The Windows 7 Problem Steps Recorder

Category: Windows-7

The Problem Steps Recorder (PSR) is one of the more obscure features of Windows 7, but it can be a very useful one. If you've ever tried to solve a computer problem over the phone, you understand how frustrating and time-consuming that can be. If you're a user who needs to show a problem scenario to a tech support rep, or someone who wants to visually document a how-to process for training purposes, you should know about the Problem Steps Recorder, and other alternatives...

How to Use the Problem Steps Recorder

When you activate the Problem Steps Recorder (PSR), it takes a screenshot every time the mouse button is clicked. Text notes can be added to a screenshot. When PSR is stopped, the screenshots and notes are compiled in MHTML format and compressed into a ZIP file. This file can be emailed to a tech support rep, who can then review all of the steps a user performed that led to a crash or other problem.

But the Problem Steps Recorder isn't limited to "problem" situations. Another use for PSR is to compile a tutorial for another user. Let's say you want to show your mother how to attach a photograph to an email, or explain how to set a wifi password. Doing it over the phone can be very frustrating, and even if you're there in person, will they remember all the steps next time?

Maybe you're in an office setting, and you need to train new employees on how to set up a mail merge operation in Word, or give step-by-step instructions on how to download and install a particular program.
Problem Steps Recorder

With PSR, you can create a tutorial showing each step, so the user can review it as many times as necessary. This beats sitting next to the person and repeating the same procedure over and over until he or she gets it.

Ready, Set, Record!

To start the Problem Steps Recorder, open the Start menu and type "psr.exe" into the Search box. Click on that item to run the Problem Steps Recorder.

There are only three options on the main menu. Obviously, "Start Record" is the first one you will want to choose; this begins the recording process. While PSR is recording, its title bar flashes the words "Recording Now" and its Taskbar icon shows a flashing red dot.

Now, just go through the steps that you want to record, clicking the mouse button each time you want to take a screenshot. If you click the "Add Comment" button in PSR's menu, you will be able to highlight a particular area of the screen and annotate it.

When you finish recording, click the "Stop Record" button. A "save as" dialog box will appear so that you can specify the location and name of the ZIP file to which this session should be saved. Now you can send this ZIP file to your Mom, a tech support person, or just save it for later use.

After opening the ZIP file, the recipient will find a MHTML document inside. Clicking on this file will launch Internet Explorer to display the file's contents. You (or the recipient) can then review the recorded steps as a slide show, or view a text version of the step-by-step actions.

PSR and Other Alternatives for XP, Vista and Mac

The Problem Steps Recorder is only available on Windows 7 computers, but the ZIP file that it creates can be opened and viewed by users who run XP or Vista. So what if you're not running Windows 7, and you want something similar to the Problem Steps Recorder? Fortunately, PSR is not the only utility that lets you capture the screen and create a reusable step-by-step recording. ScreenRecorder is a free tool from Microsoft that works on XP, Vista and Windows 7. You might even like it even better, because instead of taking screen shots, it creates a video of the process. The WMV file can be sent to another user, who can view it with the Windows Media Player.

Another option is Jing, a free program distributed by TechSmith. Jing provides capabilities similar to PSR and also allows video recording of onscreen action. Jing comes in versions for Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7, and Mac OSX as well.

If you're someone who often gets called upon to help others with their computer problems, you might also consider a remote desktop tool, which lets you see and share the other person's screen in real time. See my related article Free Alternatives to GotoMyPC to learn about some free remote desktop options.

Have you ever used the Problem Steps Recorder, or one of the alternatives mentioned here? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "The Windows 7 Problem Steps Recorder"

Posted by:

05 Mar 2012

I use this Free

Posted by:

05 Mar 2012

What a REALLY USEFUL piece of information....thanks for that:))

Posted by:

Nick Zdenkovic
05 Mar 2012

I followed the link to ScreenRecorder but on their site there is no possibility to download the application??
Thanks for your clarifications/help

Posted by:

05 Mar 2012

windows 7 psr is a very poor program to use for training purposes

Posted by:

Gloria Huffman
06 Mar 2012

Thank you for all of this information, Bob. I was wondering how to create a video tutorial like the ones I've seen on YouTube. I just haven't had time to research the topic. But, as usual, you read my mind.

Posted by:

06 Mar 2012

Thanks Bob for pointing me to this facility.
I do not like video tutorials, and will always choose a textual or step-by-step screenshot tutorial over a video whenever possible. I want to understand on the fist pass through. Too many video tuts do not allow any thinking time and scoot through at the producer's pace. He already knows how to do it!

Posted by:

06 Mar 2012

Great article. This will definitely come in handy for future use. Thanks.

Posted by:

19 Mar 2012

HyperCam2 is another desktop understandable to operate recorder.

Posted by:

11 Jul 2013

Never heard of PSR before today, Bob. Thank you for the article. Your site is a real gold mine of information!

Posted by:

24 May 2014

I cannot removed Slim Cleaner Plus from my computer! It is listed on the control panel and every time I try to remove it, a message comes up that it's not available and try to find it!!! Really?! I've been doing this for two hours now--waste of time. Please, please advise!!!

Posted by:

18 Nov 2016

A better solution is My Screen Recorder. It is one of the best screen recording software. It records the screen and audio from the speakers or your voice from the microphone - or both simultaneously. The recordings are clear and look great when played back on your website, uploaded to YouTube or used in your presentation. One thing often overlooked - It will record directly to standard compressed formats that work with any video editor or any tool, no conversion required. And, the file sizes are small, making them easy to upload or distribute. Finally, it is not a subscription, just a one-time purchase.

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