RAW Computing

Check the logs for error messages in Windows

If you are having a problem with Windows (any recent version), what can you do about it? Of course, the first thing to do is to try to find the cause of the problem. This could be a fault in a program you are using or a driver for some hardware in the PC, or it might be old software that simply isn't compatible with the latest version of Windows. How do you find out which program or driver is the problem among the many that you have on your computer?

One way to track down faults is to look at the log files and see if there are any error messages. All the time Windows is running it maintains various logs in which it writes a record of a variety of events as and when they happen. It stores whether an event was a success or a failure, when it happened, what it was doing at the time and so on.

Among the events stored are errors and by examining the logs, you might be able to spot the problem. If you are logged on as an administrator, then viewing the log files that Windows creates is very easy.

Click Start, right click Computer and then select Manage on the menu that is displayed. Expand System Tools on the left, then Event Viewer, then Windows Logs. Finally, select Application in the panel on the left.

Windows Computer Management

Look down the list of items in the top middle pane for ones with an exclamation symbol on a red background and Error displayed next to it. Select the event in the log and a description is shown below. You won't understand everything it says, but try to pick out the filename from the rest of the gobbledygook. If the same program crops up in several errors, then you know that there's something wrong with it. An updated version might cure the error.

Another symbol to look for in the log is a yellow triangle labelled Warning. It's not a serious problem like a program crash and they can often be ignored. The other logs - Security, Setup, and System - can help too, so check them for errors.

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