MVP Helps User with the Windows 7 Problem Steps Recorder


MVP Deb Shinder guides her readers through the Problem Steps Recorder in Windows 7.
Learn how the recording tool can be used to quickly identify problems and help reduce time spent with your local help desk, by reading Deb’s article below.

“One of the brand new features in Windows 7 is the Problem Steps Recorder, which is a very cool screen capture utility, the intended use of which is to allow computer users to do a step by step recording of the actions they take that result in a problem, rather than trying to verbally describe it to a tech support person. You may find other, more creative uses for it, as well. Here’s how it works:

To open the tool, click Start and type psr.exe. Click it in the list and the recorder bar opens, as shown below.


As you can see, the interface is compact and very simple, making it easy for even novice computer users to use. You simply click the Start Record button to beginning capturing what you’re doing on the computer. You can pause or stop the recording at any time.

At any point in the recording, you can click the Add Comment button and the recording will pause, and a text box will pop up where you can type in clarifications or questions you might have about that particular step, or information that’s not visible in a screen capture (such as the computer emitting a sound).

During the recording, the duration of the recording will be shown in the box on the right side of the window. Once you stop the recording, you’ll be prompted to give the recording a name and save it as a zipped file. When you open the .ZIP, you’ll see a file saved in .MHT format, which is a web page archive that can be viewed in Internet Explorer or another web browser, as shown below.


Double click the .MHT file, and it will open in your default web browser. You’ll see a series of screen shots, along with the time recorded and even a description of each action that you took during the recording, as shown below. Any comments you insert will be shown.


As you can see, if you have multiple monitors, all of the screens will be shown in the capture. The area where you’re clicking with the mouse is highlighted in green.

This takes much of the frustration out of troubleshooting for both the user and the support tech. You don’t have to worry about the user leaving out steps or not being able to properly describe what he/she did. At the bottom of the page is an “Additional Details” box that contains information such as the version numbers of the programs, user interface elements that were in use during each step, and so forth.

If you click the Down arrow at the very right side of the PSR window, you’ll see options to run the tool as an administrator or to send the recording to an email recipient. You can also click Settings … to change the output location for the .ZIP files (by default, they’re saved to the desktop), to enable or disable screen capture (if you disable it, you will get the text description of the steps only, not the screenshots), and specify the number of recent screen captures to store (25 by default).

Troubleshooting isn’t the only use I’ve found for it. If you want to show someone else exactly how to do something in Windows 7, but you can’t use Remote Assistance, you can perform the task yourself – recording it with the PSR – and send that person the file. Now the person has the step-by-step instructions, along with screenshots. Very cool.

Some have gone so far as to call the Problem Steps Recorder a “miracle tool.” For those whose job it is to sit and listen to users describe their computer problems all day, it just might be.

Deb’s original article can be found here.

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