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Windows Troubleshooting Platform in the IT Environment

The Windows Troubleshooting Platform provides a way for IT professionals to simplify, automate, and standardize troubleshooting and common error resolution in the enterprise.

Creating Custom Troubleshooting Packs

IT professionals can create custom troubleshooting packs. For example, they may want to create a pack to automate computer maintenance, or to reduce troubleshooting time for line-of-business applications that are specific to the enterprise, or for network configuration issues that are specific to the local topology. The Windows 7 Software Development Kit (SDK) is a free download, and it includes the Windows Troubleshooting Pack Designer.

For more information, see Microsoft Windows SDK for Windows 7 and .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkID=146917) on the Microsoft Web site.

When combined with the Windows PowerShell Integrated Scripting Environment (ISE), which is included in Windows 7, the Troubleshooting Pack Designer provides a complete development environment for creating and testing custom troubleshooting packs.

For more information about creating custom troubleshooting packs, see Windows 7 Troubleshooting Guide (http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=163249) on the Microsoft Web site.

Troubleshooting Pack Management

The Windows Troubleshooting Platform is designed to be straightforward to manage. By using a Group Policy setting, you can disable the Troubleshooting Control Panel applet if you want your Help desk to resolve all issues. You can also use Group Policy settings to enable or disable the WOTS, which checks online for updated troubleshooting packs. When WOTS is disabled, the Windows Troubleshooting Platform uses only local resources.

Because troubleshooting packs have the ability to change system settings when a user grants them administrative access, enterprises must be able to protect users from potentially malicious troubleshooting packs. Fortunately, IT professionals can digitally sign their own custom troubleshooting packs by using their publisher certificate, just like any Windows application. IT professionals can use Group Policy settings to require that all troubleshooting packs are signed by using a certificate from a trusted certification authority (CA). This gives the IT department complete control over which troubleshooting packs users can run. The digital signature is also used by the Windows Troubleshooting Platform to verify the integrity of a troubleshooting pack. All troubleshooting packs that are included with the operating system, and those that are downloaded through WOTS, are signed by Microsoft.

Although users will typically use the wizard interface to run a troubleshooting pack locally, IT professionals with sufficient privileges can launch troubleshooting packs remotely from across the network. IT professionals also have the option of running troubleshooting packs in Unattended mode. This can enable IT professionals to quickly diagnose and resolve problems without talking the user through the process step-by-step.

On a computer that is running Windows 7, the following Windows PowerShell commands will run the built-in Windows Aero troubleshooting pack, automatically attempt to resolve any problems, and store the results to the C:\DiagResult folder. (These commands can be run locally or remotely by using Invoke-Command or the *-PSsession cmdlets),

Import-Module TroubleshootingPack
$aero = Get-TroubleshootingPack $env:SystemRoot\Diagnostics\System\Aero
Invoke-TroubleshootingPack -Pack $aero -Result C:\DiagResult -unattend

With scripting, IT professionals can run troubleshooting packs on multiple computers throughout an enterprise. Combined with a custom troubleshooting pack, an IT professional can quickly determine which computers in the enterprise suffer from a specific problem or misconfiguration. Because troubleshooting packs can make configuration changes to solve problems, an IT professional could detect and resolve a common problem throughout an enterprise without ever disturbing the users. IT professionals can run troubleshooting packs on a scheduled basis to automate maintenance.

Troubleshooting Pack Deployment

The Windows Troubleshooting Platform is enabled by default in Windows 7. Therefore, all Windows 7 installations automatically benefit from the built-in troubleshooting packs. New and updated troubleshooting packs are automatically available from Microsoft using WOTS.

In addition to the most recent Microsoft WOTS troubleshooting packs, users can run standalone troubleshooting packs that are packaged as .diagcab files. The .diagcab files are specialized archives that contain each of the troubleshooting pack scripts. Users can launch the troubleshooting pack by opening the .diagcab file.

When packaged as a .diagcab file, troubleshooting packs can be distributed by using Group Policy Preferences, Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (during or after deployment), or software distribution tools. You can post the .diagcab files to a Web site and direct your users to open the file when they experience a problem.

If you are a software developer, you can ship a troubleshooting pack with your application that is specific to its features. You can then link to the troubleshooting packs directly from within your help documentation or open the troubleshooting pack when the application detects a problem.

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