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Maintaining Desktop Health : Monitoring Reliability and Performance (part 6) - Using Reliability Monitor

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5. Using Reliability Monitor

Reliability Monitor is a new MMC snap-in for Windows Vista that provides a system stability overview and trend analysis with detailed information about individual events that may affect the overall stability of the system. Reliability Monitor begins to collect data at the time of system installation. It then presents that data in a chart format that administrators and users can utilize to identify drivers, applications, or hardware that are causing stability or reliability problems on the computer.

Reliability Monitor tracks the following categories of events:

  • Software installations and removals

  • Application failures

  • Hardware failures

  • Windows failures

  • Miscellaneous failures

Reliability Monitor Features

Reliability Monitor provides the following features:

  • Automatic data collection and processing

  • System stability chart

  • System stability report

Automatic Data Collection and Processing

Reliability Monitor gathers and processes data with the Reliability Analysis Component (RAC). Data is automatically collected by the reliability analysis metrics calculation executable (racagent.exe), also known as the RACAgent process. The RACAgent analyzes, aggregates, and correlates user disruptions in the operating system, services, and programs, and then processes the data into reliability metrics. The RACAgent runs as a hidden scheduled task named RACAgent to collect specific events from the event log. The RACAgent runs once every hour to collect relevant event log data and processes data once every 24 hours, so stability data will not be available immediately after installation.

After the data is collected, the RACAgent processes this information using a weighted algorithm. The result of the data processing is a stability index number that can vary on a scale from 0 to 10, with 0 being the least reliable and 10 being the most reliable. The reliability index and the results of the event tracing are then displayed in the System Stability Chart, which you can view by clicking Reliability Monitor in the Diagnostic Console.

Direct from the Source: RACAgent Scheduled Task

The RACAgent is a hidden scheduled task that is automatically configured during system installation. This task is responsible for gathering the reliability data and displaying it in the chart view. The RACAgent task typically runs once every hour and will not wake the machine if it is sleeping. If the computer is a laptop on battery power, RACAgent.exe will immediately exit if the battery capacity is at less than 33 percent. To view the RACAgent task in Task Scheduler, select RAC within the Task Scheduler library, and then right-click and select View - Show Hidden Tasks in the MMC action pane.

If you do not want to track system stability, you can disable the RACAgent task by selecting the Disable option, which is accessible in any of the following ways when the RACAgent task is highlighted in the main MMC pane:

  • Via the action menu

  • Via the action pane

  • Via the shortcut menu for the task

Microsoft Global Technical Readiness Platforms Team


System Stability Chart

The top half of the Reliability Monitor window contains the System Stability Chart and a calendar control that you can use to select the time range to be viewed. A scroll bar at the bottom of the graph allows you to move forward or backward in time to view the stability history. Users will view the System Stability Chart to identify one or more days when the stability index has decreased from a previous level. Reliability Monitor maintains a year of history for system stability and reliability events.

The Reliability Monitor information is displayed in the System Stability Chart as data points that represent the reliability index of the system for a specific day. If the system clock is ever shifted significantly, the data point for that particular day is replaced by a blue information icon. The x-axis displays the date range and the y-axis displays the Stability Index number. The chart also indicates, with a circular red error icon or a yellow warning icon, if a failure occurred in one of the major categories on a given day. You can access the failure details from the expandable items in the System Stability Report section of the Reliability Monitor below the chart. Figure 6 shows the System Stability Chart and Report section.

Figure 6. System Stability Chart and Report.

Stability Index

The Stability Index is the primary indicator of system stability (or reliability) over time, based on the data that has been gathered and processed by Reliability Monitor.

Reliability Monitor tracks the number of user disruptions per day over a 28-day rolling window of time, with the latest day of the rolling window being the current day. The Stability Index algorithm processes the information and calculates the stability index relative to the current day. Until the Reliability Monitor has collected 28 days of data, the Stability Index is displayed as a dotted line on the graph, indicating that it has not yet established a valid baseline for the measurement. The Stability Index is represented as a real number between 1.0 and 10.0, with 1.0 being the least stable and 10.0 being the most stable.

System Stability Report

After you select a day or date range, you can view the report items for that day by using the expandable items in the System Stability Report section. The report will specify the application, driver, or other system component that is causing the drop in the System Stability Index. This information helps you identify changes in system state that may be causing decreased system stability.

Reports focus on the following categories:

  • Software (Un)installs

  • Application Failures

  • Hardware Failures

  • Windows Failures

  • Miscellaneous Failures

  • System Clock Changes (will only appear if a system clock change has occurred)

The reports are sorted first by date in descending order (most recent date first) and then by application or driver name in ascending alphabetical order. The System Stability Reports are based on specific event data gathered by the RACAgent. Details for each event category are described in the following sections.

Software (Un)installs

This category tracks software installations, updates, configuration changes, and removals including the operating system, Windows updates, drivers, and applications. The report contains the following information:

  • Software Operating system, name of application, Windows update name, or driver name

  • Version Version of the operating system, application, or driver (This field is not available for Windows updates.)

  • Activity Indicates the software change

  • Activity status Indicates success or failure for the action

  • Date The date of the action

The events that the RACAgent parses to generate the Software (Un)installs report are:

  • Application installation and removal: MsiInstaller 1033, 1034, 1035, 1036, 1037, 1038

  • Driver installation: User-PnP 20001

  • Driver removal: User-PnP 20002

  • Update installation and removal: Automatic Update / Windows Update 19, 20, 21, 23, 24 and SUS 183, 184, 190, 193, 194

  • Operating system upgrade, service pack, or hotfix: NTServicePack 4353, 4354, 4363

Note

User-PnP 20002 was not implemented for Windows Vista RTM and may be part of a future Microsoft Windows release.


Application Failures

This category tracks application hangs (including the termination of a non-responding application) and crashes. The report contains the following information:

  • Application Executable program name of the application that hung or crashed

  • Version Version number of the application

  • Failure type Indicates whether the application failed as a result of a hang or crash

  • Date The date of the application failure

The events that the RACAgent parses to generate the Application Failures report are:

  • Application hang: Application Hang 1002

  • Application crash: Application Error 1000

Hardware Failures

Disk (Disk Failure Diagnostic) and Memory (Windows Memory Diagnostic) failures are tracked in this category. The report contains the following information:

  • Component type Indicates whether the failure occurred on the hard drive or in memory

  • Device Identifies the device that is failing

  • Failure type Indicates whether a hard drive failure resulted from a bad disk or a bad block, or indicates that a memory failure resulted from bad memory

  • Date The date of the hardware failure

The events that the RACAgent parses to generate the Hardware Failures report are:

  • Windows Memory Diagnostic: Microsoft-Windows-MemoryDiagnostics-Results 1102

  • Disk Failure Diagnostic: Microsoft-Windows-DiskDiagnostic 1

Windows Failures:

Operating system crashes, boot failures, and sleep failures are tracked in this category. The report contains the following information:

  • Failure type Indicates whether the event is a boot failure, OS crash, or sleep failure

  • Version Versions of the operating system and service pack

  • Details Possible failure details are:

    • OS crash Indicates the stop code for the crash

    • Boot failure Indicates the detected problem

    • Sleep failure Indicates the component veto or failure to enter hibernation

  • Date The date of the Windows failure

The events that the RACAgent parses to generate the Windows Failures report are:

  • Microsoft-Windows-StartupRepair: the failure types are:

    • 1101: Master boot record was corrupt

    • 1102: Partition table was corrupt

    • 1103: Corrupt boot sector

    • 1104: Corrupt system volume

    • 1105: No Windows startup files

    • 1106: No hard drive

    • 1107: No valid system partition

    • 1108: Missing boot manager

    • 1109: Corrupt boot manager

    • 1110: Missing Windows loader

    • 1112: Corrupt Windows loader

    • 1113: Corrupt boot config

    • 1114: Corrupt firmware boot config

    • 1115: Missing boot config

    • 1116: No boot failure

    • 1117: Bad RAM

    • 1118: Unknown

    • 1119: Failure during installation

    • 1120: Missing installation files

    • 1121: Corrupt installation files

    • 1122: Corrupt registry

    • 1123: Unknown

    • 1124: Bad driver

    • 1125: Bad software patch

    • 1126: Bad disk

    • 1127: Bad ACL

    • 1128: Security settings prevented boot

    • 1129: Low disk space

    • 1130: Unrecognized system partition

    • 1131: Corrupt boot entry

    • 1132: OS version mismatch

    • 1133: Incompatible BIOS

    • 1134: Incompatible boot sector

    • 1135: Detected file corruption

  • Bug check: 1000, 1001

System Clock Changes

This category displays information on any significant clock changes that have occurred on the system. Information on clock changes is only shown if the system has experienced at least one significant clock change.

  • Old Time Previous time (before time change)

  • New Time New time (after time change)

  • Date Date of time change

The event that will be parsed by the RACAgent to generate the System Clock Changes report is:

  • Time change: Microsoft-Windows-Kernel-General 1

Miscellaneous Failures

This category displays information on any shutdown that was unexpected or where the system does not have a record of any user or process requesting system shutdown. The report contains the following information:

  • Failure type Disruptive shutdown.

  • Version Version of the operating system and service pack.

  • Details The computer was not cleanly shut down.

  • Date Date of failure.

The event that the RACAgent parses to generate the Miscellaneous Failures report is:

  • Disruptive shutdown: USER32 6008

Reliability Monitor Data Files

The data files that Reliability Monitor creates and uses to determine the stability information are stored in the following folders:

  • \ProgramData\Microsoft\RAC\PublishedData

  • \ProgramData\Microsoft\RAC\StateData

To reset Reliability Monitor to its default state, where no stability information is displayed, delete all of the files in these two folders. The files will be recreated with only current stability information the next time the RACAgent scheduled task runs.

The data that Reliability Monitor presents in the default view as well as the time-specific views is from HTML pages that Reliability Monitor creates before displaying the particular view. Reliability Monitor creates the HTML files, named Rmoxxxx.tmp.htm (where xxxx is a random number) in the Temp folder in the user’s profile folder:

\Users\<username>\AppData\Local\Temp

You can obtain this file for trend analysis if desired; however, it will automatically be deleted when Reliability Monitor is closed.

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