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Microsoft adds repair shop to Windows

The software maker is testing a "Fix it Center" that adds a PC-based and online troubleshooting system to its flagship operating system.

Microsoft's Fix it Center, now in beta, consists of both an online service and downloadable software. It's designed to bring some of the diagnostic capabilities built into Windows 7 to older PCs.

Microsoft is testing a new "Fix it Center"--an online and PC-based tool for helping users solve their Windows technical problems.

While a fair amount of diagnostics are built into Windows 7, the free Fix it Center aims to expand on these and also bring similar capabilities to Windows XP and Windows Vista.

The service, which went into beta on Thursday, consists of both a Windows download and an online service.

"Fix it Center finds and fixes many common PC and device problems automatically," Microsoft said on its Web site. "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."

While the service has around 300 fixes built-in, Microsoft said it can also be useful even if it can't solve an issue on its own.

"If Fix it Center cannot solve a specific issue, customers can still access phone, email or chat support with a Microsoft Support professional who can access their Fix it Center account and get details about the hardware, the problem, and the solutions they have already tried, to ensure faster problem resolution," Microsoft said.

The service works with Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7, although for XP it requires customers to be using at least Service Pack 3 (or Service Pack 2 of the 64-bit version of Windows XP Professional). It also works with Windows Server 2003 (with Service Pack 2) and Windows Server 2008.

Microsoft is also aiming to make it attractive for small businesses, by allowing a single account to be used for multiple PCs.

The service builds on the "Fix it" brand that Microsoft established as a means for automating Windows problem-solving tasks. Starting in December 2008, Microsoft launched an option on some of its help desk articles that allowed a user to click on a button and have a series of problem-solving steps taken automatically.