At one time or another, most of us who run Windows have experienced an application or driver lockup or crash, and have been presented with one of those pop up dialog boxes offering to send the error report to Microsoft. Until recently, I always chose "don't send" as in this XP example below. \
Perhaps it was just some personal resistance to sending anything to a faceless outside entity - aka "big brother". After all, why should I send information about what happened on my system to Microsoft? What are they going to do about it? How does this help me? A recent conversation with the manager of the engineering department that provides support for the ThinkVantage application suite changed my mind about Windows error reporting and will induce me to select "send" from now on. As it turns out, Microsoft collects these error reports and shares the information with software and hardware OEMs as relates to the number of times a particular version of their driver or application has crashed each month, along with some codes and other information that may help that OEM company develop a fix. In addition, as patches and updates come out that resolve these, they can now be provided back to the customer at the time of the crash. This helps the OEMs understand and resolve issues with drivers and applications, and also provides some level or relative benchmarking. Let's look at an example progression for an Access Connections crash.
Following the application crash, Windows presents an opportunity for the customer to report this event. Basic information about the event is sent to Microsoft servers and if the OEM application owner has an update or fix available, it can be linked as a solution. In this case, there is an update for Access Connections available that could resolve this problem and prevent future occurrences.
In previous times, clicking through would take the user to the relevant download page on our support site, as shown below. Recent updates now allow the link to connect directly to the relevant files for download, making the process even easier. We download and perform the update, and in most cases, all is well. What does this look like from the OEM hardware or software vendor's perspective? This chart depicts the volume of Windows error reports associated with different versions of Access connections by month. The oldest versions are shown in green, the newest in light blue. There can be several different types of error codes or reasons for the error which is why some of the colors have multiple segments (seen as horizontal black line dividers within the bars) of the chart. This allows us to see, reading from left to right, how effective we are in reducing the number of errors being reported on a given version, how well one version of an application performs compared to another, and to what degree the install base in the field is being updated. For example, look carefully at the red bars and read from left to right. Notice that the first red bars on the left side of the chart are comprised of several different segments which represent different error events. As these were updated, notice that the proportion changes dramatically, and by the right side of the chart, there is only one error being reported for that version. Unfortunately, this particular error on this particular version is being reported more often than pretty much all other versions combined. This tells me that some percentage of the field is staying on this version, despite the fact that error events are being experienced. I also conclude that newer versions are causing fewer issues, and upgrading is generally a good thing to do, especially if you have experienced problems. So, if you experience a Windows error event, please make use of this Windows debugging feature and push the send button. This helps OEM and software manufacturers improve their applications, which in turn provides a more reliable experience for our all customers. Last but not least, be sure take advantage of the available updates!