Troubleshooting PC Problems with the Windows Event Viewer

When your system crashes and freezes, each 'event' or error is logged in the Windows Event Viewer. That's all well and good, but browsing the Event Viewer's log file listings can be like finding a needle in a haystack. How can you best use the Event Viewer to help you troubleshoot Windows errors and crashes?

One of the best ways is to get used to looking at the Event Viewer prior to having a system problem. You can find the Event Viewer by selecting: Start>Settings>Control Panel>Administrative Tools>Event Viewer. Under the "System" selection, Windows errors are logged and the "Application" section logs problems experienced with by 3rd-party and different Microsoft software installed on your computer. The "Security" section isn't turned on by default so you shouldn't see anything to review in that section.

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In the viewer, you'll notice that the date and timestamp for logged events are listed along with the software application or Windows process involved in the error. Sometimes data for software systems programmers is listed here as well. The events logged as "information" are mostly innocuous and not something that should be worried about. The listings with the red circle and "x" (called "errors") and the ones labeled "warning" with exclamation marks are messages that should get attention. Clicking twice on the listing will open the "Event Properties" detail.

The Event Properties dialog shows enumerated information about the issue encountered and offers a hyperlink to the Microsoft support site, where you can find knowledge base articles covering the problem and possible solutions or work-arounds. The Windows help file opens with more detail on the issue as well, hopefully listing some common causes and possible steps to resolve the error. Each logged event has an "event ID" which can be searched both on Microsoft's website and or other event database sites.

If the source of the problem is consistently the same Windows service or process, a reboot may fix the issue. If it resurfaces and you don't want to reboot, you can try going to Start>Settings>Control Panel>Administrative Tools>Manage. Select the "Services" selection. Find the service that's causing trouble in the Event Viewer by sorting the listings alphabetically by clicking the top of the column. Right-click the Service and select "Stop", start the service again by clicking "Start". This will effectively do the same thing as a reboot, without the start-up delay.