Try Windows Steps Recorder for Troubleshooting & Teaching

Are you one of those people that gets frustrated with tech support? You explain your problem, but the support rep still doesn’t understand your problem. In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to use the Steps Recorder in Windows. Not only is this utility free, but it’s easy enough for anyone to learn. And it can help troubleshoot other PC programs.

What is Windows Steps Recorder

The free screen recorder was first released with Windows 7 as the Problem Step Recorder or PSR. As the name suggests, it was created so you could record steps up to 25 screenshots and add comments. You could then send the saved ZIP file to a technical support person. In theory, this makes a lot of sense, except few people know of the application. And I suspect the original name didn’t help, so Microsoft changed it to Steps Recorder.

Once activated, the Steps Recorder takes a snapshot of your screen based on mouse and keyboard movements. The program isn’t as robust as TechSmith’s SnagIt or the Tango browser extension , but it’s an easy alternative. It’s more like an automated version of the Windows Snipping tool or Skip & Sketch.

One concern of any screen recording app is determining what is recorded. Some programs record keystrokes and typed data which might cause security concerns. For example, if someone is trying to troubleshoot a shopping cart problem, you don’t want to record the credit card number and payment details.

The good news is after you open your recording, you’ll see a line item that reads:

Passwords or any other text you typed were not recorded except for function and shortcut keys that you used“.

However, if you’re capturing steps in Microsoft Excel and already have a column called credit card number, that text will show on the screen image.

What’s Included in a Steps Recorder File

The Steps Recorder file comprises several sections with some data overlap. The first part of the screen capture file allows you to view each step. For each step, the program autogenerates:

  • Step number
  • Date and timestamp
  • Text description of your step
  • File name
  • Screenshot (small and large sizes)

The file will also include any annotations you added using the recorder toolbar. These annotations tend to be items that are material or help assist in troubleshooting.

Another nice feature of the file is that it allows you to review the recorded steps as a slide show. This hyperlink at the top of the file will load your steps. The slides will automatically play, but you can also use the Next and Prev controls.

Link to see recorded steps as slideshow.

The last section of the steps recording file contains Additional Details. This info may not be necessary if you’re simply trying to show someone how to do a task. However, these details might be crucial if someone is trying to reproduce the problem, such as Microsoft support.

This section includes:

  • Recording Session start and stop times
  • Number of Recorded Steps
  • Number of Missed Steps (no image capture)
  • Other Errors
  • Operating System – this is a hybrid name based on the Windows version and processor. It’s not what you would see if you typed Winver in the Run dialog box
  • File name – A file the program was using, such as a Microsoft Excel file
  • File location – full path
  • Program name
Additional details info on step and OS.

How to Access the Program

Like most Windows programs, there are several methods for accessing Steps Recorder. There is a shortcut link that appears in your Accessories folder.

C:\ProgramData\Microsoft\Windows\Start Menu\Programs\Windows Accessories\Steps Recorder.lnk

Interestingly, that shortcut maps to the original file name – PSR. You can find the executable program at


Regardless of which method you use to access the file, it will open a tiny toolbar with start and stop record buttons. Typically, this toolbar is toward the top of your screen, but you might also see it as an icon on your taskbar. Since the recordings won’t start until you click the Start Record button, you don’t need to worry about opening up the application you wish to record.

Windows Steps Recorder toolbar.

The buttons are self-explanatory except for the blue question mark. In addition to the program’s help, it also includes several settings. This is where you could increase the number of steps or turn off images.

Setting to increase number of screen captures.

Access via Taskbar Search (Windows 10 & later)

  1. In the search textbox in your Windows taskbar, type “steps” or “psr“.
  2. You should see Steps Recorder shown under Best match.
  3. The app should show in the right column.
  4. Click Open.

Access via the Run Dialog

  1. Press your Windows key Windows key icon. + R
  2. In the Run dialog, type PSR in the Open textbox.
  3. Click OK.

Preparation Tips

While you don’t have to worry about whether you open your application before PSR, there are some tips to make sure you get a good file.

  1. Think about what you want to record. By default, the program will record 25 screens.
  2. If you have multiple monitors, turn off the extra ones using Windows Display settings. The program will also record the additional display, so your report will include non-essential information and be too wide.
  3. Map out your recording steps for a trial run. In a few cases, I’ve had situations where the Steps Recorder cannot record screens at the beginning. These showed as missed steps.
  4. Before recording, ensure you have no private or confidential data on the screen.
  5. The recording will also capture the Step Recorder toolbar, so move it to a part of the screen that isn’t essential.

How to Make a Recording

  1. Open up the program you wish to record.
  2. Check for any information that you don’t want to be recorded.
  3. Start the Step Recorder.
  4. Position the recorder so it’s not on top of essential information.
  5. Click the Start Record button.
  6. Click Add Comment if you wish to annotate any step.
  7. Do the steps you wish to capture.
  8. Click Stop Record when done.
  9. Review the recorded steps.
  10. Click Save.
  11. In the Save As dialog box, click New Folder. (Optional)
  12. Provide a descriptive file name. This will be the name of your folder.
  13. Click Save.

How to View a Steps Recorder File

The recorded file is a zipped .MHT file. This is a type of webpage archive that is a single file that includes all the content, including images. The problem is at the time Problem Step Recorder was created, the suggested tool to open the file was Internet Explorer. Yes, the program was sunsetted in June 2022.

Another issue is that your web browser security settings may block the file. As you can see in the image below, both Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge complain about various items. My screenshots also don’t render properly.

Instead of wrestling with my security settings, I opted for some workarounds.

Method 1: Open with IE

Yes, even though the program is sunsetted, it’s still there and works for this scenario better than the other solutions. Using IE, you can also access the slide show.

  1. Locate your saved ZIP file.
  2. Right-click the .zip file and select Extract All…
  3. Click the Extract button.
  4. Windows will extract the file. The default output file name is Recording followed by a datestamp. (example: Recording_20221114_1454.mht)
  5. Right-click the .mht file and select Open with… and then Internet Explorer.
  6. Your recording will open.

Depending on your configuration, you may see a message indicating Internet Explorer is out of support.

Method 2: Open with Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word also allows you to open .mht files. However, you can’t view the steps as a slideshow. Based on your images, you may need to change your page orientation to landscape. Word will not automatically scale down the images to fit. A major benefit to using Word is that you can edit the file.

  1. Locate your saved ZIP file
  2. Right-click the .zip file and select Extract All…
  3. Click the Extract button.
  4. Windows will extract the file and give it a name called Recording and a datestamp.
  5. Right-click the .mht file and select Open with… Word.
  6. Your recording will open.
  7. Adjust your margins and page orientation if necessary.

Method 3: Open with File Viewer Plus 4

This is a program you can download from the Microsoft Store or the publisher’s site. The version I used is the free one which handles over 200 file extensions. The program has lots of options, and the paid version allows you to edit the file as well.

  1. Locate your saved ZIP file
  2. Right-click the .zip file and select Extract All…
  3. Click the Extract button.
  4. Windows will extract the file. The default output file name is Recording followed by a datestamp.
  5. Right-click the .mht file, select Open with…, and then File Viewer Plus 4.
  6. Your recording will open.
  7. From the toolbar, change your Orientation to Landscape.

Method 4: Change the File Extension to EML

Another workaround is to change the .mht extension to .eml. The two file formats share features. This solution works with Microsoft Outlook. You can read the info but not use the slide show. The images will show as attachments at the top of the email.

  1. Locate your saved ZIP file
  2. Right-click the .zip file and select Extract All…
  3. Click the Extract button.
  4. Windows will extract the file and give it a name called Recording and a datestamp.
  5. Rename the file extension from .mht to .eml
  6. Click Yes on the Rename dialog box.
  7. Right-click the .eml file and select Open with… Outlook.
  8. Your recording will open.

Steps Recorder Not Showing Images

If you can’t see your images, it probably concerns your Edge browser settings. The best bet is to try adjusting your Edge browser settings to allow Internet Explorer Mode.

  1. In Microsoft Edge, type edge://settings/defaultBrowser in the address bar.
  2. In the Internet Explorer compatibility section, select Allow from the drop-down menu.

Internet Explorer Compatibility drop down menu.
  1. Click Restart.

Final Thoughts

This screen snap tool can be used in many scenarios since all Windows PCs have the program. It’s easy to use and can help display problems, software testing, or simple tasks. Think of those holidays when someone asks you to show them how to do something.

In addition, most people have a program that can read the MHT file after recording. However, the program falls short if you need it to do instructional documentation or editing.