This tip is for Windows Vista, 2008 Server RTM and up.
How reliable is a computer? Most of the time if you ask this question, you will get a subjective answer; depending on the how the day is going of the person you posed the question to. If you are a support professional and have been for any amount of time, you will know first of all, you NEVER ask this question to your user.
There are many reasons though, for wanting to know more about the real reliability of a machine. You may be in the middle of a refresh and need to know what machines need to be replaced, your warranties may be expiring and you want to track down any computers that should be fixed before the warranty expires. You might also want to verify that the computer is a piece of **** per what the user is telling you. How do you verify this? You could go through the Windows Event Logs in Event Viewer and track down critical, error and warning events; correlate them with times that the user was having issues. Then try to figure out if the amount of errors are normal or above normal. You could just take their word for it and find them a new computer. If the computer is running Windows Vista or above, you could also use the Windows Stability Index to quickly gauge the overall reliability of the machine. More information can be found about Reliability Monitor in the following links.
Windows Vista Reliability Monitor
Windows 7 Reliability Monitor
Start Reliability Monitor in Windows 7 by going to Start->Control Panel->System and Security->Action Center->Maintenance->View reliability history, or right-click on the white flag in the system tray in the taskbar and Open Action Center-> Maintenance->View reliability history. You can also use the search box in the Start Menu and start typing reli…, you should have View reliability history in the search results.
Here is the current reliability of my computer.
Looks like my computer was working fine up until February 24, then not so well for the next 2 weeks. The Reliability Index is a number from 1 to 10, 1 being the worst and 10 the best. Right now my computer is about a 5.9. Not good, so what do I do now? When a computer was working fine for a while and then started crashing, I look at the informational events the day of the first crash and the days before to see what changed. Usually something was changed, like a new driver was installed, or a new update, or new hardware. In my case I have looked and the only changes at the first crash was virus definition updates. So in my case the mystery is still on, for now I am blaming them on the sunspots.
If I did think that my computer’s issues were related to the software load I could update all of my drivers, if that didn’t help, I could save my reliability history to an XML file and then reload Windows, afterwards I could compare the results. If the score is still bad, then start looking at the hardware. You can also use the actions next to the errors and warnings to check for a solution, or view the details of the crash. At least if I called you for support, you could look at my score and see that I was not exaggerating, my computer really is a piece of ****. ;)