Microsoft Wants to “Just Fix” Host of Windows Flaws
A new option on some of Microsoft’s online troubleshooting guides offers to “just fix it,” but is it enough?
Over at Cnet they have an article up about Microsoft’s fairly new Fix It feature. Since around December, Microsoft has been adding a cute little Fix It button to some of their help guides, which promises to automate all the steps that Microsoft recommends you take in solving a particular problem, apparently by getting a little Playmobile figurine to hit your computer with a wrench.
Only a small portion of Microsoft’s database of thousands of troubleshooting guides have Fix It buttons so far, but the list is constantly expanding. Some examples of guides with Fix It buttons include help for slow internet performance, problems with sleep and hibernation after using Disk Cleanup, and dealing with a active desktop restoration button that appears after installing Internet Explorer. According to a podcast by Ina Fried of Cnet, many of the fixes are related to repairing registry keys that have been manipulated by malware.
It’s a unique approach to troubleshooting that looks like it may take some of the frustration out of the process, but like many of Microsoft’s would-be solutions it seems to miss the point.
Microsoft has long had a reputation of releasing buggy, unstable software, and with the release of Windows Vista that reputation wasn’t exactly changed. Vista, to put it simply, was a mess, which made very few significant improvements over earlier versions of Windows and seemed to bring a host of new problems. It is probably safe to say that very few people were enamored with Vista, to put it lightly.
So Microsoft’s new Fix It feature comes as a sort of backhanded favour: it promises to make things easier for anyone using Windows, but it wouldn’t even be necessary if Microsoft had just gotten things right in the first place.
The Fix It button seems representative of Microsoft’s overall approach to software design, which has always been narrow and shortsighted; rather than focusing on fundamental problems with their products, and trying to design a piece of software that avoids most of those problems altogether, Microsoft seems to come at each new error or crash piecemeal, fixing the symptoms of each and leaving the greater issue of overall stability and usability unaddressed.
The problem is that making a bunch of tiny fixes to specific bugs and flaws doesn’t address the underlying problem: that Windows has always been buggy, unstable, and full of security holes. It seems that a much more reasonable approach would be to simply make an operating system that works the way it is supposed to, instead of an OS that hogs resources and leaves users vulnerable to all sorts of bugs and exploits.
For example, fixes that repair registry keys damaged or modified by malware are all well and good, but more important is making a registry system that isn’t so easily attacked by malicious software. Developing Windows in such a way that the registry is significantly less vulnerable seems like an absolutely necessary step in creating an OS that is usable, yet Microsoft has been very slow in actually addressing the issue.
This isn’t to say that the Fix It button is a bad idea, of course. If I had the choice between manually trying to fix something and having it automated, I will obviously choose the automated process. But, if I had the choice between automating the fixing process and simply not having the problem in the first place, I’d obviously choose to not have the problem at all. I don’t want to work for my operating system, I want it to just work.
Of course, no piece of software is ever free of bugs, and even the best designed operating systems are going to have flaws. In this regard it is always good to make the solution to any problem that might occur as simple as possible. Microsoft does deserve some credit in this regard. Nonetheless, I don’t think it’s outrageous to ask of Microsoft that there simply be less problems with their products in the first place, rather than leaving the consumer to seek out a solution on their own, whether it be through a manual or automated process.
Some might argue that it is simply too much to ask of Microsoft that such problems never occur, but such a complacent attitude will never remedy the problem. Microsoft is a very large and powerful company with the lion’s share of the market in their grasp, which means their products are going to be the focus of most malware. But this also means that Microsoft has an obligation to work that much harder at making their software and operating systems work properly, so that the consumers who pay good money for Microsoft products get what they pay for.
Overall, Microsoft’s Fix It button is a good idea, but it is not the good idea; Microsoft’s main focus should be on making their operating systems have less risk of problems in the first place. Hopefully with the release of Windows 7 we will see a step in this direction, but if things continue to go the way they have in the past we might just end up seeing more quick fixes.