Windows 7 Troubleshooting Tips for IT Pros

Computers have become integral to our professional and personal lives. Work, games, socializing or reconnecting with friends – our computers serve all of these functions. But when something goes wrong, our reliance becomes painfully obvious.

At the heart of every computer is the operating system (OS). And no matter which one you use, there will be times when you’ll need to troubleshoot problems.

In order to prepare for these eventual blips in computer operation, we’ll take a look at a few tips and tricks to help get you back up to speed in no time.

Windows decided to included more detailed OS help right from the Control Panel. All I had to do is type “Troubleshooting” in the search box and then the screen appeared with a list of system functions.

Click on either one to launch the tool which will take you through a series of prompts to help identify and solve your problem. I’d recommend you begin your troubleshooting efforts here.

The way Windows hard drives work, writing data to different spots of the drive, will eventually lead to fragmentation. This may manifest itself in slower overall computer operations. The answer is periodic defragmentation.

You can launch by typing “disk defragmenter” in the search box. You’ll see a list of your hard drives. Left-click any drive and then click “Analyze disk” – this will determine if your disk needs to be defragmented (usually more than 10% fragmentation). As another bonus, in Windows 7 you now have the ability to defragment multiple drives simultaneously.

Adding Missing applets

In order to reduce the amount of hard disk space required for installation, Microsoft opted to remove certain applications from the base package. Notably missing are Mail, Movie Maker, and Photo Gallery. I include this here because many users were initially confused, wondering if something had gone wrong.

In order to add these, you’ll need to download from the Windows Live Essentials website.

Legacy Applications and Windows 7

There will be some programs from operating systems past that you need to tweak in order to run under the new version of Windows. If you type in “Program Compatibility” at the search bar, you’ll see “Run programs made from previous versions of Windows”.

This will launch a wizard that can help with getting these older apps up and running.

In Search of… Crash Dump Files

Though in my own testing, I’ve yet to significantly crash my Windows 7 installation, the inevitability of doing so looms certain. If you use debugging tools to analyze crash dump data, you’re probably aware of the memory.dmp file. For some of you, this file may have disappeared.

In order to restore, right-click on your Computer desktop icon, then select Properties > Advanced System Settings > Startup and Recovery Settings. Make sure that “Write debugging information” is set to something other than “none”, and that “Dump file” is the default “%SystemRoot%MEMORY.DMP”.

If the file still doesn’t appear, this may be due to low hard disk space. If you have less than 25GB free, Windows won’t save the file. To change that restriction, you’ll need to edit the registry.

I’d like to take a moment to caution you that changes to the registry can cripple your system if not done correctly. Before you make any changes, be sure to back up the registry. There is also a good backup and restore tutorial here.

If you’d like to proceed, launch REGEDIT and navigate to: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINESYSTEMCurrentControlSetControlCrashControl, create a new DWORD, value called AlwaysKeepMemoryDump, set it to 1, by right-clicking and selecting new.

Troubleshooting Video Quality Issues

If you are experiencing problems with video playback, this may be due to Windows 7’s new power plan. To check the setting:

  • Type Power Options in the search bar, select “Power Options”
  • Click “Change Plan Settings” for your selected plan
  • Click “Change Advanced Settings”
  • Expand the Multimedia Settings
  • “Playing video” should be set to “Optimize performance”

Troubleshooting Printing Problems

One of the biggest complaints has been with printing. Printer drivers that worked fine in Vista, may not in Windows 7. The answer is often as simple as downloading and installing updated printer drivers.

Windows Update will sometimes handle this for you. At startup, it may notify you of recent updates – though you may have to set it to automatically download. But sometimes, you may need to get new software directly from the manufacturer’s website.

Windows 7 Troubleshooting Resources

For additional troubleshooting help with Windows, check out this Microsoft’s Widows 7 Troubleshooting Guide. Also visit the Windows 7 Help & How-to’s website.

If you’re interested in learning how to administer Windows 7 like a pro, then Train Signal’s brand new Windows 7 Administration Training will help prepare you for the role and the MCTS 70-680 exam.

For general news and tips, visit the Windows 7 News & Tips website. If you’re the type that prefers a book, Windows 7 Inside and Out receives good reviews on Amazon.


For both administrators and end-users alike, becoming skilled at troubleshooting can save you both time, money and hours of frustration. The good thing is that for almost any challenge, there is someone else who has experienced it. Often times a visit to a forum or a quick Google search will reveal an answer. Happy computing!


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