If some programs and apps (or Windows itself) crash or stop responding often, you can use Reliability Monitor for basic troubleshooting.
Reliability Monitor is available in Windows Vista, 7, 8, 8.1 and 10. Windows XP has no alternative to this.
Reliability Monitor analyzes event logs and displays a list of changes (program and driver installations, updates and removals), plus crashes and errors.
The program also comes in handy if you're buying a used computer and you want to be sure it works fine.
To start Reliability Monitor in Windows Vista, 7 and 10, type "reliability" into Start menu Search box and click Reliability and Performance Monitor (Windows Vista) or View reliability history (Windows 7 and 10).
In Windows 8 and 8.1, open Settings search using keyboard shortcut Windows Key+W, type "reliability" into Search box and click or touch View reliability history. Touch-screen users should swipe in from the right edge of screen and tap Search icon first.
If you cannot find the item no matter what, open Start menu, type
perfmon /rel and press Enter to open Reliability Monitor.
In Windows 7 and later, Reliability Monitor window opens and the programs starts by generating a report. This might take up to a few minutes. After this, system stability overview opens.
System Stability Chart displays the computer's reliability index on scale from 0-10 (the top part of the chart). Higher numbers indicate better stability and reliability.
To see details on recorded events (the bottom part of the chart), click a day with at least one icon in Application Failures, Windows Failures, Miscellaneous Failures, Warnings or Information line. You can scroll forward and backward in history using the scrolling buttons on the left and right edge of the chart.
In Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10, Reliability Monitor is tailored to Windows Error Reporting to allow easy solution checks. If you see frequent application crashes in the chart, you can click the Check for a solution link in Action column. You should send only items in bold, for these have not yet been automatically submitted to Microsoft (or you might have turned the feature off). Do not fear, Windows sends no personally identifiable information with application and Windows crash reports to Microsoft.
Essentially, solutions are not always available - some fixes take a longer time to test before publishing.
To seek fixes for all unreported problems at once, click the Check for solutions to all problems link in the bottom of the Reliability Monitor window. Just don't expect it to fix your car or credit problems!
You can also see a list of all detected crashes - click the View all problem reports link in the bottom of window. This opens a separate window. You can right-click any item to view crash details, see or check for solutions, etc.
In case you want to remove all recorded crash entries, click the Clear all problem reports button.
Let's see some examples of problems - to open a detailed report, right-click an entry and select View technical details from the menu.
The first example is a bad case - Microsoft Management Console stopped responding because of rundll32.exe, an essential Windows component. You can run Windows Update to see if there are any patches available. If not, there is nothing much you can do about this. But please do check the Diagnostics-Performance log of Event Viewer to see if there are any driver problems that might cause slowdowns and programs hangs.
Note that the Status column on top states "Report sent", so in case this problem appears frequently, Microsoft is probably already looking for solutions.
The second example is a bit more useful - Google Chrome crashed because of RapportUtil.dll, a part of Trusteer Rapport. In this case, upgrading Rapport solved the problem.
As most of us have no idea what the files listed in Fault Module Name or Waiting on Application Name lines are, you can search Google or Bing for explanations. Just copy the module or application name and paste it into Google or Bing.
The third example reveals that Windows itself crashed and then rebooted automatically. It also states that "a dump was saved", so you can use free WhoCrashed for dump file analysis. More adventurous ones can copy the first bugcheck code (0x00000050 in this example) and use Google or Bing search.
And here's WhoCrashed report that blames atikmpag.sys - a part of video driver. Look for a driver update on manufacturer's website.
In Windows Vista, Reliability and Performance Monitor window opens and displays Resource Monitor. Click Reliability Monitor on the left, in Monitoring Tools section.
Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and 10 users can skip this section and move here.
Windows Vista's System Stability Chart displays the computer's reliability index on scale from 0-10 (the top part of the chart). Higher numbers indicate better stability and reliability.
To see details on recorded events (the bottom part of the chart), click a day with at least one icon in Software (Uninstalls), Application Failures, Hardware Failures, Windows Failures or Miscellaneous Failures line. You can scroll forward and backward in history using the scroll bar below the chart, or you can use the combo box on the top right to jump to a specific date.
Windows Vista's Reliability and Performance Monitor displays details of events in expandable sections. In the picture above, updates were successfully installed using Windows Update.
Let's see some examples of trouble.
Here, dwm.exe (Desktop Window Manager) stopped working (crashed). This is the process that displays Aero user interface with its glass-like effects in Windows Vista and in Windows 7. If you see many entries for DWM crashes, there might be a problem with your display adapter, display adapter driver or system memory (RAM).
Because Windows Vista does not display more details on application and operating system crashes, I strongly suggest using Diagnostics-Performance log of Event Viewer and free WhoCrashed for further analysis. You should also seek for an update to the display adapter driver - visit the manufacturer's home page and look for the support or driver download section.
In second example, OS (Windows Vista itself) stopped working. You can either search Google or Bing for the error codes displayed in Failure Detail column or use WhoCrashed for easy crash dump analysis. For such errors, copy only the first code (0x0000008e in this example) and paste it into Google or Bing.
In third example, the computer was not shut down properly - this might indicate a power failure or that someone turned the PC off forcibly. If first one is true and power is often unreliable in your area, consider buying a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply).