How to Troubleshoot Problems in Windows Via Event Viewer

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Are you bumping into a problem with your Windows PC but not sure what's causing it? Windows Event Viewer might be able to help. This tool records all events that occur on your PC, whether they're benign or nasty.

But Event Viewer isn't the most user-friendly feature in Windows. So how do you decipher the findings in Event Viewer to see if they can help you resolve an actual problem? Read on.

To open Event Viewer in any version of Windows, go to Control Panel and change the view to Large or Small icons if the view is not already set that way. Click on the icon for Administrative Tools. From the Administrative Tools screen, double-click on the shortcut for Event Viewer. The Event Viewer window pops up.

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It looks confusing and complicated, but once you get past the surface appearance, you'll find details that may help resolve a technical issue.

In the left pane, Event Viewer uses folders to organize the different events collected. The Windows Logs record events that apply to your entire Windows system. The Applications and Services Logs record events that apply to just a single application or service. Double-click on the setting for Windows Logs. You'll see subfolders that divide the various events by category: Application, Security, Setup, and System. Click on one of the subfolders, such as System, and scroll down to view the different events.

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As you scroll down, you'll notice that events are typically tagged with one of three levels: Information; Warning, or Error. Information is a completely harmless level, serving just to record natural events that occur in Windows. Warning is usually no cause for any real concern; it's just a sign that something unexpected happened or failed to happen. Error is obviously the most significant of the three levels, indicating a problem that may or may not be affecting Windows or an application.

You may also see some events marked as Critical or Verbose, but those are rare. However, a Critical event would be the most serious type and potentially indicative of a problem that needs to be addressed.

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Beyond browsing through all events, you can also customize the view to show only certain types of events. For example, to view just errors and critical events, click on the Windows Logs folder. Then in the Actions pane on the right, click on the command to "Create Custom View."

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In the Create Custom View window, click on the checkmarks for Critical and Error. Then click on the drop-down menu for Event logs and select Windows Logs. Click OK.

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In the "Save Filter to Custom View" window, name your custom view and click OK.

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Now you can scroll through the filtered list to view only errors and critical events. But most of the event details are filled with technical verbiage, sometimes making it difficult to find the one event that could help you. So, your next option is to run a search in Event Viewer for whatever problem you're encountering. To do this, click on the Find command in the Actions pane.

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Let's say, the Windows Search feature is not working properly. Type Windows Search in the text field of the "Find what" window and then click Find Next.

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Keep clicking the Find Next button to move to each event that matches your search term. Event Viewer takes you to the first event that contains the words Windows Search. Keep clicking the Find Next button to move to each such event.

But how do you know if an Error-level or Critical event points to something that may be the cause of the trouble you're experiencing? That's when you turn to the web. If a certain event seems as if it may be related to your problem, cancel the Find window.

Then select and copy the text of the event that you want to research. Open your browser and surf to your favorite search engine. Paste the text of the event and run a search for it. Browse through the search results until you hopefully find a page that can pinpoint and fix your problem.

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No, Event Viewer is not the easiest tool Microsoft ever created. But by knowing how to use it, you can in many cases track down an issue that you can't otherwise find, research, or resolve.

For more, check out:

  • How to Run a Security Checkup on Your Google Account
  • How to Back Up and Restore an Image File of Windows 10
  • PC Trouble? How to Check for Memory Problems in Windows

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