Easy Troubleshooting and Problem Solving with (Problem) Steps Recorder

While testing Windows 8, I discovered by chance an application named Steps Recorder. I used it for a while and I loved it. Then, I discovered that, via some recent updates, it is also available to Windows 7 users with the name Problem Steps Recorder. In this tutorial, I would like to show what this awesome little tool can do, how to use it and explain when it is going to be your best friend.

Opening the (Problem) Steps Recorder

The Steps Recorder (as named in Windows 8) or Problem Steps Recorder (as named in Windows 7) are the same application. It’s just that there are small differences between the two operating systems, in the sense that Steps Recorder is even more friendly and easy to use.

This application has only one executable, psr.exe found in "C:\Windows\System32".

To open it in Windows 7, simply search for the word steps in the Start Menu search and click on the result which say "Record steps to reproduce a problem".

In Windows 8, you need to go to the Start screen, right click or swipe from the bottom, select All apps and then go to Windows Accessories - > Steps Recorder. You can also search for the word "steps" and click on the appropriate search result.

In Windows 7, if you don’t see the search result mentioned above, you need to go to the Troubleshooting Control Panel. There, make sure the following option is checked: "Get the most up-to-date troubleshooters from the Windows Online Troubleshooting service".

This option ensures that the latest troubleshooters are made available, including the Problem Steps Recorder.

The Main Interface Elements

The interface of the program is the same in both Windows 7 and Windows 8. Just the name is the most noticeable difference.

Below you have a screenshot of its interface in Windows 7.

This screenshot shows the program in Windows 8.

As you can see, another small difference is the fact that in Windows 7, there is the "Run as administrator" option in the Help menu but it Windows 8 it is missing. This is because, in Windows 8, Steps Recorder directly runs as administrator.

When you run Problem Steps Recorder in Windows 7, you might be warned that some windows on your desktop are running as administrator.

To make sure the recording session goes well, you should use the "Run as administrator" in the Help menu.

The Settings option in the Help menu brings up a small window where you can set where your recording is stored, if you want to enable the screen capture and how many recent captures the program should store. If you are going to record a lengthy procedure, don’t hesitate to change the number from 25 to a higher value.

The Start Recording button is for starting the recording of your actions while Stop Recording will stop it and won’t allow you to resume it. But let’s see in detail how the tool works.

How to Work with (Problem) Steps Recorder

Press the Start Recording. Now the tool records all your mouse movements. Start the applications you want to use, make the clicks you want to make, type what you need and so on. the Problem Steps Recorder will record what you launched, on what you clicked and if you have typed something or not.

However, it won’t record what you type. In order to add data to the recording about what you have typed, you need to press the Add Comment button at the appropriate step and then add your comments in the Highlight Problem and Comment box. Once you are done typing, press OK and continue the recording.

To pause the recording press Pause Record. You can resume it at any time. However, if you pressed Stop Recording, things stop there and you won’t be able to resume.

In Windows 7, as soon as you stop the recording, you are asked to save it in a .zip file. In Windows 8 you can review the recording before saving it.

The .zip file contains an MHTML Document you can view in Internet Explorer or Microsoft Word.

The Main Difference Between Windows 7 and Windows 8

I was saying that there are some differences between the Windows 7 and Windows 8 version of this application. In Windows 7, you can view the recording in a browser only after you extract the .zip file.

In Windows 8, once the recording is stopped, you can view it in Steps Recorder and choose to save it and email it only after you are happy with it.

While it might not seem like much, this change makes the tool a lot more friendly to use.

When to Use (Problem) Steps Recorder?

The Problem Steps Recorder can be useful in a few scenarios:

  • When you want to record a problem that you are having and share the details with someone that can help you. For example, you can make a recording, upload it online and share the link with us, a friend or your network admin, when you want some help.
  • Record what you are doing, not necessary for troubleshooting purposes. For example, you can record an entire tutorial with this tool and share it with others, so that they can follow it when needed.

Conclusion

I discovered this application by chance and I’m happy I did. It is very useful. I can share this tutorial with my friends and family and ask them to record what they are doing when they need my help to solve issues. Really, really useful! I’m happy to see that in Windows 8, this application is not so hidden in places you would never look for it and has been improved versus its Windows 7 incarnation. Great job Microsoft!