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PSR will rescue your Thanksgiving!

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PSR stands for Problem Step Recorder, and is a tool that ships in Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. It was designed to help support professionals have users record the steps of their problem so they can see what is going on. It fixes the ‘See the big blue ball in the lower left-hand corner?’ problem. While we have remote connection capabilities, and screen recorders, those can be hard to setup for a typical user, and takes too long to show something simple. PSR is really lightweight and helps with the initial triaging of the problem.

And let’s face it, if you are reading this you are probably the IT Support team for your family. You are probably feeling a lot of angst about the upcoming holidays, especially Thanksgiving, which is the one holiday you are forced to hang around with people you actively avoid on Twitter and Facebook. You are not alone, we all feel like this. In the 50’s it was everyone asking the family member who was a physician about medical questions all day. Now it’s us.

What is RAM? How do I replace the smoke that came out of my computer? Which side is up on this new blank paper?

Do not let another Thanksgiving go to waste by being cornered by all the needy humans in your family that need help with their computers, or home networks, or home made scale models of the death star in their backyard. Keep in mind that help with Xbox achievements are perfectly acceptable, and provide a way to dodge all of the other requests..

To start PSR, click on the start menu, and type PSR in the search box. Done. When you start it you will see a little bar popup. Just tell the user to click the record button, and reproduce the problem.


Once the problem has been reproduced, they should click the stop button. This will ask them where to save the file (perhaps the desktop in this case so it is easily found again.) PSR creates a static HTML file with everything embedded, all in one file. No mess of directories with pictures and text scattered everywhere, since that would be brittle. Have the user email or IM you the file.

From there you will see a step by step document on what the user was doing, with built in highlights to see what they were clicking or typing.


While this was developed with the intention of helping IT Support get a better picture of how a user was breaking something, think of all the other uses. You could use it to easily generate documentation for your application, or document how policies should be implemented.

I just used it the other day to explain how to mark an assembly as ‘copy local’. It was a lot easier to send this small html file that it was to describe it in words in an email. The friend I was helping ‘got it’ immediately, and helped them get on with what they were doing.

You should try out PSR yourself and see how it works. I really love small, light, and easy to use solutions to problems that we all have. PSR gets my “Utility that is automatically included in Windows” award of the year. The runner up is the Snipping Tool, which was shipped in Vista.

Note: I love my family, and everyone in it, and I love helping them with technology, and talking about it. This whole post is all in jest. Enjoy your turkey day.

Arnulfo Wing said...
10/28/2009 10:33:00 AM  

great tool for creating documentation.!


arvind s grover said...
10/28/2009 11:20:00 AM  

I couldn't agree more, the tool is awesome. We're actually thinking of using it to make step-by-step instructions or how-to guides.

We're a school, so might make a guide: "How to Post Your Assignments Online" or "How to Submit Report Cards Online," etc.

Great include from Microsoft.

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