Speaking the language of business intelligence with an Australian accent

Friday, October 16, 2009

Windows Problem Steps Recorder

Been meaning to write about this one for some time. This year’s TechEd USA keynote was centered around Windows Server 2008 R2. The speakers demoed plenty of good features but the one that stood out (and easily got the most spontaneous applause) was the Problem Steps Recorder. It does exactly as its name suggests: it records problem steps.

The PSR is a really simple app that is baked into both Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows 7. It’s actually not that easy to find unless you know what you’re looking for – the Start menu doesn’t even list the app by its name.


The UI couldn’t be simpler as seen below.


The user opens the app, presses Start Record, performs the steps that reproduce a problem they’re experiencing (including their own comments if needed), then presses Stop Record. PSR then asks where they want to save the results. The output produced is a zip archive containing a single MHT file. The user then emails the zip archive to the helpdesk or whoever is trying to help them.

The generated MHT file is a navigable, screenshot-by-screenshot, annotated document of each step the user performed while recording. Below is an example step explanation with screenshot.


Here is a text summary of each step without screenshots that is found at the bottom of each MHT file.


OK, so why does PSR have to be just a helpdesk tool? Like many others in the audience I thought of this as a potential quick & dirty documentation tool. Admittedly out of the box the text produced describes every step as a “Problem” but once you look past that this could be a great little time saver in a number of situations.

Here’s an example output file that walks through creating an SSRS project and adding a new report in BIDS.

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