Home > Articles > Home & Office Computing > Microsoft Windows Vista & Home Server

Windows Vista's Stability Improvements

Paul McFedries takes you through Windows Vista's new tools and technologies designed to prevent crashes and to recover from them gracefully if they do occur.
This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Computer problems, like the proverbial death and taxes, seem to be one of those constants in life. Whether it's a hard disk giving up the ghost, a power failure that trashes your files, or a virus that invades your system, the issue isn't whether something will go wrong, but rather when it will happen. Instead of waiting to deal with these difficulties after they've occurred (what I call pound-of-cure mode), you need to become proactive and perform maintenance on your system in advance (ounce-of-prevention mode). This will not only reduce the chances that something will go wrong, but it will also set up your system to recover more easily from any problems that do occur.

Vista's Stability Improvements

Few things in this life are as frustrating as an operating system that won't operate, either because Windows itself has given up the ghost or because some program has locked up solid and taken Windows down with it. Fortunately, each new version of Windows seems to be a little more stable and a little better at handling misbehaving programs than its predecessor, so at least we're heading in the right direction.

It's still early, but it looks as though Windows Vista continues this positive trend. Vista comes with a passel of new tools and technologies designed to prevent crashes and to recover from them gracefully if they do occur. The next few sections take you through the most important of these stability improvements.

I/O Cancellation

If you've used Windows for a while, you've probably come across a Windows Error Reporting dialog box similar to the one shown in Figure 15.1. This error message is generated by the Windows Dr. Watson debugging tool, and it includes not only a description of the error, but also the option to send an error report to Microsoft. This report includes information such as the problem type, what program or device caused the problem and where within the program or device the problem occurred, system data such as the OS version, RAM size, and device data, and associated files that might aid troubleshooting, such as system-generated listings that detail software behavior before the problem occurred.


Figure 15.1 If Windows handles a program error, it displays a Windows Error Reporting dialog box similar to this one.

This program continues with Vista's new Windows Error Reporting service. This is an opt-in error-reporting service designed to provide Microsoft and program developers with much more detailed information about program crashes.

That can only be a good thing because it's clear that these kinds of reports are useful. Microsoft has received and studied many such reports over the years, and we're starting to see the fruits of this labor in Windows Vista, which comes with built-in fixes for many of the most common causes of program crashes. The most common of these by far is when a program has made an input/output (I/O) request to a service, resource, or another program, but that process is busy or otherwise incommunicado. In the past, the requesting program would often simply wait forever for the I/O data, thus resulting in a hung program and requiring a reboot to get the system running again.

To prevent this all-too-common scenario, Windows Vista implements an improved version of a technology called I/O cancellation, which can detect when a program is stuck waiting for an I/O request and then can cancel that request to help the program recover from the problem. Microsoft is also making I/O cancellation available to developers via an API, so programs, too, can cancel their own unresponsive requests and automagically recover themselves.

Reliability Monitor

In previous versions of Windows, the only way you could tell whether your system was stable was to think about how often in the recent past you were forced to reboot. If you couldn't remember the last time your system required a restart, you could assume that your system was stable. Not exactly a scientific assessment!

Windows Vista changes all that by introducing the Reliability Monitor. This new feature is part of the Reliability and Performance Monitor, which I discussed in more detail in Chapter 14 (see "Using the Reliability and Performance Monitor"). You load this Microsoft Management Console snap-in by pressing Windows Logo+R, typing perfmon.msc , and clicking OK. In the console window that appears, click Reliability Monitor.

Reliability Monitor keeps track of the overall stability of your system, as well as reliability events, which are either changes to your system that could affect stability or occurrences that might indicate instability. Reliability events include the following:

  • Windows updates
  • Software installs and uninstalls
  • Device driver installs, updates, rollbacks, and uninstalls
  • Application hangs and crashes
  • Device drivers that fail to load or unload
  • Disk and memory failures
  • Windows failures, including boot failures, system crashes, and sleep failures

Reliability Monitor graphs these changes and generates a measure of system stability over time so that you can graphically see whether any changes affected system stability (see Figure 15.2). The System Stability Chart shows the overall stability index. A score of 10 indicates a perfectly reliable system, and lower scores indicate decreasing reliability.


Figure 15.2 Reliability Monitor compares system stability with reliability events over time.

Service Recovery

A service is a program or process that works in the background to perform a specific, low-level support function for the operating system. You can see all the services on your system by following these steps:

  1. Click Start.
  2. Right-click Computer and then click Manage.
  3. Enter your User Account Control credentials. Vista displays the Computer Management window.
  4. Select Services and Applications, Services. On most systems, you'll see more than 125 different services listed.

Many services are mission-critical, and if any one of these crucial services fails, it almost always means that the only way to recover your system is to shut down and restart your computer. With Windows Vista, however, every service has a recovery policy that enables Vista to restart not only the service, but also any other service or process that is dependent on the failed service.

Startup Repair Tool

When your computer won't start, it's bad enough that you can't get to your programs and data and that your productivity nosedives. What's even worse is that you can't get to your normal troubleshooting and diagnostics tools to see what the problem might be. Yes, there are startup troubleshooting techniques, but they can often be time-consuming, hit-or-miss affairs. If Windows is in its own partition, or if there's a solid backup ready, many people would prefer to simply reinstall Windows than spend an entire day tracking down a startup problem.

Such drastic solutions could be a thing of the past, thanks to Vista's new Startup Repair Tool (SRT), which is designed to fix many common startup problems automatically. When a startup failure occurs, Vista starts the SRT immediately. The program then analyzes the startup logs and performs a series of diagnostic tests to determine the cause of the startup failure. The SRT looks for a number of possible problems, but three are the most common:

  • Incompatible or corrupted device drivers
  • Missing or corrupted startup configuration files
  • Corrupted disk metadata

If the SRT determines that one of these problems or some other common snag caused the startup failure, the SRT attempts to fix the problem automatically. If it's successful, it lets you know what repairs it made and writes all changes to a log file so you can see exactly what transpired.

If the SRT can't fix the problem, it tries the system's last known good configuration. If that doesn't work, it writes all of its diagnostic data to a log and offers you support options to try to fix the problem yourself.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020