Diagnostic Tools for Computers

Computer errors can occur due to either hardware or software issues and often requires time consuming trial-and-error troubleshooting to diagnose. Windows 8 includes a few diagnostic tools that can assist you and save you money in the process. The diagnostic tools cover the usual culprits such as memory, hard drives, video cards and software, allowing you to pinpoint the source of your computer troubles. In instances where the tools cannot outright repair the errors, the information provided can be key to determining what has to be replaced.

young man sitting on the floor with laptop
Diagnose computer problems using the tools included with Windows.
credit: RyanKing999/iStock/Getty Images

Windows Reliability Monitor

If the overall stability of the computer is not what it should be, check the Windows Reliability Monitor for a visual representation of what is happening. The monitor picks up any issues that reduce the stability of the system, such as software crashes or driver errors and allows you to pinpoint what is causing trouble. For example, the Reliability Monitor is able to indicate if the system is less stable after the installation of a new program or driver. Uninstalling or updating the software could solve the problem, which is then reflected by an improved stability index. To access the Windows Reliability Monitor in Windows 8.1, type "Reliability" (without the quotation marks) from the Start screen and the select "View reliability history." Notable events are marked, allowing you to review specific time periods for issues that affected the computer.

DirectX Diagnostic Tool

Unlike previous versions of the Windows operating system, the DirectX Diagnostic Tool is now included by default and can help diagnose issues related to the multimedia performance of your system. Apart from general system information such as the processor type and amount of memory, the Diagnostic Tool also contains information about the display, sound and input of the computer. The "Notes" section of each tab displays information about any problems found by the diagnostic tool, which can be used for troubleshooting purposes. Type "dxdiag" (without the quotation marks) from the Start screen and press "Enter" to access the DirectX Diagnostic Tool.

Windows Memory Diagnostic Tool

Faulty RAM can cause system instability and erratic performance, but Windows 8 is able to diagnose memory problems with the included Memory Diagnostic tool. The tool is accessed by typing "Memory" (without the quotation marks) on the Start screen and then selecting "Diagnose your computer's memory problems." You have the option to restart the computer immediately and run the diagnostic or schedule it for the next time the computer is started. The standard test runs by default, but you can also select a longer extended test by pressing "F1" during the scan. The results are displayed after you log back in to Windows. An extended test is typically only necessary if the standard test does not find any errors and you are sure that there is something wrong with the computer memory.

System Diagnostics

Also included with Windows 8 is the Performance Monitor application, which features a system diagnostics option. The Performance Monitor is accessible by typing "Perfmon" (without the quotation marks) on the Start screen and pressing "Enter." Performing the system diagnostics test provides you with a report about the status of hardware and resources. If any issues are encountered, you'll see a warning along with information on how to resolve the problem. The operating system, hard disks, security and system services of the computer are also checked as part of the diagnosis.