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My remote customer experiences a bug that I can't manage to reproduce, even after setting up a machine identical in all points (I think) to my customer's machine.

Is there a program that me and my customer would run and we would be presented with a list of differences?

  • Differences in OS version
  • Differences in Windows Update patch level
  • Differences in installed programs (and their versions)
  • Bonus for differences in installed DLLs
  • Bonus for differences in general configuration
  • Bonus for big differences in hardware/drivers

Requirements:

  • The list of differences should be easily navigable, so that for instance I can choose to ignore DLLs differences.
  • Free
  • Must work for Windows 7 and above
  • Unfortunately I am not able to connect to the remote PC via VNC or anything, even Skype is prohibited. The remote steps must be performed by the customer, so they have to be extremely simple and reliable.

For now, my lousy idea is to ask the customer to type Get-WmiObject -Class Win32_Product | Select-Object -Property Name and take a screenshot of Windows Update's View update history then compare manually with mine.

  • If you don't find that, it might be easier for the customer to make an image of his system and send that to you to debug. – Mawg Feb 18 '15 at 9:07
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    Don't forget to take into account en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DLL_Hell – Mawg Feb 18 '15 at 10:46
  • @Mawg: Added, thanks! – Nicolas Raoul Feb 19 '15 at 6:16
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I would not waste time going down this route. I have software I wrote that verifies the current inventory of software installed and versions, and this helps establish the over all environment, but going beyond that is simply chasing rabbits. Even if two machines are made from the same image the dynamic of each machine will soon differ; different users, different processes, different connectivity, etc.

I find Team Viewer the best thing available. I can remote into the user's machine, honoring everything about the user environment and do trial and error. Once I see the error on the user machine I get an idea how to force a similar error. I may use javascript debug messages or vbscript to exercise the machine. I may put debug messages in a web application.

  • "software I wrote that verifies the current inventory of software installed and versions": Interesting! Does it go beyond the Get-WmiObject command mentioned in my question? Thanks! – Nicolas Raoul Feb 25 '15 at 3:57
  • What it is, is a windows HTA that reads an XML file. As an HTA it can read files and the registry. The XML file contains a node for each piece of software I want to keep up with, with child elements for registry look up or file look up. When I begin keeping up with a new software item I make initial XML entries and how best to get the version number. The HTA will try each available option I've given for a software item to see if the version matches. – subjectivist Feb 25 '15 at 4:05
  • Interesting! About Team Viewer: Unfortunately I am not able to connect to the remote PC via VNC or anything, even Skype is prohibited. The remote steps must be performed by the customer, so they have to be extremely simple and reliable. – Nicolas Raoul Feb 25 '15 at 6:20
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    You need to construct vbscript that does everything and writes to the desktop. Email the vbscript with a .txt extension and have the customer change to .vbs. Start out simply, then make more and more complex. The customer will never have to do anything but run the vbscript and send the result back. You know what you should find on your machine. You also know what the software expects. The output of your vbscript should match his. When it does not, pursue that issue. It will take some time but not that bad. This will also allow you to construct a set of troubleshooting tools to use in future. – subjectivist Feb 25 '15 at 6:59
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Any program that gives you text output, which you can then compare, is an option.

Speccy, from the makers of CCleaner, is a great Windows utility for giving an overview of system information, from hardware to OS, including "Hotfixes". Can export the report into XML or Text file. You can even send system specs from Speccy to a public webpage to easily share with others.

Then there is OTL, the modernized version of the outdated HijackThis. Great software listings. Actually, HijackThis would also work for your purposes, if you don't use it to "FIX" anything.

In Win XP to Win 8.1, you could also use System Information. In XP you find it under Start/Programs/Accessories/System Tools/System Information

  • Speccy does not list installed programs, right? OTL looks like it could do the job :-) – Nicolas Raoul Feb 25 '15 at 8:19
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You could export the registry as a text file on both computers and use a comparison tool such as Windiff, or Regshot to compare the differences. It's outlined here:

https://superuser.com/questions/79566/whats-the-easiest-and-fastest-way-to-compare-2-registry-files

If the information isn't in the registry you could also compare the program files directories of the 2 computers.

  • I have tried this, it generates a huge amount of data and takes a lot of time to analyze, a program that helps with that (smarter than a diff viewer) would be great. – Nicolas Raoul Feb 18 '15 at 11:26
  • Try Beyond Compare. It's not free but has a trial and seems to be able to nicely compare the registry as nodes on a tree: scootersoftware.com/download.php?zz=kb_registrycompare – Matthew Lock Feb 18 '15 at 22:56

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