By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2006-11-26 Print this article Print

Diagnostics Among the new views of Vista that impressed us during our tests was the system's significantly improved suite of diagnostic tools. The inner workings of Windows have long been too obscured for our liking, so were pleased by Vistas new facilities for exposing the systems operations.

Vista's overhauled Event Viewer scanned our systems logs and presented us with a summary of events, grouped into Errors, Warnings, Informational Items, Audit Successes and Audit Failures (with counts of each event type in the last hour, day and week of system operation).

This summary event log is an example of the new Event Viewer's capacity for presenting custom views from multiple system logs. We could create custom views based both on individual system logs and on particular event sources from within different system logs. For instance, it took less than a minute for us to point and click our way through the creation of a custom view that presented all errors associated with our test rigs UAC and UAC file virtualization subsystems.

Another Vista diagnostic addition that caught our eye is the system's new Reliability and Performance Monitor, which offers up a summary view of the current load on a machines CPU, memory, disk and networking systems, as well as the option of drilling down for more details on the particular processes responsible for that load.

For example, when the hard drive in a Vista-based machine is thrashing wildly, its possible to use the Reliability and Performance Monitor to zero in on the processes doing all the reading and writing to disk by expanding the Disk section of Vistas Resource Overview page.

Is Vista unsinkable? Click here to read more.

We also appreciate the changes Microsoft has made in Vista's Task Manager, which now sports a Services tab and offers up more information in its Processes tab, including the command-line item with which each process is associated and a brief description of each process.

We could also create customized performance charts drawing on a large number of network, disk, CPU and memory counter types, reflecting either current load information or load data from saved logs. We could include information from our local machine and from other machines in our network.

In addition, Vistas diagnostic tools offered us the option of specifying particular sets of data collection points to track and analyze. The system ships with built-in data sets for LAN, wireless and system diagnostic reports, as well as a set for creating system performance reports.

During tests, we ran a system diagnostic report based on one of Vista's ready-made data sets, which was configured to collect particular system information over a 1-minute period. We could adjust this collection period as we chose. After the test ran, Vista presented us with a report citing potential issues, such as the fact that we had no anti-virus software installed and that one of our network adapters was disabled.

Vista also now contains a Reliability Monitor tool that displays a graph over time of all the software installs and uninstalls; system restore points; and hardware, application, Windows and miscellaneous error events that have occurred. Negative events, such as system and application errors, are reflected by downturns in the graphs line, and continuous periods of normal operation nudge the line upward.

The graph's importance is open to debate, but we appreciate the effort by Microsoft to give administrators a high-level view of a machines working order over time, which should help determine whether particular applications are destabilizing a system or whether a machine is due for a reinstall.

Also worthy of mention is the Vista tool called System Configuration, which does a great job of concentrating important system facilities and options into a very slim tool.

From this application, we could opt to restart in a diagnostic or selective mode. In the latter mode, we could limit the services and startup items that launched to, for example, troubleshoot an issue. We could also configure an array of boot options, quickly disable particular services and view only non-Microsoft services, view and disable startup programs, and launch every diagnostic or setup tool in Vista's arsenal.

Vista also includes a new image-based deployment system that should make life easier for IT.

Next Page: Hardware and software issues.

As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. JasonÔÇÖs coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at jbrooks@eweek.com.

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