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Obscure XP Troubleshooting Tools

written by: Joli Ballew•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 6/27/2011

If you've never used Dr. Watson, Network Diagnostics, and Error Checking on your Windows XP PC, you're in for a treat. Read on to find out more about these troubleshooting tools.

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    View Errors with Dr. Watson

    If you are having unknown problems with your computer that you don't believe are related to adware or spyware and you think you might be having some internal issues, you can check Dr. Watson’s log for details. If you see a lot of errors in there, you might consider looking for answers on the Web, doing a repair installation, or disabling incompatible software or drivers. Dr. Watson is a well-hidden feature of Windows XP, but it can be easily opened from the Run line. If you don’t have any errors listed, you can be pretty sure that Windows XP is running well and has no internal errors.

    Running Dr. Watson (Drwtsn32.exe)

    Click Start, click Run, and type Drwtsn32.exe in the Run dialog box. Then click OK to start the program. You can view error logs by clicking the application error and clicking View. This information can be helpful when trying to solve a particular problem with a qualified tech support person. In fact, if you call tech support and say that Dr. Watson has determined that you’re having problems with <name the error>, your tech support person may well thank you.

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    Use Network Diagnostics

    You can view problems with your network from Windows Help and Support Center. From the information provided, you can locate communication problems either on your network or when accessing the Web. The information provided can help you discover why you can't connect to the resource you need to connect to. Network Diagnostics checks connectivity for Outlook Express, Outlook Express newsreader, your Web Proxy if one exists, modems, network adapters, and network clients. To use this application, follow these steps:

    1. Click Start and then click Help And Support.

    2. Under Pick A Task, select Use Tools To View Computer Information And Diagnose Problems. Pick a Task is located on the bottom right of the first Help and Support page.

    3. In the Tools pane, select Network Diagnostics.

    4. Click Scan Your System.

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    Error Checking

    Your hard disk won’t run optimally if there are bad sectors on it. Sectors are where data is stored, and if any sectors are damaged and you try to write data to them, you’re going to run into problems. To scan for bad sectors on the hard drive, use the error-checking tool in My Computer:

    1. Close all running programs, and from the Start menu, click Open My Computer.

    2. Right-click the disk you want to check for errors and click Properties.

    3. Click the Tools menu, and under Error-Checking, click Check Now.

    4. In the Check Disk dialog box, check Automatically Fix File System Errors and Scan For And Attempt Recovery Of Bad Sectors. Click Start.

    5. You’ll most likely be prompted to restart Windows and let the error checking run on reboot. Click Yes to reboot, and then click OK.

    After the computer boots up, the CHKDSK utility will run. Wait while Windows finds and fixes the hard disk problems. This might take a while, and your computer will be unavailable during this process.