XP's Built-in, Automated Error-Reporting Functionality

Before Microsoft released Windows XP, I wrote about how useful users would find XP's automated error-reporting functionality. By sending an error report to Microsoft when an application exits unexpectedly or when the OS recovers from a system crash, this feature helps Microsoft identify and repair problems that crop up on a regular basis.

As the OS has gone into wider distribution, Microsoft has used the error-reporting functionality to identify OS patches that the company needs to produce (not to be confused with the patches that fix security holes in the OS). Many of the automated updates that XP users download are the result of automated error reporting.

I've spoken with many IT managers who've made the transition to XP, and not one of them ever mentioned this feature other than occasionally suggesting that Microsoft should let users add automated error-reporting functionality to their own applications so that the functionality could report to a local site when an end-user application has a problem. Although turning off the error reporting is possible, no one has ever asked me how to do so. But last week, I received an email message from an IT administrator who had a more specific problem.

After making the transition from Windows 98 to XP, this administrator's company was having a minor problem with a legacy application that runs on more than 500 end-user computers. The application worked correctly but created an error condition on exit that caused the automated error-reporting utility to launch and request that the user let it send information about the problem to Microsoft. Users opened and closed the application multiple times per day, and the IT department didn't want to send Microsoft thousands of bug reports on a custom legacy application. So, IT instructed end users to click the Don't Send button when the error message popped up. This solution worked fine until a senior manager took it into his head that the error condition meant that the legacy application had a problem and asked the IT manager to spend IT money, if necessary, to solve the problem.

Because the problem didn't affect the application's operation, the IT department was loathe to spend scarce dollars on unraveling the code of an old proprietary application and instead searched for a Band-Aid fix that would let them solve the error-reporting problem. Fortunately for that IT department, XP lets you turn off the error reporting for a specific program or programs without completely disabling the feature. This feature is buried rather deeply in the OS, but turning it off is still simple. I've done so myself with older programs that I rarely use and that aren't particularly stable on XP.

To turn the feature off, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Control Panel System applet.
  2. Click the Advanced tab.
  3. Click the Choose Programs button.
  4. Click the Add button.
  5. Enter the complete pathname of the application whose errors you want to ignore, or use the Browse button to navigate to the application executable.

You'll need to restart the computer after making this change. Thereafter, the selected applications will no longer launch XP's automated error-reporting functionality.

Lately, I've been receiving many requests for links to tips and commentaries that I wrote for earlier columns. All of my earlier Windows Client UPDATE columns and tips are available online on the Windows & .NET Magazine Web site (along with the columns and articles that I've written for the magazine). You can bring up all earlier UPDATE columns by going to http:// www.winnetmag.com/email . There, you can also subscribe to any of our UPDATEs, find all back issues for every UPDATE, and use the site's search engine to find a particular tip or commentary.

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