Problem Steps Recorder – The Handiest Tool You Didn’t Know You Had!

Think about the most recent error message you’ve received on your work computer. Was it something you had to contact your company’s I.T. Department for? Did they ask you a bunch of technical questions that you had a hard time explaining? What about error messages that you couldn’t quite remember? If so, you might rest a bit easier knowing that Microsoft created a special tool just for situations like this; The Problem Steps Recorder (PSR).

What is it?

As it’s name suggests, the Problem Steps Recorder is a simple little program that allows you to record the steps you have taken that led to a computer problem. This almost eliminates the need to remember every click or mouse movement, and also provides a quick, concise picture of the problem to the people that can help fix it.

For example, let’s say you are reading your email or checking your daily calendar in Microsoft Outlook. All of a sudden, the application crashes and all you’re left with is an error message. Naturally, you try to open Outlook once again and try to perform the same task, and again the application crashes. Perhaps you try again, just to check, and sure enough, it crashes a third time. About this time, you’re on the phone with Technical Support, but you’re not sure how to describe whats going on exactly. Enter the Problem Steps Recorder.

Instead of picking up that phone just yet, you launch the PSR application. It will take a screenshot of your desktop with each click of the mouse, and puts all of these pictures into a step-by-step slideshow that your I.T. Department can use to see exactly what’s happening. PSR will also capture names, locations, and versions of all applications you run while it’s busy recording. Once you’re done reproducing your problem, PSR will compile the results into a single email-friendly file that’s ready to be sent to your Help Desk technician. This one file will most-likely answer any questions a Help Desk tech is likely to ask you as he’s working your issue.

Recording the Problem

When you’re ready to start recording your issues, simply click on the Start button (or press the “Windows” key on your keyboard). When the start menu pops up, you can start typing “psr” and press Enter.

Once the PSR opens up, you will see a single button labeled Start Record. Click this button to start recording all the steps you’re taking. Each mouse click will result in a snapshot of your entire desktop and all open windows. Additionally, the section of your screen that you’re clicking in will be highlighted in these snapshots so that the Help Desk tech can easily see where your mouse is.

You have the option to Pause that recording, as well as Add Comment at any stage. The comments feature is useful if you want to insert a descriptive note about a particular step or area on your screen. For example, if a window or notice pops up that you are not used to seeing under normal circumstances. Just remember, the more information you can provide to your Help Desk, the the better.

Submitting Your Recording

Once you’ve started recording, you can begin walking through the steps and mouse-clicks you took before in order to reproduce the issue or error message you are receiving now. When you have finished recreating the problem, simply click the Stop Record button, and PSR will then prompt you on where you would like to save your recorded problem. You should choose a location on your computer that you can remember, such as your Desktop or your Downloads folder.

The PSR packages all of the snapshots, steps, and comments into a .ZIP file. These types of files are handy for sending via email, however some companies have policies in place that do not allow certain .ZIP files as email attachments. If you are unable to send this file to your Help Desk via email, you may have to contact them directly in order to get the file to them by some other means.

Additional Uses

Beyond its usage as a troubleshooting tool, the Problem Steps Recorder can also be a very handy tool for making quick “How-To” documents or slideshows. You can create these types of documents in the same manner; simply click Start Record and perform your steps.

If you would like to see the contents of the .ZIP file created by the PSR, simply locate it on your computer (Remember where you saved it?) and double-click the icon to open it up. You can then view exactly what the Help Desk would view in order to troubleshoot your issue, or you can take the files, comments, etc and build your own tutorial document from them. Here is an example of what the finished product looks like:

The Problem Steps Record tool comes packaged with Windows, and is available starting with Windows 7. If you are using a previous version of Windows, such as Windows XP or Vista, there are several third-party screen recorder applications that are similar. We recommend that you check with your I.T. Department before using any such product.

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