One of the biggest help desk challenges is obtaining a coherent description of the problem. Unless it is something straight forward like, 'My monitor doesn't turn on!' This is especially true when it comes to software and application related problems. Often the user might give you the end result and problem. But you often need to know how did the user arrive at that conclusion? What steps did they take?

With Windows 7 you no longer have to rely on a user to try and describe all the steps. They'll likely overlook one or two. Instead, you can take advantage of a hidden tool called the Problem Steps Recorder (PSR). With the PSR the user can run their application or computer and go through all the necessary steps to create the problem. The PSR records the user's keyboard and mouse as well as snap screen shots at critical steps. The user can also add comments and highlight sections of the screen.

At the end of the recording, the file (a .mht) is automatically zipped up. From here it can be delivered to the help desk via file share or email. The help desk opens the zip file and can now track all the steps the user took to reproduce the problem. Hopefully somewhere along the process the help desk will be able to identify the culprit and resolve the problem. The beauty of the PSR is that you get the detail you would expect from a video recording but without the overhead and size of an actual video. As a bonus, you can also use the PSR on Windows Server 2008 R2.

In this article, Problems Steps Recording for Windows 7 Troubleshooting, I'll discuss the PSR and offer suggestions on how to get the most out of it as well as suggestions for integrating it into your help desk process.' You can also watch my video How to Find & Use the Problem Steps Recorder for a demonstration of its use and how you can locate it on your desktop.

Are you using anything to help users provide a complete picture of their problem? A' screen capture or recording software package?