Use the Steps Recorder tool to help solve problems remotely

By Ed Bott

Nothing is more frustrating than trying to help someone solve a problem from a distance, especially when the person suffering through the problem is technically unsophisticated. Remote assistance software is an excellent tool, but it’s not always practical for solving intermittent issues.

Instead of listening to vague descriptions of error messages and buttons, introduce your remote contact to the Problem Steps Recorder. To start the program, type PSR in the search box (Windows 10) or in the Run box (Windows 7) and press Enter.

The Steps Recorder has just three buttons: Start Record, Stop Record, and Add Comment. Clicking Start Record captures the exact contents of the screen and adds an annotation each time your remote contact performs an action like clicking a mouse button. Teach them to use the Add Comment button if they want to explain what’s happening in their own words.

Armed with that detailed report, you’re likely to have a much more productive support session next time.

How to Stop Windows 7 or 8 From Downloading Windows 10 Automatically

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Microsoft hasn’t exactly been endearing themselves to tech geeks everywhere lately, with all the privacy concerns and other issues. And now they are automatically downloading all of Windows 10 to your Windows 7 or 8 PC, whether you asked for it or not.

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To be clear, they aren’t automatically installing Windows 10, but they are downloading the entire installer, which is at least 3 GB, which takes up a lot of drive space, and also wastes your network bandwidth. For people who don’t have unlimited bandwidth, this can seriously cost you a lot of money.

According to a statement provided to The Register by Microsoft, their explanation is that they think this is a better experience:

“For those who have chosen to receive automatic updates through Windows Update, we help customers prepare their devices for Windows 10 by downloading the files necessary for future installation. This results in a better upgrade experience and ensures the customer’s device has the latest software.” 

So this only affects people who have automatic updates enabled, but that’s almost everybody since automatic updates are on by default and are rather important for security reasons — the flood of critical security patches in the last year has shown that it’s probably a good idea to leave automatic updates enabled.

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But downloading an entire operating system “just in case” you might want to upgrade to it instead of simply waiting for people to decide to opt in — that isn’t the type of behavior that we want.

Make Windows 10 Stop Downloading the Easy Way

If you want a really simple and easy way to get rid of the “Get Windows 10” icon and stop your PC from downloading Windows 10, you can download a little piece of freeware called GWX Control Panel from a developer that isn’t happy with this nonsense either.

Download it, run it, and then click the “Disable Get Windows 10 App (permanently remove icon)” button. And then click the “Disable Operating System Upgrades in Windows Update” button too for good measure.

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You’ll have to reboot, but at the end, the icon will be gone and your computer shouldn’t get the upgrade. And luckily you can click those buttons again to put things back the way they were.

How to Block Windows 10 from Downloading (Hopefully)

Unfortunately, there’s no magic button to click to stop Windows 10 from downloading. In fact, you’re going to have to install a special patch from Microsoft to keep them from making you download something else. And that’s if you believe Microsoft’s support documentation, which says that you can block the Windows 10 upgrade this way.

We haven’t been able to absolutely prove that this will stop Windows 10 from downloading because it’s hard to say that this is working just because Microsoft hasn’t forced us to download 3GB of files we didn’t ask for.

This is one of those instances where we normally would avoid writing on the topic, since too much is up in the air and we like to be accurate at all times. So please excuse us if this doesn’t work for you.

Step 1

You’ll need to install this patch from Microsoft’s website (from what we can tell you’ll need to be on Windows 8.1 and not 8 to install the patch), so pick the version for your OS, install it, and reboot.

Step 2

Open up your registry editor using the Start Menu search or by pressing WIN + R and typing regedit and hitting enter, and then navigate down to the following key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Policies\
Microsoft\Windows\WindowsUpdate

You’ll probably have to create the WindowsUpdate key on the left-hand side, which you can do by right-clicking the Windows node. Click on that new key, and then create a new 32-bit DWORD called DisableOSUpgrade on the right-hand side, and give it a value of 1.

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Don’t want to bother with all that? You can simply download our registry hack file, unzip, and double-click on the file to install it.

And you should probably reboot after you do this.

Alternative Option: Set Windows Update to Not Download Things

If you set Windows Update to notify you but don’t download anything, Microsoft won’t automatically send the updates down.

Please note that this is a bad idea for security reasons, so unless you have a metered connection and don’t have the bandwidth to download updates, you probably shouldn’t do this.

You can simply go into Windows Update and click on Change settings, and then change the drop-down to “Check for updates but let me choose whether to download and install them”.

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If you do this, please make sure that you keep up with installing updates.

When You Do Want to Upgrade in the Future

The one side effect of going through all of this is that you won’t be able to upgrade to Windows 10 in the future until you remove that registry key.

Luckily you can simply use the uninstall registry key provided in the download.

So You Already Have the $WINDOWS.~BT Folder?

If you already have the folder, which is hidden on the root of your system drive, you’re going to want to follow these instructions over on AddictiveTips to remove it. We haven’t verified these instructions, as we already upgraded most of our computers to Windows 10, and we don’t have the folder on any of our test VMs.

How To Determine What Is Causing The Issue After A Clean Boot

Windows 10, Windows 8.1, and Windows 8
  1. Log on to the computer by using an account that has administrator rights.
  2. From Start, search for msconfig. (In Windows 10, use the Search box from the Start menu. In Windows 8 or 8.1, swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and then tap Search. Or, if you are using a mouse, point to the lower-right corner of the screen, and then click Search.)
  3. Select msconfig or System Configuration from the search results.
  4. Tap or click the Services tab, and then tap or click to select the Hide all Microsoft services check box.
  5. Tap or click to select the upper half of the check boxes in the Service list.
  6. Tap or click OK, and then tap or click Restart.
  7. After the computer finishes restarting, determine whether the problem still occurs.
    • If the problem still occurs, repeat steps 1 through 6, but clear the lower half of the check boxes in the Service list that you originally selected.
    • If the problem does not occur, repeat steps 1 through 6, and select only the upper half of the remaining check boxes that are cleared in the Service list. Repeat these steps until you have selected all the check boxes.
    • If you still experience the problem when only one service is selected in the Service list, this means that the selected service causes the problem, and you should go to step 11. If no service causes the problem, go to step 8.
  8. Repeat steps 1 and 3 in this section.
  9. Tap or click the Startup tab, and then tap or click to select the upper half of the check boxes in the Startup Item list.
  10. Click OK, and then click Restart.
    • If the problem still occurs, repeat steps 8 and 9, but clear the lower half of the checked boxes in the Startup Item list that you originally selected.
    • If the problem does not occur, repeat steps 8 and 9, and select only the upper half of the remaining check boxes that are cleared in the Startup Item list. Repeat these steps until you have selected all the check boxes.
    • If you still experience the problem after only one Startup Item is selected in the Startup Item list, this means that the selected Startup Item causes the problem, and you should go to step 11. If no Startup Item causes this problem, a Microsoft service probably causes the problem. To determine which Microsoft service may be causing the problem, repeat steps 1 through 7 without selecting the Hide all Microsoft services check box in each step.
  11. After you determine the startup item or the service that causes the problem, contact the program manufacturer to determine whether the problem can be resolved. Or, run the System Configuration utility, and then tap or click to clear the check box for the problem item.
Windows 7 and Windows Vista
  1. Log on to the computer by using an account that has administrator rights.
  2. Click Start, type msconfig.exe in the Start Search box, and then press Enter to start the System Configuration utility.
    Note If you are prompted for an administrator password or for confirmation, you should type the password or provide confirmation.
    A screenshot for this step.
  3. Click the Services tab, and then click to select the Hide all Microsoft services check box.
  4. Click to select the upper half of the check boxes in the Service list.
  5. Click OK, and then click Restart.
  6. After the computer finishes restarting, determine whether the problem still occurs.
    • If the problem still occurs, repeat steps 1 through 5, but clear the lower half of the checked boxes in the Service list that you originally selected.
    • If the problem does not occur, repeat steps 1 through 5, and select only the upper half of the remaining check boxes that are cleared in the Service list. Repeat these steps until you have selected all the check boxes.
    • If you still experience the problem after only one service is selected in the Service list, this means that the selected service causes the problem. Go to step 10. If no service causes this problem, go to step 7.
  7. Perform a clean boot by repeating steps 1 and 2.
  8. Click the Startup tab, and then click to select the upper half of the check boxes in the Startup Item list. A screenshot for this step.
  9. Click OK, and then click Restart.
    • If the problem still occurs, repeat steps 7 and 8, but clear the lower half of the checked boxes in the Startup Item list that you originally selected.
    • If the problem does not occur, repeat steps 7 and 8, and select only the upper half of the remaining check boxes that are cleared in the Startup Item list. Repeat these steps until you have selected all the check boxes.
    • If you still experience the problem after only one Startup Item is selected in the Startup Item list, this means that the selected Startup Item causes the problem. Go to Step 10. If no Startup Item causes this problem, a Microsoft service probably causes the problem. To determine which Microsoft service may be causing the problem, repeat steps 1 through 6 without selecting the Hide all Microsoft services check box in either step.
  10. After you determine the startup item or the service that causes the problem, contact the program manufacturer to determine whether the problem can be resolved. Or, run the System Configuration utility, and then click to clear the check box for the problem item.

How To Restart Windows Normally After Clean Boot

After you have finished troubleshooting, follow these steps to reset the computer to start normally.

Windows 10, Windows 8.1, and Windows 8
  1. From Start, search for msconfig. (In Windows 10, use the Search box from the Start menu. In Windows 8 or 8.1, wipe in from the right edge of the screen, and then tap Search. Or, if you are using a mouse, point to the lower-right corner of the screen, and then click Search.)
  2. Select msconfig or System Configuration from the search results.
  3. On the General tab, tap or click the Normal Startup option.
  4. Tap or click the Services tab, clear the check box beside Hide all Microsoft services, and then tap or click Enable all.
  5. ap or click the Startup tab, and then tap or click Open Task Manager.
  6. In task manager, enable all of your startup programs, and then tap or click OK.
  7. When you are prompted to restart the computer, tap or click Restart.
Windows 7 and Windows Vista
  1. Click Start, type msconfig.exe in the Start Search box, and then press Enter.
    Note If you are prompted for an administrator password or for confirmation, you should type the password or click Continue.
  2. On the General tab, click the Normal Startup option, and then click OK.
  3. When you are prompted to restart the computer, click Restart.

How To Perform A Clean Boot In Windows

A clean boot is performed to start Windows by using a minimal set of drivers and startup programs. This helps eliminate software conflicts that occur when you install a program or an update or when you run a program in Windows 10, Windows 8.1, Windows 8, Windows 7, or Windows Vista. You may also troubleshoot or determine what conflict is causing the problem by performing a clean boot.
Why software conflicts occur?

When you start Windows by using a normal startup operation, several applications and services start automatically, and then run in the background. These programs include basic system processes, antivirus software, system utility applications, and other software that has been previously installed. These applications and services can cause software conflicts.
How to perform a clean boot

Notes

  • You must log on to the computer as an administrator to be able to perform a clean boot.
  • Your computer may temporarily lose some functionality when you perform a clean boot. When you start the computer normally, the functionality returns. However, you may receive the original error message, or experience the original behavior if the problem still exists.
  • If the computer is connected to a network, network policy settings may prevent you from following these steps. We strongly recommend that you do not use the System Configuration utility to change the advanced boot options on the computer unless a Microsoft support engineer directs you to do this. Doing this may make the computer unusable.

Use the following steps to perform a clean boot:

Windows 10
  1. From Start, search for msconfig.
  2. Select System Configuration from the search results.
  3. On the Services tab of the System Configuration dialog box, tap or click to select the Hide all Microsoft services check box, and then tap or click Disable all.
  4. On the Startup tab of the System Configuration dialog box, tap or click Open Task Manager.
  5. On the Startup tab in Task Manager, for each startup item, select the item and then click Disable.
  6. Close Task Manager.
  7. On the Startup tab of the System Configuration dialog box, tap or click OK, and then restart the computer.
Windows 8.1 and Windows 8
  1. Swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and then tap Search. Or, if you are using a mouse, point to the lower-right corner of the screen, and then click Search.
  2. Type msconfig in the search box, and then tap or click msconfig. A screenshot for this step.
  3. On the Services tab of the System Configuration dialog box, tap or click to select the Hide all Microsoft services check box, and then tap or click Disable all.
    A screenshot for this step.
  4. On the Startup tab of the System Configuration dialog box, tap or click Open Task Manager. A screenshot for this step.
  5. On the Startup tab in Task Manager, for each startup item, select the item and then click Disable. A screenshot for this step.
  6. Close Task Manager.
  7. On the Startup tab of the System Configuration dialog box, tap or click OK, and then restart the computer. A screenshot for this step.
Windows 7 and Windows Vista
  1. Log on to the computer by using an account that has administrator rights.
  2. Click Start, type msconfig.exe in the Start Search box, and then press Enter to start the System Configuration utility.
    Note If you are prompted for an administrator password or for confirmation, you should type the password or provide confirmation.
    A screenshot for this step.
  3. On the General tab, click the Selective startup option, and then click to clear the Load startup items check box. (The Use Original Boot.ini check box is unavailable.)
    A screenshot for this step.
  4. On the Services tab, click to select the Hide all Microsoft services check box, and then click Disable all.A screenshot for this step.
    Note This step lets Microsoft services continue to run. These services include Networking, Plug and Play, Event Logging, Error Reporting, and other services. If you disable these services, you may permanently delete all restore points. Do not do this if you want to use the System Restore utility together with existing restore points.
  5. Click OK, and then click Restart.
What is next when I have a clean boot environment?

After the computer is restarted, you will have a clean boot environment. Then, do one of the following, as appropriate for your situation:

  • If you could not install or uninstall a program or an update before you performed the clean boot, try to install or uninstall the program or update again.Note If you receive the “The Windows Installer service could not be accessed” error during the installation or uninstallation, follow How to start the Windows Installer service when system services are not loaded, and then install or uninstall the program or update again.
    • If the installation or uninstallation is successful, you have resolved your issue. Follow How to reset the computer to start as usual to reset your computer to the normal startup.
    • If the installation or uninstallation still fails, that means this issue is not caused by application or service interference. You may have to go to Microsoft Support for more specific support.
  • If you could not run a program before you performed the clean boot, try to run the program again.
How to reset the computer to start normally after clean boot troubleshooting

After you have finished troubleshooting, follow these steps to reset the computer to start normally.

Windows 10, Windows 8.1, and Windows 8
  1. From Start, search for msconfig. (In Windows 10, use the Search box from the Start menu. In Windows 8 or 8.1, wipe in from the right edge of the screen, and then tap Search. Or, if you are using a mouse, point to the lower-right corner of the screen, and then click Search.)
  2. Select msconfig or System Configuration from the search results.
  3. On the General tab, tap or click the Normal Startup option.
  4. Tap or click the Services tab, clear the check box beside Hide all Microsoft services, and then tap or click Enable all.
  5. ap or click the Startup tab, and then tap or click Open Task Manager.
  6. In task manager, enable all of your startup programs, and then tap or click OK.
  7. When you are prompted to restart the computer, tap or click Restart.
Windows 7 and Windows Vista
  1. Click Start, type msconfig.exe in the Start Search box, and then press Enter.
    Note If you are prompted for an administrator password or for confirmation, you should type the password or click Continue.
  2. On the General tab, click the Normal Startup option, and then click OK.
  3. When you are prompted to restart the computer, click Restart.