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Maintaining Desktop Health : Understanding Windows Eventing (part 2) - Event Viewer User Interface

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4/16/2013 6:40:11 PM

3. Event Viewer User Interface

The Windows Vista Event Viewer interface is new for Windows Vista and has many new features. The Event Log service in Windows Vista introduces many more event logs and event log types to the operating system. The increase in the number of events, increased verbosity of events, and the dramatic increase in the number of component-specific event logs necessitates a much more intuitive user interface. The new Event Viewer contains powerful filtering and view customization features, as well as many new actions that can be performed on events or groups of events. The following sections explain the new features of the Windows Vista Event Viewer.

Accessing Event Viewer

You can open Event Viewer by using either of the following methods:

  • Click Start, then All Programs, then Administrative Tools, then click Event Viewer.

  • Open the Computer Management console by right-clicking Computer from the Start menu and clicking Properties. Expand System Tools and click Event Viewer.

  • From Run or from a command prompt, type eventvwr.exe or eventvwr.msc.

  • Add the Event Viewer MMC snap-in to an MMC console.

Figure 2 shows the default Event Viewer interface.

Figure 2. Event Viewer user interface.

Overview And Summary View

The Event Viewer opens to the Overview and Summary page showing all events across all Windows Logs. The total number of events for each type that have occurred are displayed, with additional columns that will display the number of events of each type that have occurred over the last seven days, the last 24 hours, or the last hour. Clicking on the + (plus) sign allows you to drill-down into each event type and display the Event ID, Source, and Log that the event occurred in. Double-clicking on a specific event summary will take you directly to that event in the log and automatically creates a filtered view, showing all individual events with that event source and event ID, which can be accessed from the left pane.

Note

The Summary page includes events from all administrative logs, which includes both the Windows Logs and any application-specific administrative logs if such exist.


Log Summary

When you scroll to the bottom of the Summary page, a Log Summary is presented that lists the name of each event log on the system, the current size and maximum size, the last modified date, whether the log is enabled or disabled, and the retention policy.

Custom Views

You can configure and persist event filters by using the Custom Views node in Event Viewer. You can automatically create views by double-clicking events in the summary view, or you can create views manually. In Windows Vista, a built-in custom view named Administrative Events shows all events on the system that may require administrative action by filtering errors and warnings across all admin logs on the system.

Create a view manually

To create a view (filter) manually, follow these steps:

1.
Right-click Custom Views and then select Create Custom View.

2.
In the Create Custom View window, enter the criteria for which you want events displayed.

Note

You can also click the XML tab and enter the XML filter directly. This may be useful if you are creating an advanced query for which the GUI options in the Filter tab are insufficient. Note that once you edit a filter in the XML tab, you cannot return to the Filter tab for that filter.

3.
Select the fields used to filter events, using the following criteria:

  • By Log If you are filtering by log, you select first the logs you are interested in, and the sources drop-down adjusts to just the sources available in those logs.

  • By Source If you are filtering by source, you pick the sources of interest first, and the event logs drop-down adjusts to the list of logs relevant for those sources.

  • Logged Last Hour, Last 12 Hours, Last 24 Hours, Last 7 Days, or Last 30 Days. Selecting Custom Range brings up the Custom Range dialog box, allowing you to select a much more specific date range, including when events start and when they stop.

  • Event Level Select Critical, Warning, Verbose, Error, or Information.

  • Event Logs Click the drop-down arrow to open the event log selection window. Select the event log or event logs that you want to include in the view.

  • Event Sources Click the drop-down to display a list of available sources for the selected log so you can specify which event source(s) to include in the view. In some cases certain sources may not be listed (usually this may happen for legacy sources), in which case you can type in the source name manually.

  • Include/Exclude Event IDs Enter Event ID numbers or ranges to be included or excluded, separated by commas. To exclude, enter a minus sign in front of the number. For example, entering 1,3,5-99,-76 will include event ID’s 1,3,5 through 99, and exclude 76.

  • Task Category Select a task category to filter for events which specify that task category.

  • Keywords Enter task keywords to be included in the filter.

  • User Enter the user name by which to filter the events.

  • Computer Enter the computer name by which to filter events. This will likely be used when filtering saved logs from different other machines, or when filtering events forwarded from several machines on to a centralized log.

4.
Click OK, name the View, and then select where the view will be saved. Create a new folder, if needed, to better categorize your custom views you create for various purposes. By default, custom views defined on a machine will be available to all users on that machine. To define a custom view private to the current user, uncheck the All Users checkbox before saving the view. Custom Views are saved and you may reuse them any time you run Event Viewer in the future. Furthermore, custom views can also be exported into an XML file at a specified location, or imported from an XML file. This allows administrators to share interesting event views by exporting them to a shared location and importing into various Event Viewer consoles as needed.

Figure 3 shows the default Administrative Events custom view.

Figure 3. The default Administrative Events custom view.

Windows Logs

The Application, System, Security, and Setup logs are now located under the Windows Logs node in the Event Viewer tree view. An event summary view including the name, type, number of events, and size of each log is displayed when this node is selected. Events in a log may be viewed by selecting the log you wish to view in the left pane.

Applications and Services Logs

Hardware Events, Internet Explorer, and other Windows components and applications events are accessible under the Applications and Services Logs node. Applications and Services logs are a new category of event logs that store events from a single application or component rather than events that might have system-wide impact. Normally, available application or service logs will be listed in a hierarch under the manufacturer and product name. (Some event providers which do not follow the naming convention that allows such categorization may show up directly under the Applications And Services node). A summary view including the name, type, number of events, and size of each log is displayed when the Applications and Services node, or any sub-node that contains logs, is selected in the Event Viewer tree view as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Summary of Applications and Services Logs.

Note

If other applications are installed, such as 2007 Microsoft Office applications, additional Applications and Services Logs may be displayed as shown in Figure 4.


This category of logs includes four subtypes: Admin, Operational, Analytic (trace), and Debug logs. Events in Admin logs are of particular interest to IT professionals who use Event Viewer to troubleshoot problems, because events in the Admin log provide guidance on how to respond to the event. Events in the Operational log are also useful for IT professionals, but sometimes require more interpretation.

Analytic and Debug logs are not as user-friendly, and are mostly oriented to be used by tools or advanced administrators and developers. Analytic logs store events that trace an issue and, often, a high volume of events are logged. Debug logs are used by developers when debugging applications. Both Analytic and Debug logs are hidden by default. If you will be working with these types of logs and want to see them in the Event Viewer, select the Show Analytic and Debug Logs menu option from the View item on the action pane. Then, to turn on/off logging into a particular analytic or debug log, select the log of interest and click “Enable Log” or “Disable Log” in the Actions pane. Alternatively, Analytic and Debug logs can also be enabled/disabled by typing wevtutil sl logname /e:true at an elevated command prompt. For more information concerning wevtuti.exe, see the sidebar “How It Works: The Windows Events Command Line Utility.”

Caution

When you enable Analytic (trace) and Debug logs, they usually generate a large number of entries. For this reason, you should only enable them for a specified period to gather troubleshooting data, and then turn them off to reduce the associated overhead.


You can view events by highlighting the log you want to view in the left pane. Most Microsoft components that have their own channel in Windows Vista are displayed under the Microsoft section, as shown in Figure 5. (This is true for all events whose publishers follow the <manufacturer>-<product>-<publisher> naming convention described previously.)

Figure 5. Events for different Microsoft components.

How It Works: The Windows Events Command Line Utility

The Windows Events Command Line Utility (wevtutil.exe) lets you retrieve information about event logs and publishers, install and uninstall event manifests, run queries, and export, archive and clear logs from an elevated command prompt. The usage for this command described below. Note that you can use either the short (i.e. ep /uni) or long (i.e. enum-publishers /unicode) version of the command and option names, and all commands, options and option values are case-insensitive.

The generally syntax for wevtutil.exe is as follows:

wevtutil command [argument [argument] ...] [/option:value [/option:value] ...]

Here command can be any of the following:

  • al (archive-log) Archives an exported log.

  • cl (clear-log) Clears a log.

  • el (enum-logs) Lists log names.

  • ep (enum-publishers) Lists event publishers.

  • epl (export-log) Exports a log.

  • gl (get-log) Gets log configuration information.

  • gli (get-log-info) Gets log status information.

  • gp (get-publisher) Gets publisher configuration information.

  • im (install-manifest) Installs event publishers and logs from manifest.

  • qe (query-events) Queries events from a log or log file.

  • sl (set-log) Modifies configuration of a log.

  • um (uninstall-manifest) Uninstalls event publishers and logs from manifest.

Common options are as follows:

  • /r:value (remote) If specified, runs the command on a remote computer named value. Note that im (install-manifest) and um (uninstall-manifest) do not support remote operation.

  • /u:value (username) Specifies a different user to log on to remote computer. Here value is a user name in the form domain\user or user. This option is only applicable when option /r (remote) is specified.

  • /p: value (password) Specifies a [assword for the specified user. If not specified or value is “*”, the user will be prompted to enter a password. This option is only applicable when /u (username) option is specified.

  • /a:value (authentication) Specifies an authentication type for connecting to a remote computer. Value can be Default, Negotiate, Kerberos or NTLM. The efault is Negotiate.

  • /uni:value (unicode) Displays output in Unicode. Value can be true or false (if true then output is in Unicode).

To learn more about a specific command, type wevtutil command /? at an elevated command prompt.


Saving and Opening Event Logs

You can use Event Viewer to save events and open saved event logs for archiving and analysis purposes. The context menu options here are as follows:

Save Events As

Save the selected channel (log file) in one of the following formats:

  • Event Files (.evtx) (the default)

  • XML (XML File) (.xml)

  • Text (Tab delimited) (.txt)

  • CSV (Comma separated) (.csv)

Open Saved Log

Open the saved events to display them in Event Viewer. The supported formats are:

  • Event Log Files (.evtx, .evt, .etl) (the default)

  • Event Files (.evtx)

  • Legacy Event Files (.evt)

  • Trace Log Files (.etl)

These actions are commonly used by administrators and support individuals to troubleshoot problems on computers where a direct live connection is not available.

Subscriptions

Using Event Viewer, you can view events on a single remote computer. However, troubleshooting an issue might require you to examine a set of events stored in multiple logs on multiple computers.

Windows Vista includes the ability to collect copies of events from multiple remote computers and store them locally. To specify which events to collect, you create an event subscription. Among other details, the subscription specifies exactly which events will be collected and in which log they will be stored locally. Once a subscription is active and events are being collected, you can view and manipulate these forwarded events as you would any other locally stored events.

Using the event-collecting feature requires that you configure both the forwarding and the collecting computers. The functionality depends on the Windows Remote Management (WinRM) service and the Windows Event Collector (Wecsvc) service. The WinRM service must be running on both computers participating in the forwarding and collecting process. The Wecsvc service only needs to be running on the collecting machine since on the source machine there is a forwarding plug-in that runs in-process to WinRM.

To define a subscription, you must be administrator on the collector machine. As part of the subscription definition, you define what security context should be used when accessing the logs on the source machines. This can be either a specific user account, or the collector machine account. The specified account must have read access to the logs on the source machines that are participating in the subscription. One way to set this up is to use a new built-in group called Event Log Readers, to which you can add any accounts you want to give access to reading logs.

To configure computers to forward and collect events, follow these steps:

1.
Log on to all collector and source computers. If the computers are members of a domain, it is a best practice to use a domain account with administrative privileges.

2.
On each source computer, type winrm quickconfig at an elevated command prompt. When prompted, confirm that the changes should be made. To skip the prompt (for example, if you are using this command in a script), add the –q parameter.

3.
On the collector computer, type wecutil qc at an elevated command prompt. (If you use Event Viewer, this will be done automatically for you on the collector.) When prompted, confirm that the changes should be made. To skip the prompt, add the /q:true parameter.

4.
Add the computer account of the collector computer to the Event Log Readers group on each of the source computers if you will be using the computer account as the account to be used when collecting events. The advantage of using the collector computer account is that you don’t need to deal with expiring passwords. However, if you do use a specific user account, you will need to add that account to the Event Log Readers instead of the collector machine account.

Note

By default, the Local Users And Groups MMC snap-in does not allow you to add computer accounts. In the Select Users, Computers, Or Groups dialog box, click Object Types and then select the Computers check box. You will now be able to add computer accounts.


Additional Considerations

In a workgroup environment, you can follow the same basic procedure described in the previous section to configure computers to forward and collect events. However, workgroups require some additional steps and considerations:

  • You can only use Normal mode (Pull) subscriptions.

  • You must add a Windows Firewall exception for Remote Event Log Management on each source computer.

  • You must add an account with administrator privileges to the Event Log Readers group on each source computer. You must specify this account in the Configure Advanced Subscription Settings dialog box when you create a subscription on the collector computer.

  • Type winrm set winrm/config/client @{TrustedHosts=“<sources>”} at a command prompt on the collector computer to allow all of the source computers to use NTLM authentication when communicating with WinRM on the collector computer. Run this command only once. Where <sources> appears in the command, substitute a comma-separated list of the names of all of the participating source computers in the workgroup. Alternatively, you can use wildcards to match the names of all the source computers. For example, if you want to configure a set of source computers that each has a name that begins with msft, you could type the command winrm set winrm/config/client @{TrustedHosts=“msft*”} on the collector computer. To learn more about this command, type winrm help config at a command prompt.

  • If you configure a subscription to use the HTTPS protocol by using the HTTPS option in Advanced Subscription Settings, you must also set corresponding Windows Firewall exceptions for port 443. For a subscription that uses Normal (PULL mode) delivery optimization, you must set the exception only on the source computers. For a subscription that uses either Minimize Bandwidth or Minimize Latency (PUSH mode) delivery optimizations, you must set the exception on both the source and collector computers.

  • If you intend to specify a user account by selecting the Specific User option in Advanced Subscription Settings when creating the subscription, you must ensure that the account is a member of the local Administrators group on each of the source computers in step 4 in the previous procedure instead of adding the machine account of the collector computer. Alternatively, you can use the Windows Event Log command-line utility to grant an account access to individual logs. To learn more about this command-line utility, type wevtutil -? at a command prompt.

Creating a New Subscription

To configure a new subscription, follow these steps:

1.
Right-click Subscriptions in the Event Viewer tree view and then select Create Subscription, or select the Subscriptions node and click on the Create Subscription action in the Actions pane.

2.
In the Subscription Properties window, enter the Subscription Name.

3.
Select the Destination Log name to save the subscribed events to. By default, the event subscriptions will be collected in the ForwardedEvents log.

4.
Add the Source Computers that the subscription will pull data from. The “Test” button can be used to test connectivity to the selected computer and ensure the collector will have access to that machine to collect events.

5.
Click Select Events to configure the specific events that you want to collect. The Select Events button presents two options when you click the drop-list:

  • Edit Opens the Query Filter dialog box to allow the creation of an event filter to be used for the subscription

  • Copy From Existing Custom View Allows the selection of an existing Custom View to be used for the subscription

1.
Click Advanced to configure the options shown in the following dialog box.

2.
After you create the subscription, you can view and configure it from the middle pane of Event Viewer. For each subscription, you can see its name, status, participating source computers and description. To view detailed status for each source computer participating in a subscription, open the Subscription Properties dialog for the subscription of interest. The source computers list displays the list of participating computers and the status for each. Selecting a specific computer in the list will display detailed status in the box underneath the computer list, and if there is a problem with that computer the detailed status also includes possible causes and remedies. Individual computers can be temporarily disabled from participating in the subscription by selecting the computer in the list and clicking Disable. In addition, an entire subscription can be temporarily disabled by selecting the subscription in the Subscriptions list in the main MMC middle pane and clicking the Disable action. Also, individual computers or the entire subscription may be retried (to check if previous problems have been remedied, for example), by selecting the computer or entire subscription, respectively, and clicking Retry.

The Advanced button lets you configure how collected events are delivered and also lets you specify the account used to manage the process of collecting events. Event Viewer provides three event delivery optimization options: Normal, Minimize Bandwidth, and Minimize Latency. Table 3 describes each of these three options.

Table 3. Optimization Delivery Options for Configuring Event Collection
Event delivery optimization methodDescription
NormalEnsures reliable delivery of events and does not attempt to conserve bandwidth. This is the appropriate choice unless you need tighter control over bandwidth usage or need forwarded events delivered as quickly as possible. This method uses pull delivery mode, batches 5 items at a time, and sets a batch time-out of 15 minutes.
Minimize BandwidthEnsures that the use of network bandwidth for event delivery is strictly controlled. This is an appropriate choice if you want to limit the frequency of network connections made to deliver events. This method uses push delivery mode and sets a batch time-out of 6 hours. This method also uses a heartbeat interval of 6 hours.
Minimize LatencyEnsures that events are delivered with minimal delay. This is an appropriate choice if you are collecting alerts or critical events. This method uses push delivery mode and sets a batch time-out of 30 seconds.

Actions Pane

Previous versions of Event Viewer were MMC 2.0 snap-ins and thus did not have the Actions pane. Event Viewer in Windows Vista and Windows Server Code Name “Longhorn” is an MMC 3.0 snap-in and contains an all-new Actions pane on the far right side of the user interface. This pane displays actions that can be performed on the currently selected item in the left pane (tree view). The Actions pane changes based on what is highlighted in the tree view. The actions that can be performed will normally be the same as the shortcut menu actions.

Table 4 lists and describes the actions that you can perform on an event. Note that some of the object-specific actions in the actions pane will change (show up or hide) depending on the context you are in, i.e. the node that you have selected in the scope pane (tree) or results pane (middle). So this list is only relevant when you have a log selected in the tree and an event selected in the middle pane. Also note that the actions are categorized in several groups; mainly the top group applies globally (no selection required) or to the selected tree node (e.g. log), whereas the bottom group applies to the selected middle-pane object (e.g. specific event).

Table 4. Available Actions That Can be Performed on Events
ActionDescription
Open Saved LogOpens a new log file in the current view. Log file must be EVTX, EVT, or ETL format.
Create Custom ViewOpens the Create Custom View (filter) Wizard.
Import Custom ViewAllows the user to import a view that has been saved in XML format.
Clear LogClears the selected event log of all events.
Filter Current LogOpens the Filter Wizard. You create filters the same way that you create views.
PropertiesOpens the properties of the currently selected event.
FindOffers a generic Find dialog box to search for text.
Save Events AsAllows the user to save a log file in ELF or XML format.
ViewProvides options to customize the MMC view and to show Analytic and Debug Logs.
RefreshRefreshes the event log.
HelpActivates the Help menu.
Event PropertiesOnly active when an event is selected. This is the same as the Properties Action.
Attach Task To This EventOpens the Task Scheduler Wizard with the Event Log, Event Source, and Event ID automatically populated. The user can attach any task to an event using Task Scheduler.
CopyCopies the XML event text to the clipboard.
Save Selected Event(s)Saves only selected events to ELF or XML format.
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