quicker ways to access these tools, or any tools I’ve missed, let me know and I’ll update the post.

Feb 6

Nexus 10

I received a Google Nexus 10 tablet from my family for Christmas. I had mentioned once in passing that I would fancy a tablet and they managed to work out exactly the one I’d chose just from that. Not just that but they had to order it from US and ship it to a friend’s house to keep me in the dark. It was completely unexpected and I was really taken aback by this amazing gift.

Anyway, I’ve had it for just over a month now. I’ve since added the G-HUB PropUp Case and a  5 metre micro HMDI (Type D) to HDMI (Type A) cable so I can plug the tablet into my TV when I want to watch on a bigger screen. I’ve added a bunch of free apps which I thought I’d share with you. Bear in mind that I live in the UK so some of the apps are region specific and may only work here. Everything I’ve tried so far is for content consumption (on the couch) rather than content creation.

Flipboard: Hours of fun here just browsing through news, current affairs, sport, tech, science, Facebook, or Google Reader. Justin Pot wrote about Flipboard recently on MakeUseOf and he has some great suggestions for bringing content into Flipboard. One of my favourite apps so far.

BBC apps: So far, I’ve installed BBC News for the latest news and sport, BBC Player to listen to BBC radio and podcasts and BBC Media Player for watching BBC TV. These are all UK only I think.

TuneIn Radio: Bookmark and listen to your favourite radio stations from around the world.

TV Catchup: This was a great find. I can now stream free to air UK TV directly to the Nexus 10. If you have Adblock Plus ad blocker installed, make sure you disable it first, otherwise TV Catchup won’t load. The app only works in UK.

Google Reader: I’ve tried a few Google Reader apps and this is the best so far as I can scroll through all my feeds in list view.

Reddit is Fun: A great Reddit client. If you haven’t tried Reddit yet, have a look at my Reddit post.

Pocket: Save stuff to read later. Syncs with your other devices including your PC, and you can read offline when you’re out and about.

Volume Control: With The Propup Case, I find it’s difficult to get at the physical volume control buttons and invariably the screen flips over as you try to put your finger on the button. So I wanted a touch volume slider on the screen instead. Volume Control works quite well and is fairly unobtrusive. You can position it where you want on the screen. I have it right at the top just right of centre.

Google Sky Map: If you’re interested in the night sky and identifying what’s where, this is a great free app. You can search for stars and planets too and the app will show you where to look for them.

Kindle for Android: I don’t have a Kindle, and I don’t need one now. But I already had the Kindle for PC app on my desktop PC to view free Kindle books. So I downloaded the Kindle app to read books on my Nexus 10. Well worth trying out and great for reading a few pages here and there when you have a moment or when you’re out and about.

Clean Master: I use this free utility to clean out the cache, old files, stop running tasks,  etc. It can also be used to backup and uninstall apps.

These are the best Android apps I’ve discovered so far. I’ve bookmarked many Android apps in the past while browsing so I’ll have to go back through those and try some out. I’ll probably post again with another great selection later in the year. In the meantime, let us know about your favourite Android apps for tablets.

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