Did Windows ever find solutions for programs that crashed?

Raymond Chen

When a program crashes, Windows display a message that says, in part, “Windows will close the program and notify you if a solution is available.” Did it ever find solutions?

There was a database of problems with known solutions, so if you were lucky, you would be notified that a solution was available. (I suspect that most of them were of the form “Upgrade to the latest version of the program, which has a fix.”) Mind you, the space of possible problems is much larger than the space of problems with known solutions, so the odds of a match are pretty slim.

One of my colleagues worked on speech recognition, and they were studying a weird crash that they eventually figured out was caused by a certain model of CPU not supporting some instructions that their code required. The solution for that problem was, unfortunately, something along the lines of “Sorry, get a better PC.”

What’s happening is that the failure is being uploaded to the Watson back-end, and that can lead to product fixes. So you might say that the notification is the one from Windows Update saying that an update is available.


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  • Joshua Hudson 0

    When I get it while developing a program: false hope springs eternal.

  • Mystery Man 0

    We referred to that message as the “Don’t send” dialog box. Back then, we were on dial-up connections. Sending a 21 MB crash report was never an option. Nowadays, a report of such a size is sent in the blink of an eye.

    • M. W. 0

      Literally in the blink of an eye, as in, while your eyes are closed (read behind your back). 😒

      • Mystery Man 0

        Meh. I have a personal firewall. Nothing comes and goes without my authorization. Remember the time when Windows 10 downloaded itself to Windows 7 computers without the permission of its owners? Not me. My firewall wouldn’t let.

        • Yuhong Bao 0

          I am still writing about CompatTelRunner and Appraiser today (often using MS’s own documentation on “Upgrade Analytics”/”Upgrade Readiness”/”Desktop Analytics”). It consumes CPU and HDD/SSD time just to collect the data, and even MS employees like Billy O’Neal was complaining about it. It loads a kernel driver on Windows 7 computers to determine if NX is disabled in the BIOS.

        • Dave Gzorple 0

          A PiHole and OPNsense are brilliant for this, the PiHole (which contrary to its name doesn’t need to run on a Pi, mine isn’t) blackholes spyware domains – the amount of stuff being sent back to Microsoft-controlled domains by Windows, even with all possible telemetry options turned off, is staggering – and OPNsense similarly blacklists spyware and malware sources. And since it’s done in cheap external hardware, there’s no way to bypass it (see Apple’s recent bypassing of personal firewalls at the kernel level for an example of what an OS vendor can do here).

          • Mystery Man 0

            SimpleWall and TinyWall can do stuff like this as well, not to mention my router, but I don’t waste my time with such parlor tricks. I use personal firewalls (as opposed to network firewalls,) the kind of firewall that can block inbound and outbound traffic on a per-process basis.

            What Apple does is irrelevant here. I’m on the Windows ecosystem.

  • Roger Lipscombe 0

    I’ve definitely seen that dialog box recommend an update from a third-party vendor, and when we used Windows Error Reporting for our products at a previous company, we were fairly diligent about registering our fixes in it.

  • Kevin Gosse 0

    It actually saved me once! When I connected my home computer to internet for the first time, in 2003, a critical service crashed shortly after, forcing the reboot of the machine in loops (the service was crashing again after the reboot, even though I wasn’t connected to internet anymore). I reinstalled the OS, connected to the internet again, and it started happening again. After a while, out of solutions, I finally pressed the “send” button… And another dialog box came in, explaining to me that I was infected by Blaster.

    • Neil Rashbrook 0

      Well, that’s an improvement over the one time that I remember seeing an error report for a virus where it suggested I update it to a newer version…

  • Joshua Hudson 0

    I recall the one time we could have used this, it was too hard to reach anybody at MS who could understand. Basically it boiled down to if Word crashed with this specific signature, and this other product (our product) was installed, we had an update to fix the problem. None of our code nor references to it appeared in the minidump but the signature was reliable enough that it was probably us even if you didn’t check for our product installed.

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