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Why it’s Important to Send those Error Reports

If you’ve used Windows XP or Windows Vista for any significant amount of time, you’ve probably seen a message like this.

If you’re the curious type, you may have clicked the “click here” link, only to be rewarded with pages of information that mean very little to normal humans. Fortunately, the information contained in this error reports does mean a lot to the folks at Microsoft.

I am frequently bewildered by people I see clicking the Don’t Send button. Perhaps they believe the error report just goes off into the aether without ever being read. Maybe they think Microsoft is spying on them. Or, this could just be their way of “sticking it to the man.” “No way am I gonna help Microsoft improve their products. They’ve got enough resources to do that themselves!”

The fact is that, as large an organization as is Microsoft, and as thorough as is their beta testing, no one could possibly test every combination of operating system, software and hardware, in every possible scenario. That’s where error reporting comes in.

Error reports, depending on what program caused the error, are sent to various teams at Microsoft. The errors are prioritized and then analyzed. If a bug is found, another team is given the task of creating a patch to correct the problem. The relevant part of this process is how the errors are prioritized: For the most part, the error received most often, gets the highest priority. That means that all the folks clicking Don’t Send are actually telling Microsoft, “Don’t worry about this problem, it’s not really happening all that often.” Consequently, Microsoft will find other things to work on.

Usually, the Send Error Report button doesn’t give any instant gratification. Once in a while, though, you’ll submit an error for which there is already a fix. When this happens, you’ll get a message that allows you to download and install the fix. You never have to deal with that error again. Isn’t that better than clicking Don’t Send the next fifty times the error occurs.

Windows Vista keeps a record of the errors you submit and periodically checks for you to see if any fixes have been created.

Even errors caused by non-Microsoft programs are often sent to the appropriate vendor, so that they can improve their products, as well.

Here is a link to an excellent blog post from the Microsoft Project team, about Windows Error Reporting.

If I still haven’t convinced you to click the Send Error Report button, here’s a link to the procedure that will turn off the feature entirely (in Windows XP).

If you are one of the many, who always click Don’t Send, leave a comment and let me know why.

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