Quick way to capture screens to show problems

July 26, 2012

This is for Windows 7 users only (and presumably later versions of Windows).

There’s a handy little tool in Windows 7 that records — in text and single images — each mouse click. It’s called the Problem Steps Recorder and it is very very basic, but it could be very handy if you’re trying to troubleshoot a problem someone is having with their computer when they don’t have the knowledge or the software to capture screen shots or set up screen sharing with you.

  1. In Windows 7, click the Start button.
  2. Type psr.exe in the search box and open it. This displays the small Problem Steps Recorder toolbar.
  3. Click Start Record.
  4. Your entire screen will be captured as will every mouse click you do.
  5. Once you’ve finished clicking to emulate the problem, click Stop Record on the Problem Steps Recorder toolbar.
  6. You are asked to save the resulting file as a ZIP file. Give it a file name and save it.
  7. Before sending the file to someone else, check that you captured everything you needed to capture by opening the zip file, then double-clicking the MHT file inside it to show it. If you’re using WinZip, you’ll get a warning about this being a potentially unsafe file. As you’ve just recorded it, it’s safe, so click Yes open it.
  8. Internet Explorer opens with a single page that displays all your screen shots in the order you captured them, with green outlines around the areas you clicked. You can view this as a slide show too. Internet Explorer also warns you about making sure you only captured what you needed to, and, at the end of the web page, lists in text the application(s) you were using under ‘Additional Details’.
  9. If you’re happy with the result, you can now email the zip file to the person who needs to troubleshoot your problem.

Other information:

  • If you have two monitors, both monitors are captured in the one screen shot.
  • If the details are hard to read, you can click on an image to see it larger, then click on it again to zoom in. Text on the image may be a little fuzzy but it’s readable for troubleshooting purposes.
  • By default, up to 25 screens captures are recorded, but you can change this setting by clicking the drop-down arrow next to the Help button and selecting Settings — the maximum number is 100.

This tip is an expansion of the tip in the July 2012 issue of Australian Personal Computer magazine (p83).

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