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Online Device Help and Internet Communication

Applies To: Windows Server 2003 with SP1

This section provides information about:

  • The benefits of Online Device Help

  • How Online Device Help communicates with sites on the Internet

  • How to control Online Device Help to limit the flow of information to and from the Internet

Benefits and Purposes of Online Device Help

Online Device Help (also known as the "Get help for my hardware device" wizard) delivers targeted content on problems with hardware and peripheral devices installed on the system. This mitigates the need for calls to support professionals to resolve hardware issues. You interact with Online Device Help in products in the Microsoft Windows Server 2003 family when installing new hardware (through the Found New Hardware Wizard).

At the conclusion of the Found New Hardware Wizard, when the system uses a device driver that is not found on the operating system installation CD or is not available through Windows Update, Online Device Help collects anonymous data on the problem device (including a unique hardware identifier for that device) and sends that information over the Internet to a server at Microsoft. If a match for the device is found, content on that device is then downloaded to the system and is displayed in the Help and Support Center user interface. This content may include:

  • Information from the independent hardware vendor (IHV) about upcoming and planned device support.

  • Links to the product compatibility area in Help and Support Center to enable users to search or browse the Windows Server Catalog Web site for compatible devices. The Windows Server Catalog Web site is located at:


  • A link to the Web site of the IHV for that device.

The data provided by Online Device Help enables Microsoft to identify the number and system locale of users experiencing hardware problems due to missing drivers and to identify the most common problem devices. Microsoft works with these hardware vendors to provide targeted troubleshooting content on the most common problem hardware devices.

This section of the white paper explains how to control Online Device Help in a managed environment.

Overview: Using Online Device Help in a Managed Environment

You have control over whether to upload the data required by Online Device Help. You can also block Online Device Help at the firewall or through the Services snap-in. The configuration options and procedures for controlling Online Device Help are described later in this section.

How Online Device Help Communicates with Sites on the Internet

If no information for a particular hardware device is found on either the installation CD for the operating system or through Windows Update, you are prompted to release anonymous information about the hardware profile through Online Device Help. This subsection summarizes the communication process:

  • Specific information sent or received: The following information is collected from the computer running Windows Server 2003 and is uploaded to a server at Microsoft. The user or administrator is not uniquely identified.

    • The hardware ID, also known as the PnPID (code that indicates the device manufacturer, device name, and version)

    • The time and date that the data was sent

    • Language code of the operating system, and platform and build information

  • Default and recommended settings: Online Device Help is enabled by default. Recommended settings are described in the next subsection, "Controlling Online Device Help to Limit the Flow of Information to and from the Internet."

  • Triggers: Online Device Help is triggered if no information for a particular hardware device is found after you complete the Found New Hardware Wizard.

  • User notification: You are prompted to send anonymous hardware profile data to a server at Microsoft. If you opt to send this information, the privacy statement is displayed. You can view the contents of the hardware.xml file being uploaded by clicking a link on the privacy statement page.

  • Logging: Errors that result from problems installing hardware devices without drivers are logged to the event log.

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

  • Access: The raw data uploaded to the server is accessible to operations engineers at Microsoft.com and is used in the Windows Hardware Quality Labs (WHQL) to improve Windows-compatible hardware and drivers.

  • Privacy statement: Online Device Help is covered by its own privacy statement. The privacy statement (located in a file on your computer at systemroot\pchealth\helpctr\system\dfs\privacy.htm) is displayed when you opt to send the anonymous hardware profile data to Microsoft.

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

  • Ability to disable: You cannot disable Online Device Help directly. Disabling Internet access or HTTP port 80 will, however, block Online Device Help, as will disabling the Upload Manager service.

Controlling Online Device Help to Limit the Flow of Information to and from the Internet

You have control over whether to upload anonymous hardware profile information about your system. You cannot, however, disable Online Device Help directly. To block Online Device Help, you can restrict Internet access or configure the Services snap-in to disable the Upload Manager service (uploadmgr).

How Controlling Online Device Help Can Affect Users and Applications

If you decide to disable Online Device Help, users or administrators will not be prompted to upload anonymous hardware profile information and they will not receive up-to-date, targeted self-help content on hardware issues relating to missing or problem drivers.

If you restrict Internet access to block Online Device Help, the feature will queue the data and periodically retry to upload the hardware profile information for some period of time. If an Internet connection becomes available during that period, Online Device Help will upload the queued data. If an Internet connection does not become available, no data will be uploaded. Users will not be impacted in either case.

Procedure for Controlling Online Device Help

You cannot disable Online Device Help directly but can do so indirectly by disabling the Upload Manager service in Windows Server 2003.

To Disable Online Device Help by Disabling the Upload Manager Service

  1. Click Start, and then either click Control Panel, or point to Settings and then click Control Panel.

  2. Double-click Administrative Tools, and then double-click Services.

  3. In the details pane, right-click Upload Manager, and then click Properties.

    The Upload Manager service is the underlying service used by Online Device Help.

  4. Click the Log On tab, then click the hardware profile that you want to configure, and then click Disable.

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