When you get an “your application has crashed, do you want to let Microsoft know about it?” dialog, then yes, please send the crash report in. We’ve learned a huge amount of where we need to improve our systems from these reports. I know of at least three different bug fixes that I’ve made in the audio area that directly came from OCA (online crash analysis) reports. Even if the bugs are in drivers that we didn’t write (Jerry Pisk commented about creative lab’s drivers here for example), we still pass the info on to the driver authors.
In addition, we do data mining to see if there are common mistakes made by different driver authors and we use these to improve the driver verifier – if a couple of driver authors make the same mistake, then it makes sense for us to add tests to ensure that the problems get fixed on the next go-round.
And we do let 3rd party vendors review their data. There was a chat about this in August of 2002 where Greg Nichols and Alther Haleem discussed how it’s done. The short answer is you go here and follow the instructions. You have to have a Verisign Class 3 code-signing ID to do participate though.
Bottom line: Participate in WER/OCA – Windows gets orders of magnitude more stable because of it. As Steve Ballmer said:
About 20 percent of the bugs cause 80 percent of all errors, and — this is stunning to me — one percent of bugs cause half of all errors.
Knowing where the bugs are in real-world situations allows us to catch the high visibility bugs that plague our users that we’d otherwise have no way of discovering