Do you want to send information about this error to Microsoft?

Ah, who hasn't been asked that question by their PC?

A lot of people ask me what happens if you click on "yes". Some of my friends are convinced that the information is immediately checked for credit card details, proof that they have been to porn sites or evidence that they have unlicensed software. Other people are convinced that we ignore it because everyone knows that Microsoft never fix bugs.

Neither of these is true, of course. The answer is here - - but essentially, the data gets some very basic analysis to get a Bucket number and gets entered in to a big database. If the bug is already there then it is tagged as having happened again and the server checks if there is some special action required. Special actions broadly fall into two categories. If we have a fix, the server will tell the computer that reported the fix that we have it. If we are currently investigating the problem, a request for more information may be sent and a form will pop up on the faulting system asking questions that the Dev has specified.

What happens if the crash or hang is not in Microsoft software? Well, that depends. Independant Solution Providers (ISVs from here on) can sign up to get error reports that we get sent on from MS to the ISV. An ISV doesn't have to be a partner or have their software tested by us or have sold a certain number of units. You just have to ask and do a bit of paperwork. This service is free. Let me say that again. This costs you nothing. As Steve B said, "Free is a price point that always works".

The reason that we do this is that we want systems to be stable. Buggy software is not a good thing and we want to help stamp it out. If you feel the same way and you are an ISV, then come join the party at

This was a public service broadcast brought to you by Mark Long, Microsoft and the letter K.

Comments (10)
  1. John Davies says:

    I heard about this on a Scoble.

    Do you have an example of what kind error information I’d get if I signed up? $400 (per year?) is a pretty good chunk of change for my part time consulting company.

  2. MSDN Archive says:

    I will find the information for you – but I won’t be able to until Tuesday.

  3. MSDN Archive says:

    Ok, I assume that the $400 that you refer to is the fee that Verisign want for a proper digital signature. We do require some sort of verification of your ID because the crash dumps can and do contain both customer data and data about your application. I am sure that you wouldn’t want to share that with some guy called Joe any more than we would. It is a chunk of change to get verified but on the other hand, it does give you some other benefits quite unrelated to WER (Windows Error Reporting)

    So, what does WER give you? Well, each report gives you a stack and minidump. The report may contain some comments from Dev or from the user.

    Perhaps more interestingly, you also get some statistical information. Interesting? Stats? How can these words be combined in a single sentence? The answer is surprising. Imagine that you have 100 bugs. You would like to fix them all because no-one wants buggy code. You don’t have the budget or resources to fix all of them. Nor do we. However, we found that 80% of crashes were caused by about 20% of problems. We fixed the bugs that were causing most of the problems and slated the remaining 80% for the next round of debugging. The result was a drop in errors of 80%. If we had fixed bugs blind, we would have been doing well to fix 30% of customer experienced errors for the same price.

    So, let us assume that a Dev costs $200 a day. That would be a pretty cheap Dev but it is a nice round number. Let us assume that it takes 2 days to fix a bug. We already know that there are 100 bugs. To fix 80 bugs would take 160 days at $200 a day = $32,000. To fix 20 bugs for the same benefit = $8000. You probably saved enough for another round of bug reduction.

    Of course, it actually costs much more than that to fix a bug but that moves the figures more towards using WER, not away from it. There is also the data gathering to consider. We often have to send people onsite to gather error data. That isn’t cheap and it isn’t quick. The first time you can not do that because of WER is when you pay for the Verisign ID 🙂

    Now, I am not a salesman and I would be a pretty useless one if I were because I am plugging something that doesn’t make us any money. That said, it seems to me that it is excellent value 🙂

  4. John Davies says:

    Sounds interesting,. Have you heard of it running with managed code?

    I’d use it for my consulting projects. Saving developer time is not a high priority since I’m the developer and get paid by the hour. What interests me is to know about the bugs quickly and being able to track them down easily. This looks like a good way to do it.

  5. MSDN Archive says:

    Yes, you can get logs from managed code although AVs should be rare from those. Hangs still happen, of course.

    What sort of errors are you getting?

  6. John Davies says:

    The usual errors<g>. Anything like file not found or file already open.

    Mostly what I was looking for was a classy looking solution to getting error reports to me with enough info to debug the problem.

    I’m not a usual case. My consulting projects are usually custom written for a sales staff of maybe 20 people. I use Office automation extensively. Each project is anywhere from 30-80 developer hours. I just finished a project that was 120 hours but that was learning .NET at the same time.

  7. MSDN Archive says:

    Well, I guess that you could throw an AV or something like that when you get an application error but I think that you would be better off with error logging in that instance.

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