An overview of WER consent settings and corresponding UI behavior
This post gives a high level overview of the various consent settings WER supports and the corresponding experience a user has when opted into any of those setting. Before going into further details, I want to clarify a couple of terms used here:
- WER Client – The binaries that ship with the Windows OS and report problems to Microsoft.
- WER Service – The backend service hosted by Microsoft to which the WER client reports problems.
Windows users have three different levels to choose from when opting into reporting errors to Microsoft. these levels are:
- Level 1 – If a user chooses this option, Windows does not report problems to Microsoft automatically. Instead, every time a fault (like a crash or hang) occurs on the user’s machine, a dialog is presented to the user, to get explicit consent to report the fault to Microsoft.
- Level 2 (Is the default recommended by Windows - more details about defaults later in the post) – For users choosing this option, Windows automatically reports the problem signature (aka WER event parameters) to the Microsoft WER Service. However, if the backend WER Service requests for additional information from the machine (like mini dumps, log files), a dialog is presented to the user to get explicit consent before uploading the additional information.
- Level 3 – For users choosing this option, Windows automatically reports the WER event parameters to the backend WER Service, and if the WER Service requests for additional information that does not contain any personally identifiable information (PII), then that information is uploaded to the service automatically. An example of such information is a mini dump, which has an extremely low probability of containing PII. However, if the information requested by the WER Service has the potential to contain PII (for example, a heap dump), a dialog is presented to the user to get explicit consent before uploading the additional information.
Note that the three consent levels only come into play if WER is enabled for the user/machine. If WER is disabled, then the user is never even prompted to report problems.
Following is a summary of the typical Windows 7 user experience for each of the consent levels (Note: Windows 7 is still in Beta and the UI is still susceptible to changes):
- User experience when WER is disabled: Error reporting does not kick in. A simple dialog informing the user about the crash is shown.
- User experience when WER consent level is set to 1:
Step 1: On detecting a crash, WER client presents UI to get explicit user consent to report WER event parameters to Microsoft’s WER backend service
Step 2: On getting consent in step 1, WER client starts reporting parameters to Microsoft
Step 3: If the WER Service requests additional data (like heap dumps, log files etc.), WER client starts collecting the information.
Step 4: After completing data collection, WER client asks user for explicit consent to upload data to Microsoft. If user agrees, WER client uploads the data. If user clicks ‘Cancel’, the data is discarded and not sent to Microsoft.
- User experience when consent level is set to 2:
Step 1: On detecting a crash, WER client automatically starts reporting WER event parameters to Microsoft’s WER Service.
Step 2: If the WER Service requests additional data (like mini dump, heap dumps, log files etc.), WER client starts collecting the information.
Step 3: After completing data collection, WER client asks user for explicit consent to upload data to Microsoft. If user agrees, WER client uploads the data.
- User experience when consent level is set to 3:
Step 1: On detecting a crash, WER client automatically starts reporting WER event parameters to Microsoft’s WER backend service.
Step 2: If the WER Service requests additional data (like mini dump, heap dumps, log files etc.), WER client starts collecting the information
Step 3: If the data collected is considered safe (i.e. not containing PII; like a minidump) WER client uploads that data automatically without asking for explicit user consent. If however, the data isn't considered safe (like heap dumps, log files etc.), WER client asks user for explicit consent to upload data to the WER Service. If user clicks ‘Send Information’, WER uploads the data.
Note: It is noteworthy that WER client never uploads data containing personally identifiable information (like heap dumps) automatically. Explicit user consent it always needed to upload such information. This design decision has been made to respect the privacy of Windows users.
So how does a user configure/change WER settings?
The first place where a user chooses to opt into WER is the Windows Out of the Box Experience (aka Windows OOBE). The first time a new Windows 7 machine boots up, an OOBE screen is presented to the user which opts the machine into one of two WER consent levels depending on the user’s selection.
If the user does not choose “recommended settings” in OOBE, another “up-sell” dialog is presented to the user in the Windows Troubleshooting Control Panel
In the above dialog, if the user clicks ‘Yes’, his consent is bumped up to level 2. Note however, if the user has already set his consent level to higher than 2, it is not brought down.
The OOBE and the up-sell dialog are presented to the user only once in the entire lifetime of his Windows 7 installation. If the user wants to change WER settings there after, he can do so by accessing the settings page via the Action Center Control Panel
This page allows setting the consent only for the specific user interacting with this page. However, if an administrator wants to configure settings for all users on a machine, he can do so by clicking on “Change report settings for all users” and making the same choice in that dialog.
Hope this information helps you understand the various WER settings, the corresponding Windows UI behavior for each of the settings, and the exactly how to configure/edit these settings.
Happy Error Reporting!