One of the many often overlooked features of Windows Vista is the Reliability Monitor. Reliability Monitor is available as a snap-in in any MMC console and is also included under the Monitoring node in the Reliability and Performance Console and the Computer Management Console. In Microsoft’s own words the Reliability Monitor “displays detailed information about application installations, application removals, operating system and application failures, hardware errors, and system clock changes.”
Reliability Monitor uses a Chart to display a computer’s Stability Index, which is a perfect 10 when the operation system is first installed. If application or hardware failures occur the Stability Index number in reduced and the failure is recorded in the Chart. Each day is recorded on the chart and you can click on a particular day to see all events related to software installations and failures of applications and Windows itself. Troubleshooting an unfamiliar computer is a snap because so much historically relevant data in brought together in one place. Looking at a Reliability Chart on a faulty computer is like reading a medical chart for a sick person. It is easy to spot trends that develop over time and locate a root cause. On my personal Vista laptop I saw my Stability Index decline to a deplorable 4.2. I scanned the chart and found the culprit- my Logitech webcam software was crashing on a regular basis. An update of the software from Logitech’s’ website and my Index was in the rise again.
Data is collected for Reliability Monitor by the RACAgent scheduled task which can be managed from the Schedule Tasks snap-in on an MMC. RACAgent runs by default on new installs of Vista and places the data it collects in a hidden folder called RAC in C:\Program Data\Microsoft.
Reliability Monitor can be viewed on remote computers if the Remote Registry Service is running on those computers by pointing the Computer Management Console to the remote computer using the Connect to another computer option.
And good news, Windows 7 will have the Reliability Monitor too!