Troubleshooting Windows 7 errors

Use this FAQ when troubleshooting Windows 7 to get answers to commonly asked questions on Windows 7 errors and dealing with hardware problems.

As more customers begin to upgrade to Windows 7, troubleshooting Windows 7 errors will become a routine process during and after implementations. Although Microsoft's latest desktop operating system is far more reliable and stable than its predecessor, Windows Vista, it's not always smooth sailing. As a solutions provider, offering the best possible support for your customers means being able to quickly and efficiently resolve any pesky problems as they arise.

In this FAQ, Windows 7 expert Ed Tittel addresses commonly asked questions about Windows 7 errors and crashes. Find out how to troubleshoot errors that leave you scratching your head --from the ones that occur during installations or upgrades to hardware-related issues and application crashes.

1. When upgrading customers' computers to Windows 7, how can solutions providers make the process as seamless as possible?

Some of the most common Windows 7 errors occur during an installation or upgrade. For example, the Windows 7 installer sometimes fails and hangs at 62% when upgrading from Windows Vista. The cause is a service called Iphlpsvc, and the quickest way around this problem is to download and install Microsoft's automated patch, Microsoft Fix it 50319.

If you're migrating just a few computers from Windows XP or Vista to Windows 7, then you should first run Windows Easy Transfer to collect files and settings. You can use the Windows User State Migration Tool (USMT) to perform unattended migrations for multiple users if you're migrating many computers (five or more, for example). For large, homogeneous user bases -- many computers with the same specifications -- create a standard image in the test lab and shake it out thoroughly before deploying to end-user PCs. Use Windows Deployment Services to create an image file and unattended answer file and then use the Microsoft Deployment Toolkit (MDT) 2010 to deploy that image to workstations across a network.

2. When troubleshooting Windows 7 errors, which hardware problems are my customers likely to encounter?

The lion's share of hardware-related problems in Windows 7 involves DVD or external Universal Serial Bus (USB) drives, printers, scanners and video adapters. Your first step when resolving nearly any hardware problem is to check Device Manager and ensure that all drivers are up to date.

If Windows 7 doesn't recognize a DVD or external USB drive, update your BIOS, the computer's chipset and the Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) driver. For printers and scanners, if you can't get new drivers through Device Manager, check the manufacturer's website. If you're still having issues, you may have to replace the hardware.

Video adapters can also pose a problem and cause Windows 7 errors, such as a blue or black screen, and can leave graphical artifacts -- garbage characters or old bits and pieces of graphics that continue to display after the screen has refreshed. In this case, you should disable hardware acceleration if your customer's graphics card supports this feature.

Tip: If you maintain image files for ease of deployment, use vendor driver-check tools, such as HP Advisor or Dell Driver Download Manager, to create a completely current test image.

3. What options do I have when troubleshooting Windows 7 application crashes?

You should first run the Program Compatibility Wizard, which is one of the built-in troubleshooters that can help you resolve Windows 7 errors. The wizard should start automatically after an application crash; if not, enter program compat in the search box in the Start menu and select Run programs made for previous versions of Windows from the results list. When you run the wizard, you can select the problem program from a list of installed programs. The wizard will attempt to fix the problem or at least give you pointers for additional help.

You can also use a program's Compatibility tab to specify settings for legacy software. Just find the program's main .exe file in the appropriate subfolder in C:Program Files, right-click the .exe file, select Properties and click the Compatibility tab. Check the Run this program in compatibility mode option and select an older operating system from the drop-down list.

Application crashes can also occur because of rogue software. In an enterprise environment, use AppLocker or the appropriate Group Policy Objects (GPOs) to specify which software is allowed to run on a user's PC.

4. What are the best sources of help with troubleshooting Windows 7 errors?

Your first stop should be the Microsoft Windows Client Support and Troubleshooting website. This site is designed for IT professionals and is a springboard into the Microsoft Knowledge Base, the Microsoft Windows forums and Microsoft Support. Another good resource is the Microsoft Answers website, a collection of forums geared more toward end users and, therefore, is really simple to navigate. To receive notification when a particular message or thread has been addressed, you need to register and sign up for alerts.

More resources on troubleshooting Windows 7 errors:

  • Troubleshooting Windows 7 problems by determining the root cause
  • Installing and troubleshooting multiple monitors for Windows 7
  • Windows 7 troubleshooting tools and tips
  • Troubleshooting Windows 7 issues using online resources
  • Listen to Ed Tittel answer questions on a Windows 7 crash or freeze

Dig Deeper on MSP technology services

Cloud Computing
Data Management
Business Analytics