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Help and Support Features that Communicate Through the Internet in Windows Vista

In This Section

Benefits and Purposes of Features Within Help and Support that Communicate Through the Internet

Overview: Using Help and Support in a Managed Environment

How Features Within Help and Support Communicate with Sites on the Internet

Controlling Features Within Help and Support that Communicate Through the Internet

Procedures for Disabling Features Within Help and Support that Communicate Through the Internet

Section Summary

This section provides information about:

  • The benefits of the following capabilities within the Help and Support feature in Windows Vista:

    • Online Help

    • Help ratings and feedback (area at the bottom of a Help topic through which you can provide feedback, when Online Help is turned on)

    • Help Experience Improvement Program

    • Links to the Internet in Help and Support displays. These links go to Windows communities, Microsoft Customer Support online, and similar Web sites that offer information about Windows Vista. The links can be seen in the initial Help and Support display or in the display that appears after a user clicks Ask someone or expand your search or similar Help options that might appear, depending on how Help and Support has been configured by the computer manufacturer.

  • How Online Help, Help ratings and feedback, and the Help Experience Improvement Program communicate with sites on the Internet

  • How to control Online Help, Help ratings and feedback, and the Help Experience Improvement Program to limit the flow of information to and from the Internet

Benefits and Purposes of Features Within Help and Support that Communicate Through the Internet

Help and Support in Windows Vista has the ability to display information that helps the user understand how to accomplish tasks with the Windows interface. The displayed information can be local information built in Windows Vista, or it can be updated information obtained through the Internet. Help and Support also has the ability to ask users to send feedback or other data to Microsoft, which enables Microsoft to improve Help.

The features in Help and Support that communicate through the Internet provide the following kinds of functionality:

  • Online Help display: When Online Help is turned on, the user can see information about Windows Vista that is more extensive or more recently updated than the local information stored within the operating system. Online Help is optional.

  • Help ratings and feedback: When Online Help is turned on, a user can enter feedback into a brief form at the bottom of a Help topic, and send that feedback back to Microsoft, where it can be used to help Microsoft improve that topic and similar Help topics.

  • Help Experience Improvement Program: Through this program, which is completely optional, customers allow data to be collected about how they navigate through Help: typing search queries, clicking links to local Help topics, clicking links to information on the Web, and so on. This data is collected and associated with a non-descriptive ID value, which shows that the information is all from a single user, but otherwise does not collect characteristics of that user (for example, name or location). The collected data is sent to Microsoft, where it is used to improve the Help experience (better responses to searches, better choice and placement of links, and so on) for future Help.

  • Links to the Internet that appear when Help and Support is opened : The display that appears when Help and Support is first opened offers a variety of links that can help users find Windows communities, Microsoft Customer Support online, and similar Web sites that offer information about Windows Vista. For example, under Ask someone, users can click a link that helps them post a question or search for an answer in Windows communities. These links are labeled with words such as "communities" or "online" to show that they are links to information on the Internet.

Overview: Using Help and Support in a Managed Environment

Users access Help and Support in a number of ways, including:

  • Selecting Help and Support from the Start menu.

  • Pressing F1 in locations such as Control Panel, Windows Explorer, Computer, Documents, Music, Network, Pictures, and Search. In many interfaces, users can also click the Help icon (blue question mark icon) to view Help and Support.

From within Help, by default, users can choose whether to:

  • Access Online Help content or only offline content.

  • Provide Microsoft with feedback about a Help topic (if Online Help is turned on).

  • Participate in the Help Experience Improvement Program (if Online Help is turned on).

  • Click a link to information that is labeled with one or more words that indicate it is online, for example, "online," "Knowledge Base," "website," or "communities."

By using Group Policy or the Windows user interface, you can disable Online Help, Help ratings and feedback, and the Help Experience Improvement Program for Help and Support. The links in Help and Support labeled as "online" or "communities" are like other links to the Internet: they can only be disabled by blocking communication with the Internet.

More details on the methods and procedures for controlling Online Help, Help ratings and feedback, and the Help Experience Improvement Program are described in the following subsections.

How Features Within Help and Support Communicate with Sites on the Internet

Online Help

Help and Support can display Help topics that are built into the local operating system, or it can display Web-based topics that are more extensive or more recently updated than the local information. This subsection describes how the Online Help feature communicates so that it can display Web-based Help information that comes from Microsoft.

noteNote
If this feature is disabled through Group Policy, Help and Support does not display banners or options for turning it on.
  • Specific information sent or received: To help determine the correct Help topic to display, certain information is collected from the user’s computer and uploaded to a server at Microsoft that hosts the updated Help topics. Following is a list of the information collected:

    • The search text string entered by the user (if the user is searching) or the unique identifier for the topic to be displayed (if the user has clicked on a topic link)

    • The language/locale identifier, for example, en-us for English (United States)

    • The version of the operating system installed, for example, Windows Vista Business

    • A standard parameter that specifies that the topic should be downloaded in a compressed form (CAB file) if available, and uncompressed if not

  • Default setting and triggers: When a user first opens Help, a prompt displays asking, "Do you want to get the latest online content when you search Help?" After the user makes a choice, the choice is displayed on the menu in the lower-right corner of the Help display (Online Help or Offline Help). The user can click the menu and change to the other option whenever Help and Support is running. The Online/Offline feature keeps track of the last setting selected and uses that setting the next time it is opened. If a connection to the Internet is not available, this is indicated by a yellow exclamation point icon next to the words Offline Help in the lower-right corner of the Help display, and a banner at the top with the same icon.

  • User notification: The first time a user opens Help and Support, a prompt appears, asking whether to display online content with Help searches. When the user opens Help and Support after the first time, the current setting (Online Help or Offline Help) is always displayed in the lower right corner. If a connection to the Internet is not available, this is indicated by a yellow exclamation point icon next to the words Offline Help in the lower-right corner of the Help display, and a banner at the top with the same icon.

  • Logging: You can view the event log related to the searching of Online Help by opening Event Viewer and expanding Applications and Services Logs\Microsoft\Windows\Help.

  • Encryption: The data transferred to Microsoft is not encrypted.

  • Access: Information about queries is held briefly on servers at Microsoft to improve performance of subsequent online searches of Help content. After that, the information is discarded. The information from searches of Online Help content is not analyzed (unless the user has chosen to participate in the Help Experience Improvement Program).

  • Privacy: The privacy statement for Help and Support can be viewed through Help and Support or on the Microsoft Web site at:

    http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=70682

  • Transmission protocol and port: The transmission protocol used is HTTP and the port is 80.

  • Ability to disable: You (the administrator) can disable Online Help by using Group Policy. A user or administrator can turn off Online Help through the Help and Support Center user interface.

Help Ratings and Feedback

If the user views a topic through Online Help, the question "Was this information helpful?" appears at the bottom of the topic. A user can click a response and after a short series of prompts, type a comment about the topic. After the user clicks Finish, the information about the topic is sent to Microsoft. The information is used to help improve that topic and similar Help topics. This subsection describes how the Help ratings and feedback capability communicates through the Internet.

  • Specific information sent or received: The following information is sent when a user provides feedback by responding to prompts at the bottom of the Help topic:

    • The user's answers to the prompts at the bottom of the Help topic, plus any comment that the user types

    • An ID code that identifies the topic that the comment was about and, if applicable, the search query that the user typed before selecting that topic

  • Default setting: If Online Help is turned on after the prompt appears for the first display of Help, Help ratings and feedback is turned on (that is, the prompt appears at the bottom of each Help topic). However, Help ratings and feedback can be disabled through a Group Policy setting.

  • Triggers and user notification: The user feedback about the Help topic is sent when the user clicks Finish (after clicking and typing responses to a short series of prompts at the bottom of the Help topic). After the user clicks Finish, a short statement is displayed thanking the user for the comments.

  • Logging: Feedback that the user sends is logged on a server at Microsoft.

  • Encryption: The data transferred to Microsoft is not encrypted.

  • Access: User Assistance teams can view the feedback that the user sends, but the teams receive no information about the identity of the person sending the feedback.

  • Privacy: The privacy statement for Help and Support can be viewed through Help and Support, or on the Microsoft Web site at:

    http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=70682

  • Transmission protocol and port: The transmission protocol used is HTTP and the port is 80.

  • Ability to disable: You can disable this capability by using Group Policy. If a user or administrator turns off Online Help through the Help and Support Center user interface or through Group Policy, this also turns off the Help ratings and feedback capability.

Help Experience Improvement Program

Through the Help Experience Improvement Program, users have the option of allowing data to be collected about how they navigate while using Online Help: typing search queries, clicking links to Help topics, clicking links to Web sites, and so on. This data (which does not include the user name or computer name) is collected and sent to Microsoft, where it is used to better understand how to improve navigation (better responses to searches, better choice and placement of links, and so on) for future Help.

noteNote
If this feature is disabled through Group Policy, Help and Support does not display menus or options for turning it on.
  • Specific information sent or received: Information about the following is sent when the Help Experience Improvement Program is enabled on a user's computer:

    • Search queries

    • Choices of Help topics (from lists in Search results or the Table of Contents)

    • Information that shows how the user navigates through Help and views topics: clicking links to local Help topics, clicking links to information on the Web, using the Back and Forward buttons, printing a topic, and closing Help and Support.

    In addition, the following is sent when the Help Experience Improvement Program is enabled on a user's computer:

    • A non-descriptive ID value, which shows that the information is all from a single user, but otherwise does not collect characteristics of that user (for example, name or location).

  • Default setting and triggers: By default, the Help Experience Improvement Program is not turned on. If it is turned on, this triggers the process of collecting data and (from time to time) sending the data to Microsoft.

  • User notification: Turning on the Help Experience Improvement Program serves as the user notification. After the program is turned on, data is sent without further notification.

  • Logging: Data that is sent from the Help Experience Improvement Program is logged on a server at Microsoft, but not logged locally.

  • Encryption: The data transferred to Microsoft is not encrypted.

  • Access: User Assistance teams can view the data that is sent, but the teams receive no information about the identity of the person whose Help navigation activity is recorded in the data.

  • Privacy: The privacy statement for Help and Support can be viewed through Help and Support, or on the Microsoft Web site at:

    http://go.microsoft.com/fwlink/?LinkId=70682

  • Transmission protocol and port: The transmission protocol used is HTTP and the port is 80.

  • Ability to disable: You (the IT professional) can disable the Help Experience Improvement Program by using Group Policy. A user or administrator can turn participation in the program on or off through the Help and Support Center user interface. If Online Help is turned off (through either Group Policy or through the Help and Support Center interface), this also turns off the Help Experience Improvement Program.

Controlling Features Within Help and Support that Communicate Through the Internet

The following list summarizes how you can control the features within Help and Support that communicate through the Internet:

  • Online Help

    • Through the Windows interface: In Help and Support, Online Help can be turned off through a menu in the lower-right corner or through Options\Settings in the upper-right corner.

    • Through Group Policy: In User Configuration\Administrative Templates\System\Internet Communication Management\Internet Communication settings, you can enable Turn off Windows Online.

  • Help ratings and feedback

    • Through the Windows interface: In Help and Support, you can turn off the Help ratings and feedback capability by turning off Online Help, which is controlled through a menu in the lower-right corner or through Options\Settings in the upper-right corner.

    • Through Group Policy: In User Configuration\Administrative Templates\System\Internet Communication Management\Internet Communication settings, you can enable Turn off Help Ratings.

  • Help Experience Improvement Program

    • Through the Windows interface: In Help and Support, the Help Experience Improvement Program can be turned off by clicking the menu in either the upper-right or lower-right corner and then clicking Settings. If Online Help is turned off, this also turns off the Help Experience Improvement Program.

    • Through Group Policy: In User Configuration\Administrative Templates\System\Internet Communication Management\Internet Communication settings, you can enable Turn off Help Experience Improvement Program.

Procedures for Disabling Features Within Help and Support that Communicate Through the Internet

The following procedures describe how to:

  • Turn off Online Help on an individual computer running Windows Vista. This also turns off the Help ratings and feedback capability and the Help Experience Improvement Program.

  • Turn off the Help Experience Improvement Program on an individual computer running Windows Vista.

  • Use Group Policy to disable any of the features within Help that communicate through the Internet.

To Turn Off Online Help and the Help Ratings and Feedback Capability on an Individual Computer Running Windows Vista

  1. Click Start and then click Help and Support.

  2. In the lower-right corner of Help and Support, find the menu that says either Online Help or Offline Help.

    noteNote
    If the menu does not appear, it means that Group Policy settings are in effect that turn off the associated Help and Support capabilities.
  3. Confirm or configure the setting:

    • If the menu says Offline Help and it does not have a yellow exclamation point icon, Online Help is already turned off.

    • If the menu says Offline Help and it has a yellow exclamation point icon, Online Help is turned on but there is no connection to the Internet. To turn off Online Help, click Get offline Help.

    • If the menu says Online Help, Online Help is turned on and there is a connection to the Internet. To turn it off, click Get offline Help.

      noteNote
      When Online Help is turned off, the Help ratings and feedback capability and the Help Experience Improvement Program are turned off.

To Turn Off the Help Experience Improvement Program on an Individual Computer Running Windows Vista

  1. Click Start and then click Help and Support.

  2. In the upper-right corner of Help and Support, click Options, and then click Settings.

    noteNote
    If the Settings command does not appear, it means that a Group Policy that controls these settings is in effect.
  3. Make sure that the Join the Help Experience Improvement Program check box is cleared.

To Use Group Policy to Disable Features Within Help that Communicate Through the Internet

  1. See Appendix B: Resources for Learning About Group Policy for Windows Vista for information about using Group Policy. Using an account with domain administrative credentials, log on to a computer running Windows Vista, open Group Policy Management Console (GPMC) by running gpmc.msc, and then edit an appropriate Group Policy object (GPO).

    noteNote
    You must perform this procedure by using GPMC on a computer running Windows Vista (GPMC is included in Windows Vista).
  2. Expand User Configuration.

    ImportantImportant
    For these settings, do not click Computer Configuration. The settings under Computer Configuration that relate to Help do not control the settings in Windows Vista.
  3. Expand Administrative Templates, expand System, expand Internet Communication Management, and then click Internet Communication settings.

  4. In the details pane, double-click Turn off Help Ratings, click Enabled, and then click Next Setting.

  5. Repeat as appropriate for the next two settings that affect capabilities in Help and Support. (For each setting, you can also click the Explain tab to view information about the setting, then click the Setting tab again.) The next two settings are:

    • Turn off Help Experience Improvement Program

    • Turn off Windows Online (When you turn off Windows Online, you also turn off Help Ratings and the Help Experience Improvement Program.)

    ImportantImportant
    You can also restrict Internet access for this and a number of other features by applying the Restrict Internet communication policy setting, which is located in User Configuration\Administrative Templates\System\Internet Communication Management. For more information about this Group Policy and the policies that it controls, see Appendix C: Group Policy Settings Listed Under the Internet Communication Management Category in Windows Vista.

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