PSR is useful and evil

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Ever need someone to tell you exactly what they did to reproduce a bug? Yeah, I know, those who need a tool to tell us these things are the most likely to never use one. But on the off chance you need to send step by step instructions (or receive them, right…) and you have Windows 7, then you already have a neat tool for this called Problem Steps Recorder. Type “psr” into start and off you go. It takes screenshots,  logs your activities, and formats it all into an IE-only mht  file.  Here’s the output after clicking on a Zune window.  Yes, I said Zune; it was on sale like 6 years ago and it still runs like a champ. Ugly but tough like it was designed by some parallel dimension Soviet engineers.

and here’s the text output:

Recording Session: 12/2/2011 7:13:47 PM - 7:14:05 PM
Problem Steps: 11, Missed Steps: 0, Other Errors: 0
Operating System: 7601.17640.x86fre.win7sp1_gdr.110622-1506
Problem Step 1: User left click in "Zune"
Program: Microsoft Zune, 4.8.2345.0 (ZUNE_DORADO_V4.8_RTM.110805-1156), 
Microsoft Corporation, ZUNE.EXE, ZUNE.EXE
UI Elements: Zune, UIX Render Window

The psr command line switches are kind of fun too:

/start            :Start Recording. (Outputpath flag SHOULD be specified)
/stop            :Stop Recording.
/sc            :Capture screenshots for recorded steps.
/maxsc            :Maximum number of recent screen captures.
/maxlogsize        :Maximum log file size (in MB) before wrapping occurs.
/gui            : Display control GUI.
/arcetl            :Include raw ETW file in archive output.
/arcxml            :Include MHT file in archive output.
/recordpid        :Record all actions associated with given PID.
/sketch            :Sketch UI if no screenshot was saved.
/slides            :Create slide show HTML pages.
/output            :Store output of record session in given path.
/stopevent        :Event to signal after output files are generated.

What’s this? You can disable the GUI and copy the output in a network folder? Hmm, I bet you can use a little psexec magic and remotely start it on the machines of users you want to monitor. Sounds like we have us a nice little spy tool here!

psexec \\evilcoworker C:\Windows\System32\psr.exe 
/start /gui 0 /output \\server\share\

Ah, now we’re speaking my language! After an hour or two send a /stop and enjoy your petty little spying, you misanthropic weirdos.

Oh Microsoft, even when you make a decent tool, it becomes trivially easy to use for evil purposes. This is why I still like you, MS. You just can’t shake off the evil regardless of how hard you try.


3 comments on “PSR is useful and evil

  1. […] PSR is useful and evil « annoyedadmin. […]

  2. […] has got a lot of command line options. You could start it automatically and without GUI. The user wouldn’t even notice that it was […]

  3. AndreasAt99 says:

    IMO, PSR is a bad spy tool:

    * The keys pressed by the user are not visible.
    * Psr can maximally record 100 screen shots.

    I’m sure, for spying, there is better stuff out 😉

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