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Program Compatibility Wizard and Internet Communication (Windows Server 2003)

Updated: July 31, 2004

Applies To: Windows Server 2003 with SP1

This section provides information about:

  • The benefits of the Program Compatibility Wizard

  • How the Program Compatibility Wizard communicates with sites on the Internet

  • How to control the Program Compatibility Wizard to prevent the flow of information to the Internet

Benefits and Purposes of the Program Compatibility Wizard

Most programs run properly on products in the Microsoft Windows Server 2003 family. The exceptions are some older games and other programs that were written specifically for an earlier version of Windows.

To enable a better user experience, Microsoft has integrated technologies for application compatibility into the Windows Server 2003 family. Application compatibility technologies are applied whenever an application is installed on the operating system, whether in the course of a system upgrade or during regular operations. Some of these technologies work automatically to apply compatibility fixes, while others can be selected by users or administrators.

This section addresses a component that users and administrators can use, the Program Compatibility Wizard. If you have an application compatibility problem, you can use the wizard to make setting adjustments and to run the application successfully.

Overview: Using the Program Compatibility Wizard in a Managed Environment

IT administrators who want to get an application to work quickly, without addressing compatibility for the application throughout their organization, may choose to use the Program Compatibility Wizard. You can use the wizard to detect and test compatibility settings. If compatibility problems prevent you from installing a program, you can run the Program Compatibility Wizard on the Setup file for the program.

In the Windows Server 2003 family you can access the Program Compatibility Wizard by default through Programs\Accessories or All Programs\Accessories. At the completion of the wizard you are presented with “Program Compatibility Data” that states, “Microsoft has created temporary files that contain information about the settings you selected and whether the problems were fixed. Sending this information to Microsoft will help us improve program compatibility.” You can then choose to send this information to Microsoft or not. You can also choose to click a link to a Web site to view the data collection policy and you can choose to view the temporary files that will be sent. Allowing users or administrators to do this, however, may present a privacy problem for highly managed organizations.

As an alternative to running the Program Compatibility Wizard, you can set the compatibility properties manually through the Compatibility tab of a program’s Properties sheet. To do this you right-click the program icon, click Properties, click Compatibility, and then change the compatibility settings.

Administrators can use Group Policy to disable access to the Program Compatibility Wizard. Alternatively, if you want to allow use of the wizard you can control where data collected by the Program Compatibility Wizard is sent. You can prevent data transfer to the Internet by using Group Policy settings related to error reporting and you can have data from the wizard sent to a server on your intranet instead of to Microsoft. For more information about these procedures, see "Controlling Program Compatibility Wizard Data to Prevent the Flow of Information to the Internet," later in this section.

How the Program Compatibility Wizard Communicates with Sites on the Internet

Although you can control information sent by the Program Compatibility Wizard, it is designed to communicate over the Internet to expedite problem solving. This subsection lists details of the communication process:

  • Specific information sent or received: The results of the Program Compatibility Wizard data, including settings and problems that were encountered with the application being installed, are sent to Microsoft. The user is not uniquely identified.

  • Default and recommended settings: Use of the Program Compatibility Wizard is enabled by default. Recommended settings are discussed in the next subsection, "Controlling Program Compatibility Wizard Data to Prevent the Flow of Information to the Internet."

  • Trigger and notification: In the last dialog box of the wizard, users are asked if they want to send information to Microsoft. Data is not sent automatically.

  • Logging: There is no information related to the Program Compatibility Wizard entered into the event log.

  • Encryption: HTTPS is used to perform the data transfer to Microsoft.

  • Access: The Microsoft product group has access to the raw data only.

  • Privacy statement: The privacy statement is the same as that associated with Windows Error Reporting (WER) data. A link to the privacy statement on the Web is provided in the wizard.

  • Transmission protocol and port: The transmission protocol used is HTTPS and the port is 443.

  • Ability to disable: You can disable the Program Compatibility Wizard by using Group Policy.

For more information about the type of information sent to Microsoft, how the data is used, encryption, and the privacy statement, see the section of this white paper titled Windows Error Reporting and Internet Communication (Windows Server 2003).

Controlling Program Compatibility Wizard Data to Prevent the Flow of Information to the Internet

To control use of the Program Compatibility Wizard you can either disable it or control where information collected by the wizard is sent.

Disabling the wizard

If you want to prevent the use of the Program Compatibility Wizard you can disable it by using Group Policy. In Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\Windows Components\Application Compatibility, configure Turn Off Program Compatibility Wizard. This policy setting does the following:

  • When enabled, this policy setting disables the start page of the wizard in Help and Support Center, and in the Start menu.

  • These entry points will still exist, but the first page of Help and Support Center will let the user know that this option has been disabled.

Routing the data to an intranet server

Using Group Policy you can configure the Report Errors policy setting to prevent data collected by the Program Compatibility Wizard from being sent to Microsoft. By using configuration options within error reporting you can have the data sent to a server on your intranet instead of to Microsoft. When you configure error reporting this way you activate Corporate Error Reporting (CER).

The Report Errors policy setting is located in Computer Configuration\Administrative Templates\System\Error Reporting. For more information and procedures for configuring error reporting see the section of this white paper titled Windows Error Reporting and Internet Communication (Windows Server 2003).

If you use this approach for reporting errors, the user experience with the Program Compatibility Wizard does not change. The dialog box that presents the option of sending data to Microsoft is the same. If the user selects Yes, the data is sent to the designated server on your intranet.

Procedure for Disabling the Program Compatibility Wizard

Use the following procedure to disable the Program Compatibility Wizard. For the procedure to configure error reporting see the section, Windows Error Reporting and Internet Communication (Windows Server 2003).

To disable the Program Compatibility Wizard

  1. Use the resources described in Appendix B: Resources for Learning About Group Policy (Windows Server 2003) to learn about Group Policy and the Group Policy Management Console. Apply Group Policy objects (GPOs) to an organizational unit, a domain, or a site, as appropriate for your situation.

  2. Click Computer Configuration, click Administrative Templates, click Windows Components, and then click Application Compatibility.

  3. In the details pane, double-click Turn Off Program Compatibility Wizard, and then click Enabled.

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