Windows Error Reporting (WER) is a Windows function that captures the data of software crashes and can report this information to software vendors via Microsoft's Winqual service. In this Windows Error Reporting series, I will explain how WER works, how you can access the information in WER files, and how you can disable Windows Error Reporting.
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Windows Error Reporting has been available since Windows XP, although changes have been introduced in Vista and Windows 7. Whenever a Windows application crashes, a WER file is created, which contains valuable information that can help you analyze why the crash happened.
While software vendors have to sign up to Microsoft's Winqual service to access the crash data from their customers, admins can access it by opening the .wer files, which are simple text files that Windows stores at different locations. In some cases, the problem description will help you to understand why an application crashed.
However, it is often only the developer who will really understands the contents of the .wer file. But, you can't go wrong having a look at these files before you decide whether you want to enable or disable Windows Error Reporting (if you are worried that confidential data will be sent to third parties). Furthermore, you can also send the files to the support service of your software or hardware vendor in the hope that they can figure out what went wrong.
In Windows 7, Windows Error Reporting files can be stored in a subfolder somewhere deep down in the ProgramData or User directory. The name of the subfolder is simply WER, and the file extension is .wer.
You can use Windows Search or another desktop search tool to locate them all. However, the information in these .wer files can also be accessed through the Windows Action Center (Control Panel\System and Security\Action Center).
You'll find a list of all crash reports behind the link "View problems to report" in the Maintenance section. If you type "view problems" in the Windows Start Menu search prompt, you will probably get quicker access the Action Center applet. Clicking on "View technical details", will then display the information in the corresponding .wer file.
In Vista, you have to type "problems" in the Windows Start Menu search prompt and then click on "Problems and Reports and Solutions". The list of .wer files is behind the "View problem history" link. To view the contents of the .wer file, you have to right click on one of the entries.
In the next post of my Windows Error Reporting series, I will review the free tool AppCrashView, which has some additional useful features for accessing the information in .wer files.