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Author Topic: PC Diagnotic Software?  (Read 6173 times)

J-Mac

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PC Diagnotic Software?
« on: May 05, 2007, 11:50:20 AM »
I am always looking for applications that allow for some basic, usable diagnostic testing in Windows.  I remember way, way back I used Norton Utilities -- I'm talking in the DOS days, and I think even in the very early Windows days.  It was pretty much a lifesaver at that time, though later incarnations of it (Read: SystemWorks) declined severely in quality and functionality, unfortunately.

More recently, though, it has become really difficult to find good, all-around system utilities that have serious diagnostic tools.  I have tried many over the past four or five years and found most to be lacking any real development; most were just collections of other tools -- usually freely available elsewhere -- in one package.  I am not looking for that kind of collection, as I probably have those tools already in some form or another.  Sysinternals, snapped up by Microsoft last year, is probably the best single source for analytical tools I can think of offhand, and I have all of those -- though I will readily admit that when it comes time to really dig in and try to find the cause of some nasty PC crashes, or some other issue, I get lost very quickly trying to use many of Mark's tools together to paint a clear picture of what is going wrong.

Basically, the type of diagnostic tools that I feel are desperately needed by most, if not all, PC users are as follows, not necessarily in this order:


    • PC Start-up Monitor and Analysis:  A tool that monitors exactly what happens during start-up, logs what happens, the order it all happens in, and any conflicts that occur during start-up.  For example, have you ever had a system where it just starts taking forever to start-up?  And you cannot pinpoint what is causing it?  The usual method is to deselect all start-up items in msconfig and then reselect each one at a time, then go through a start-up and shutdown cycle with each. That takes forever and still doesn't let you know exactly why any one particular program is causing the slowdown.  Plus, worse yet, the cause is usually more than one program dueling over which one get first access to a shared file or DLL, or the like.  You might never determine exactly what the cause is for that.  Also, knowing the actual order that programs start in would help to understand what is happening.

      The only two such tools I know of are Bootvis, which was available for a few years from Microsoft.  You run it and configure it to monitor a start-up cycle.  Then you can review its logs to determine what happens during start-up.  However it does not really produce very clear results.  There are ways to configure Bootvis to be a little more revealing, but no Microsoft instructions will tell you.  You have to search the web for articles others have written.  Good luck!  BTW, Microsoft no longer develops Bootvis at all.  They claim..  ahem... that since XP their OS handles start-up so well on its own that there is no longer any need for such an application.  Really!?!  I beg to differ!  You can still search and find copies of it available.  One big problem, though: Bootvis does not support dual processors, so I can't get it to work well at all now.  Some say they have a way to get around that, but I haven't been successful doing so.

      The other program that claims to monitor what happens during start-up is Process Monitor from Sysinternals.  It has a tool that you can enable that supposedly will monitor all start-up activity.  It does warn, however that if you receive a "Fatal Crash" error on that bootup, you must select the "Last good configuration" option and then not try it again.  Of course that is exactly what happened when I tried it.  (Possibly the same "dual processor" issue as Bootvis?) Anyway, I am still searching for a good -- or even adequate -- start-up monitor/logger.

    • Same exact tool as above, but for Windows Shutdown.  Sometimes a recent installation causes Windows to habg at shutdown -- occasionally to the point where you have to manually power off and on again.  Same monitoring tool needed for this, but I have not found one that works.

    • A reliable tool for checkintg the health of hard disk drives -- other than scandisk or its recent successor.  Scandisk has a tendency to get "stuck" and insist on running at each reboot, and it takes a looong time!  This is where Norton Utilities used to shine!  There are several tools available that claim to do this better than the rest.  I am certain that most of them don't, and that only a few have gotten it right.  But it would take a lot of time and money to find out which.  Not a lot of great reviews on such tools available -- I guess those reviews just aren't as sexy as productivity applications!  Anyone have good personal recommendations here?  BTW, I am not looking for "I heard that this one is good"; I've heard all that, too.  If any here actually USE one they would recommend, let's hear it.

    • Similar tool as above disk scanner, but for USB drives?  I DID actually have one at one time, but..... I CAN'T FIND IT!!!  (Hate it when that happens!!)  And searches have only pulled up ones that aren't available on  what I would consider "safe" sites.  (I try to stay away from SiteAdvisor RED light sites!).  Appreciate any help there.

    • A final fix -- or complete, permanent removal method/tool -- for old Dr, Watson.  I need for the Doc to either work or get off the pot!  In all the years I have been using microcomputers that had Dr. Watson on them, the Doc has haunted me and then outright tease me about it!  In all my dealings with Microsoft, I have never once been able to convince anyone there to even accept my Dr. Watson logs -- NO one wants to see them!  No one at all.  Unless someone can convince me that there might actually be a time that someone will be able to use the Doc Watson logs for anything at all, then I have no use for Dr. Watson.  I have used the "official" method of deactivating Dr. Watson -- deleting the AeDebug key in my registry -- yet I always eventually see Dr. Watson return and haunt me again:  the key returns by itself!?!  I suspect that occasionally an MS Hotfix or security patch restores it from time to time.  However lately Dr. Watson has been annoying me again at shutdown -- popping up and declaring that it is trying to run but can't because I am shutting down the darn machine!!  (How dare I do that??).  Of course the entire shutdown process is stopped until I close the popup - four or five times. If I just start the shutdown or reboot and leave my PC, I can return the next day and see that it is still running, with the Doc's popup staring at me from the center of my display, taunting me!

      Since no one seems to be interested in using these logs for any purpose at all, I might as well just remove the Doc from my system.  But I cannot find a way to effectively do that. Any articles I read say, "Don't do that - just delete that AeDebug key", which as I said is not effective. Any advice on this?


    That's it for now.  I have more tools that I am looking for, but this post is way too long as it is.  (Mod. - If this post is more appropriate in another subforum, please move it).

    Thanks for reading it, and for any recommendations you all may have.   8)

    Darwin

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    Re: PC Diagnotic Software?
    « Reply #1 on: May 05, 2007, 12:29:32 PM »
    Nice list, J-Mac. I fondly remember Norton Utilities from DOS/Win 3 myself... I'd love something to troubleshoot my startup woes for me, for a start ( ;D). XP Por takes about 12 minutes to fully boot and I'm  :wallbash: stumped by it! NB Disabling ZoneAlarm Pro and Winpatrol Plus from starting with Windows has helped quite a bit. but I still can't see why it takes so long. An app that would do as you suggest (amongst other things) would be mana from heaven...

    PS Not having a dualcore processor, maybe I'll have better luck with Process Monitor. I've got it on my harddrive somewhere...
    "Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

    dk70

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    Re: PC Diagnotic Software?
    « Reply #2 on: May 05, 2007, 01:00:23 PM »
    I understand need to tinker and tweak but it seems to me you have been doing it the wrong way. Like running "Registry Cleaner SuperDeluxe" and now wondering why OS misbehaves, crashes or how come you cant "tweak" services without checking dependencies. Where does the need for all this diagnosing come from is the question you should answer instead of looking for wonder tool.  XP does not have "tendency" for slow boot, slow shutdown, slow hd scanning, whatever. Certainly specific problems with X or Y but also specific solutions, since 2001. Also goes for 3rd party drivers, may be even more those. I dont think you solve much by trying to see what is "hidden". Should you have one of those specific problems then perhaps memory dumps, logs are useful. If computer is working and you set it up right such are waste of time.

    Some of Nirsofts tools adds to Sysinternals and what is already available in XP like event viewer http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/index.html Checking codecs, shell extensions etc. is all very useful. If you really need more it is because you feel the need ;) Regular (power)user who wants to know what is up and down dont need more. More can be worse. Dont think there is a do-it-all tools for this. Have to collect :) SIW is good though http://www.google.com/search?q=siw as is Winaudit http://www.pxserver.com/WinAudit.htm - both mainly for reporting.

    J-Mac

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    Re: PC Diagnotic Software?
    « Reply #3 on: May 05, 2007, 01:02:33 PM »
    ...PS Not having a dualcore processor, maybe I'll have better luck with Process Monitor. I've got it on my harddrive somewhere...
    Make sure that you have the latest version.  Mark has made process Monitor to completely replace RegMan and FileMon so it does a lot more now than before.

    Also, look around for Bootvis - it actually does gather all of the info on start-up that we need; just not particularly easy to gather it together into something simple to look at. Download available at MajorGeeks, and also at Softpedia, though the latter is showing Yellow on the SiteAdvisor bar if that interestes you.   :D

    J-Mac

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    Re: PC Diagnotic Software?
    « Reply #4 on: May 05, 2007, 01:04:58 PM »
    I understand need to tinker and tweak but it seems to me you have been doing it the wrong way. Like running "Registry Cleaner SuperDeluxe" and now wondering why OS misbehaves, crashes or how come you cant "tweak" services without checking dependencies. Where does the need for all this diagnosing come from is the question you should answer instead of looking for wonder tool.  XP does not have "tendency" for slow boot, slow shutdown, slow hd scanning, whatever. Certainly specific problems with X or Y but also specific solutions, since 2001. Also goes for 3rd party drivers, may be even more those. I dont think you solve much by trying to see what is "hidden". Should you have one of those specific problems then perhaps memory dumps, logs are useful. If computer is working and you set it up right such are waste of time.

    Some of Nirsofts tools adds to Sysinternals and what is already available in XP like event viewer http://www.nirsoft.net/utils/index.html Checking codecs, shell extensions etc. is all very useful. If you really need more it is because you feel the need ;) Regular (power)user who wants to know what is up and down dont need more. More can be worse. Dont think there is a do-it-all tools for this. Have to collect :) SIW is good though http://www.google.com/search?q=siw as is Winaudit http://www.pxserver.com/WinAudit.htm - both mainly for reporting.

    Wasting my time?  Well, it's my time and I'll "waste" it that way if I like.

    Who made you in charge of what is considered time-wasting and what is not?  Methinks you need to be careful of tossing those stones around....  ;)

    J-Mac

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    Re: PC Diagnotic Software?
    « Reply #5 on: May 05, 2007, 01:07:46 PM »
    I thought I would add this question:

    If after installing software - nothing weird; all from well-known, trusted developers - and your start-up times drastically increase, how do you investigate what is causing it and look for clues as to how to improve it?  (And please, no outlandish answers like, "Well I just install my OS and nothing else because all software is troublesome"!   :P

    Darwin

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    Re: PC Diagnotic Software?
    « Reply #6 on: May 05, 2007, 02:07:48 PM »
    dk70 is right - I've generated a log file successfully with ProcessMonitor but I don't know what any of it means! Anyway, to address his other point, I don't have a problem with slow boots as I tend to leave my system running for days/weeks between boots (just set it to Standby when I'm not using it). However, 12 minutes plus to boot is surely abnormal, even for XP Pro, and I can't figure out where the problem lies. Thus, a tool that would help me diagnose this, and ProcessMonitor looks just the ticket, will be most welcome. So, I see this as part of the effort to identify
    Quote
    Where...the need for all this diagnosing come(s) from (rather than a quest) for wonder tool.
    I just have to figure out what ProcessMonitor is telling me ;D It looks like there are a lot of name not found errors, so I'm going to start by looking at those.

    "Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin
    « Last Edit: May 05, 2007, 02:12:59 PM by Darwin »

    dk70

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    Re: PC Diagnotic Software?
    « Reply #7 on: May 05, 2007, 04:55:16 PM »
    Memory dumps and logs have never been solution to general maintaince J-Mac. You probaly have some problem but should also be careful not to make a story about XP needing an arsenal of geek tools just to survive - without having done something very wrong or been very unlucky your request is wrong, in general ;) Asking for tools to tinker with is something else.

    Dont forget security or spyware/virus btw. - can make anything appear buggy. Or hardware problems. Ultimatebootcd, Memtest86 should be used http://www.ultimatebootcd.com/
     
    12 min boot! Alarm bells must be ringing then. Well go bootvis for hints or a nice graph showing delay but I would try to disable NIC and/or USB ports - to begin with. Would also think bios settings, drivers for hardware. Should be easy enough to narrow down.

    hpearce

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    Re: PC Diagnotic Software?
    « Reply #8 on: May 17, 2007, 08:23:25 AM »
    as a first step, I suggest reading the event log .  it will tell you usually if you are having a problems a startup service that is timing out, for instance.
    Windows 7 SP1 (TM) Home Premium 64-bit .. Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Duo CPU P8400 @ 2.26 GHz / 2.27 GHz .. 4GB RAM .. NVIDIA GeForce 9800M GTS .. Gateway P-7805u FX

    cmpm

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    Re: PC Diagnotic Software?
    « Reply #9 on: May 17, 2007, 10:39:50 AM »
    http://www.tune-up.com/
    30 day trial with undo features

    http://www.ccleaner.com/
    free with undo features

    http://www.stevengou...rg/software/cleanup/
    no undo feature and cleans thoroughly
    make a system restore point before running this

    spyware programs-

    http://www.filehippo...ad_superantispyware/

    http://www.filehippo...ybot_search_destroy/

    http://www.filehippo...load_spywareblaster/

    http://www.filehippo...download_cwshredder/

    http://www.filehippo.com/download_ewido/
    30 day trial period

    defrag with ms defrag

    still having trouble after virus scanning?

    http://www.filehippo...download_hijackthis/
    a complete log

    post here after doing the above

    http://www.geekstogo.com/forum/index.php

    may take them a few days to get to you
    and they may have added more programs to run before posting a hijack log

    J-Mac

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    Re: PC Diagnotic Software?
    « Reply #10 on: May 17, 2007, 10:40:24 PM »
    http://www.tune-up.com/
    30 day trial with undo features

    http://www.ccleaner.com/
    free with undo features

    http://www.stevengou...rg/software/cleanup/
    no undo feature and cleans thoroughly
    make a system restore point before running this

    spyware programs-

    http://www.filehippo...ad_superantispyware/

    http://www.filehippo...ybot_search_destroy/

    http://www.filehippo...load_spywareblaster/

    http://www.filehippo...download_cwshredder/

    http://www.filehippo.com/download_ewido/
    30 day trial period

    defrag with ms defrag

    still having trouble after virus scanning?

    http://www.filehippo...download_hijackthis/
    a complete log

    post here after doing the above

    http://www.geekstogo.com/forum/index.php

    may take them a few days to get to you
    and they may have added more programs to run before posting a hijack log

    cmpm,

    I'm clean of malware -- or at least as clean as I am going to get.  I run NOD32 V. 2.7 AV, Counterspy 2 Antispyware, and I also am using SpywareBlaster to keep my list of bad sites updated.

    I run Ccleaner as a general cleaner, as well as jv16 Powertools 2006 (licensed version) for registry monitoring/cleaning. And I run PerfectDisk by Raxco for defragging.  It's not malware that's affecting my PC. When the Windows startup slows down, it is usually a bit of a battle among two or more applications or services for the same resource or resources.  I try not to run anything that I suspect would have conflicts, but it is hard to know about some until it happens!

    Microsoft's Bootvis was a good tool for analyzing what happens during startup, and when -- the sequence. It also allowed me to see when the longest delays occur, thus pointing out to me which app or apps are causing the sluggishness. XP supposedly incorporates some of the features of Bootvis into the OS, but you no longer get to see a clear picture of exactly what happens during the startup. I still have the latest version of Bootvis, but it doesn't work with dual processors, unfortunately. Sysinternal's Procmon - Process Monitor - also has a similar feature -- you can set it to run during a reboot and it will create a detailed log of all startup activity.  However on some systems it throws a "fatal error"; mine happens to be one of those systems.  :(

    If you discount the Microsoft system startup items, I don't have a lot of applications in my startup configuration.  However every now and then I'll get a slowdown like this and it would be great to be able to see what is happening during startup.

    As for the shutdown, my only issue is the Dr. Watson debugger. I already deleted the AeDebug registry key -- actually I deleted it a few times!  Occasionally a MS Hotfix restores it.  However even with the registry key deleted presently, it tries to initiate at shutdown, and if you don't see the dialog appear, it just keeps the system kind of frozen until you respond to the popup dialog. I need to find a more certain way of disabling it.

    Thanks.

    cmpm

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    Re: PC Diagnotic Software?
    « Reply #11 on: May 17, 2007, 11:34:07 PM »
    Can you disable it in administrative services?

    Also Tuneup 2007 helped my start up and shut down times.
    The first in the list I posted.
    It has a start manager but it isn't as deep as it could be.
    But it could solve a problem or two.
    The disk cleaner is better then ccleaner.
    And the Tuneup Registry Cleaner is superb with conflicts.

    Worth a try, it can always be undone.

    cmpm

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    Re: PC Diagnotic Software?
    « Reply #12 on: May 17, 2007, 11:43:13 PM »
    And Hijack this is a detailed log of what is happening in your computer.
    Though I'm not sure it shows the startup and shut down timing.

    geekstogo.com is a good place to get the kind of help you are looking for, If the answer isn't here at DC.

    cmpm

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    Re: PC Diagnotic Software?
    « Reply #13 on: May 17, 2007, 11:57:58 PM »
    And have you tried this-

    Start/run/drwtsn32.exe

    Uncheck the boxes & Check the # of errors to 0. I also use X-setup to remove the path for the log files.

    ----
    Googled it to find it.

    http://www.x-setup.n...ads/home.asp?lang=EN
    « Last Edit: May 18, 2007, 12:01:40 AM by cmpm »

    tomos

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    Re: PC Diagnotic Software?
    « Reply #14 on: May 22, 2007, 10:50:36 AM »
    XP Pro takes about 12 minutes to fully boot and I'm  :wallbash: stumped by it! NB Disabling ZoneAlarm Pro and Winpatrol Plus from starting with Windows has helped quite a bit. but I still can't see why it takes so long. An app that would do as you suggest (amongst other things) would be mana from heaven...

    this is old now Darwin, & maybe you've figured it all out -
    but
    if not have you seen the thread where they figured out that Microsoft Update was causing a lot of problems, esp at startup.
     
    If you change to WinUpdate -
    If you have ever gone to the Windows Update page it asks you to upgrade to Microsoft Update so you may have done it without thinking. You can opt to revert to Windows update (it is hidden in one of the links on the left) and that certainly solved my startup problems.
    Tom

    Darwin

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    Re: PC Diagnotic Software?
    « Reply #15 on: May 22, 2007, 11:43:31 AM »
    Hi Tom,

    Thanks for noting that - I did follow Carol's advice sometime back and it worked to a degree. However, three things solved the problem (enough that I'm satisfied, anyway):

    1. I disabled ZoneAlarm Pro and Winpatrol 2007 Plus from starting with windows - I am on a home network behind a hardware firewall so at home just have the XP firewall enabled when I'm here. I'll disable it and turn on ZA whenever I am offsite (it's a notebook).
    2. I replaced my 80 GB 5400 rpm drive with a 120 GB 5400 rpm drive. I *think* this sped things up because the 80 GB drive was down to 3 GB free on the Windows (C:\) partition and about 5 GB on the My Documents (E:\) partition. I could have deleted a lot of stuff (and in fact had done so quite recently), but with storage being so cheap these days - I only paid $87 CDN. for the new drive - why bother?
    3. I uninstalled a lot of junk that I don't use much OR, if I didn't want to uninstall an app, I simply created a DirectAccess abbreviation for it and disabled it from starting with windows. I've gone from having over 70 processes running after a boot to 48 and things are much brisker now.

    The real difference came with disabling ZA and WP though... I don't need WP monitoring my startup folder all the time (it scanned my startup folder and the registry on each startup and would peg my processor at over 70% while it did so - it didn't USED to do this, so I'm hoping a later build will fix it. However, I don't miss having it run in the background and am happy to open it every so often to check things out).

    Anyway, thanks again.

    Best,

    Mike
    "Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin

    Tekzel

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    Re: PC Diagnotic Software?
    « Reply #16 on: May 22, 2007, 01:22:45 PM »
    For startup issues you can find out where the problem lies often by using MSConfig and disabling all regular startup apps and see if the problem is gone, if not go in and disable all 3rd party (non MS) start up services, etc.  I have got to mention a program I found a little while ago and am in love with:

    http://www.r2.com.au...&show=startdelay

    This takes over the launching of startup apps and you can define the order in which they load and the delay between them.  It brings my system to a usable state as SOON as I log in and continues starting up stuff over the course of the next two minutes.  I have all the junk that needs starting but I don't care about when it starts at the end, and all the stuff I just gotta have at the beginning.  I LOVE this program.  Also, if you choose GUI mode startup it gives you this cool bar across the top letting you know what its doing, when startup is complete the bar goes away and you know its over. 

    And my opinion on ZoneAlarm is no one should ever use the free version for anything, ever.  It sucks on every possible level you can imagine. 

    Darwin

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    Re: PC Diagnotic Software?
    « Reply #17 on: May 22, 2007, 05:08:28 PM »
    Thanks for the comments, Tekszel. I've tried out Startdelay in the past (discovered it right here at donationcoder courtesy of a post by Carol) and probably wasn't patient enough to figure out how to organise things. WinPatrol 2007 actually features similar funcitonality now, though it's just been implemented and has a way to go before being as powerful as Startdelay. It didn't really help because Windows itself was taking so long to load. That trouble seems gone now and as I only boot my computer once in a blue moon I'm not that concerned about tweaking things further (but if I see 12 minute boot times again I'll be concerned!).

    As noted above, I'm using ZoneAlarm Pro (current version) - or rather I have it installed but no longer run it - and don't intend to renew my subscription at this stage. It's a resource HOG and in future when I want to be away from the security of my home network (which doesn't actually happen that often) I think I'll either continue to use whatever version of ZoneAlarm Pro I wind up with at the end of my current subscription or a freebie like GhostWall or Comodo.
    "Some people have a way with words, other people,... oh... have not way" - Steve Martin