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Inside Vista's New Diagnostic Tools

by Mitch Tulloch

Despite conventional wisdom on the subject, new versions of Windows have made big improvements in reliability and performance. This is particularly true of Windows XP, which is rock-solid compared to the earlier Windows 2000. I'm hoping that Windows Vista will bring even greater improvements in these areas, and although only time will tell for sure, things look good so far.

What makes Vista a more reliable desktop operating system than XP? Built-in diagnostics, for one thing. Vista now includes a diagnostic architecture that makes it more efficient at detecting and identifying problems and repairing them automatically if possible. If automatic repair isn't possible, Vista will lead you through the process of trying to fix the problem yourself. Not all of this has been exposed in the latest builds, but I thought it would be worthwhile to examine some of what's currently available.

Memory Diagnostics

If Vista detects a memory problem in your system such as a faulty RAM module, it will display a notification asking if you want Vista to try to diagnose the problem. You can also manually run this tool anytime; it's named MdSched.exe, and it's found in the %SystemRoot%\System32 directory. You'll get the usual User Account Control (UAC) prompt when you try to run it. Once you click Continue, the tool opens and offers you two options: restarting immediately and checking for problems, or running next time you reboot your machine (the memory diagnostic tool must run at boot time). For a shortcut, just type "memory" in the Start Search box and Vista will display Memory Diagnostics Tool on the Start menu; hit Enter and the tool will open:

Figure 1
Figure 1. The Windows Memory Diagnostics Tool

Network Diagnostics

Vista also lets you check the integrity of your network connection using Windows Network Diagnostics. The usual way to run this check is to open Network Center and click the Diagnose Internet Connection link on the left (the GUI may still change for this). Vista will either identify the problem and try to fix it, or will suggest that you send an anonymous report to Microsoft to help them improve the product:

Figure 2
Figure 2. Checking a system for problems

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