NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, May 2010
Microsoft Offers Free "Fix it" Utilities
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director;
Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host
(click to email author)


We have all heard the moans and groans about Microsoft's frequent lack of response in terms of its technical support, unless we are willing to pay significant support fees. I have had mixed success at using Microsoft's support forums, including no responses to multiple postings about my Windows 7 upgrade problems; countless other posts in that forum and other Microsoft support forums lament the same sentiment, that Microsoft is sometimes (often) non-responsive. The tide may be turning in a positive direction for Microsoft, as it recently released "Microsoft Fix it Solution Center" (support.microsoft.com/fixit), and "Microsoft Fix it Center Online (beta)" (fixitcenter.support.microsoft.com). For those with Vista or Windows 7, Microsoft also released a "gadget", (fixit.support.microsoft.com/reporting/gadget/fixit4me.gadget) which will display a small image on the desktop showing that latest list of "Fix it" utilities. These small utilities will run on Windows XP, Vista, or Windows 7.

What Microsoft has apparently done is to take many of the most common problems reported by Windows users and create a library of small utilities that can automatically repair those problems. Microsoft says that Microsoft Fix it will "Find and fix common problems." According to Microsoft, "We're working hard to automate solutions to common software problems in an easy, intuitive way that is available when and where you need it. So whether you are looking for a solution in help or support content, or an error report, Fix it provides a way to apply automated fixes, workarounds, or configuration changes so you donít have to perform a long list of manual steps yourself."

The Microsoft Fix it Solution Center offers online automated fixes for problems with Windows itself, Internet Explorer, Enterprise Products, Office, Email and Messaging (Outlook and Outlook Express), Windows Media Player, Xbox and Zune, and Games and Consumer Products. In reviewing the dozens of fixes available under these headings, I can recognize many of the problems that I have either experienced myself, or have heard of others with those explicit problems. One of the several issues that I have had with my Windows 7 machine is that sometimes the CD/DVD drive will not run, and it shows up on Device Manager with an exclamation point indicating that the drive has a problem. I reinstalled the manufacturer's latest drivers, and reinstalled my CD and DVD software, and still the drive was not always recognized, and therefore would not work. I found a Fix it solution that said that it might be able to repair my settings such that my drive would be recognized, and within seconds of running the Fix it utility, my drive worked flawlessly, and has continued to run since the appropriate Fix it was run. Other Windows fixes include appearance issues, sound and print problems, system and security problems, and update problems. For those not sure if a fix is appropriate, most of the Fix it utilities check to see if that selected fix is appropriate, and will stop it from executing if it is not necessary.

Even though I generally do not use it, Internet Explorer (the "big blue e") is still the most widely used browser in the world, with more users than all other browsers combined. Even though it is widely used, users still have a variety of problems with Internet Explorer. Many of those problems may be instantly resolved by applying one of the fixes listed. By simply clicking on the fix, and following the on screen prompts, the repair will be completed automatically.

There are dozens of other useful utilities in the Microsoft Fix It Solution Center, and it is likely that users who are having problems with Windows and its companion components may find a solution here. It is definitely worthy of a try.

For those who want to have an even more automated solution to their Windows problems, they may prefer the Fix it Center Online (beta). Microsoft's slogan for this particular service is "Click, click, fixed." Microsoft claims that this service is easy, relevant, and allows the user to be in control of the process. The diagnosis and repair service begins by downloading a small (437kb) file "FixitCenter_Run.exe". According to Microsoft, " Fix it Center finds and fixes many common PC and device problems automatically. It also helps prevent new problems by proactively checking for known issues and installing updates. Fix it Center helps to consolidate the many steps of diagnosing and repairing a problem into an automated tool that does the work for you." When run, the downloaded executable file will download a machine specific build that is explicitly for your computer, and highly personalized for the software and hardware on your computer.

For my new Windows 7 computer, the Microsoft Fix it Center beta identified 25 distinct functions on my computer that may be candidates for repair or maintenance. Clicking on an item will give a brief description of what will be repaired. Clicking on the "Run" button will obviously run the appropriate utility. Many of the utilities will perform necessary fixes and adjustments themselves, but some require some degree of interaction from the user. I tried several of the listed utilities, and had mixed results; some worked well and made noticeable improvements, while others were not successful. That is just the results on my particular Windows 7 computer; I had a greater rate of success on my older Windows XP computer, as well as other computers (XP and Vista) that I tried it on.

While not perfect, I can see where many of the issues and problems encountered by Windows users could be easily remedied by utilizing these utilities. It should be noted that the Fix it Center Online is still in beta, which means that it is not a finished and refined product, and that there is still some work to be done on it. Still, these free Fix it utilities should be considered as a potential solution for many of the Windows problems that we encounter.

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