More great free troubleshooting tools for Windows

Keep these tools handy for ironing out install issues, diagnosing application crashes, probing process activity, slaying resource hogs, and curing other Windows ills

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In my previous article on Windows troubleshooting tools, I talked about Nir Sofer's BlueScreenView utility, which allows you to dump out and analyze crash messages generated by Windows BSODs. Now that I think about it, one of his other tools may be even more useful in a day-to-day context: AppCrashView.

AppCrashView is to applications what BlueScreenView is to the whole system. It polls the system for information about application crashes (which can be a little ornery to dig out on your own) and presents it in a gridded view. Click on an entry, and the bottom pane of the AppCrashView window fills with a text copy of the crash information, which is in a simple key/value format (such as the old Windows .INI files).

Double-click on each app crash entry, and you'll bring up a dialog box with a detailed view of the selected item: the name and path of the app in question, time and date of the crash, the crash code, the module that caused the crash, and the location of the crash report file itself (in case, for instance, you need to send it to someone else for debugging). Right-click on one or more of the selected entries and you can copy them out to the clipboard, save them in a variety of formats (plaintext, HTML, XML, comma-delimited, or tab-delimited files), or generate a separate HTML report that opens automatically in your default Web browser.

Application crash logs are stored in a couple of different places in the system: the Report Archive and the Report Queue. Under Options in AppCrashView, you'll see two selections: "Show ReportArchive files" and "Show ReportQueue files." The latter, which is disabled by default, holds reports of problems with applications due to compatibility issues. In other words, they might not be full-blown program crashes, but the information is useful if you suspect a couple of programs aren't getting along.

Note that AppCrashView works with Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008 only. It does not work with any previous version of Windows due to a change in the way crash information is saved. Older versions of Windows used the Dr. Watson utility to generate crash information from a faulty program, but newer versions use the Windows Error Reporting technology, which allows for more robust reporting of program issues. Dr. Watson is retired.

AppCrashView reveals details about program crashes that are generally difficult to dig up.
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