Engineering Windows 7

Welcome to our blog dedicated to the engineering of Microsoft Windows 7

The Windows Feedback Program

The Windows Feedback Program

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Introducing Christina Storm who is a program manager on the Windows Customer Engineering feature team working on telemetry. 

In a previous article Steven has introduced the Windows 7 Feature Teams. I am a program manager working on telemetry on the Windows Customer Engineering team. Our team delivers the Windows Feedback Program, one of several feedback programs in place today that allow us to work directly with customers and make them part of our engineering process.

The Windows Feedback Program (WFP) has been active for several years during the Windows XP and Windows Vista product cycles, and we are currently ramping up to get all aspects of this program ready for Windows 7. At the core of this program is a large research panel of customers who sign up via our website during open enrollment. Customers choose to be part of a survey program, an automated feedback program or both. They then complete a 20-minute profiling survey, which later allows us to look at their feedback based on their profile. We have customers spanning a wide spectrum of computer knowledge in our program, and we are constantly working on balancing the panel to staff up underrepresented groups. The majority of customers who are spontaneously willing to participate in a feedback program like ours are generally enthusiastic about technology. They are early adopters of consumer electronics, digital devices and new versions of software. In contrast, customers who see the PC as a tool to get a job done tend to be a bit more reluctant to join. And we also need more female participants!

Customers who participate in the automated feedback program install a data collection tool developed by the Windows Telemetry Team. The privacy agreement of this program describes the data collections our tool performs. Here are a few examples:

  • Windows usage behavior including installed and used applications.
  • File and folder structures on your computer, including number of types of files in folders, such as number of jpg files in the Pictures folder.
  • System-specific information, such as hardware, devices, drivers, and settings installed on your computer.
  • Windows Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP) data.

From the collected data we create reports that are consumed by a large number of Windows feature teams as well as planners and user researchers. This chart below shows the answer to the following question: What is the most common file type that customers who participate in our program store on their PCs and what are the most popular storage locations?

Graph showing common file types and locations.  The most common file type are .jpg across all typical locations.

The results help us both with planning for handling the volumes of data customers store on their PCs as well as mimicking real-life scenarios in our test labs by setting up PCs with similar file numbers and file sizes and distribution of files on the PCs.

These data collections furthermore allow us to create reports based on profiled panelists. The above chart may look different if we created it based on data delivered only by developers and then compare it to data delivered only by gamers, just to name a couple of different profiles that participate in our program. The Windows knowledge level sometimes makes a difference, too. Therefore it is very important to us that customers participate in this program who consider themselves Windows experts as well as customers who don’t enjoy spending too much time with the PC, who just see the PC as a tool to get things done. Based on the data, we may decide to optimize certain functionality for a particular profile.

In general, we utilize this data to better understand what to improve in the next version of Windows.  Let’s take a look at how the representative sample has their monitors configured.  First what resolutions do customers run with on their PCs?  The following table lists typical resolutions and the distribution based on the Windows Customer Experience Improvement Program, which samples all opt-in PCs (Note the numbers do not add to 100% because not every single resolution is included):

Distribution of common screen resolutions.  Approximately 46% of customers run with 1600x1200 and 1280x1024.  Approximately 10% of customers run with HD resolution.

One thing you might notice is that about 10% of consumers are running with HD or greater resolution.  In some of the comments, people were asking if our data represented the “top” or “power users”.  Given this sample size and the number of folks with industry leading resolution I think it is reasonable to conclude that we adequately represent this and all segments.  This sample is a large sample (those that opt-in) of an extremely large dataset (all Windows customers) so is statistically relevant for segmented studies,

We have found that a large percentage of our program participants lower their display resolution from the highest usable for their display. Looking at the data coming from the Windows Customer Experience Improvement Program to compare to, and noticed a similar trend: over 50% of customers with 1600x1200 screen resolution displays are adjusting their resolution down to 1024x768, likely because they find it uncomfortable to read the tiny text on high resolution displays. The negative effect of this resolution change is the loss of fidelity to the point where reading text in editors and web browsers is difficult. High definition video content also won’t be able to render properly.

Here is the data just for customers with displays capable of 1600x1200:

Actual running resolution for customers with 1600x1200 capable displays shows that 68% of customers reduce their actual screen resolution.

In a future blog post, one of the program managers from the Windows Desktop Graphics team is going to describe what we have done with that information to improve display quality and reading comfort in Windows 7.

We also frequently use our data to select appropriate participants for a survey. A researcher may be interested in sending out an online survey only to active users of virtual machine applications. We would first determine that group of users by looking at our “application usage” data and then create the list of participants for the researcher. Sometimes we combine automatically collected data with survey responses to analyze the relationship between a customer’s overall satisfaction and their PC configuration.

At the current point in time, 50% of our panel participants are using Windows XP and 50% are using Windows Vista. We are currently not offering open enrollment. If you are interested in being invited to this program, please send an email to indicating “Notify me for enrollment” in the subject line. If you’d like to add a bit of information about yourself, including your Windows knowledge level, that would be much appreciated! We will add you to our request queue and make our best effort to invite you when we have capacity.

When we release the Windows 7 beta we will also be collecting feedback from this panel and asking for participation from a set of Windows 7 beta users. Our current plans call for signing up for the beta to happen in the standard Microsoft manner on Stay tuned!

-- Christina Storm

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  • @Ytterbium  -- hey run with dual 20" 16x12 monitors on my primary machine at work :-)


  • Here's another reason for lowering the resolution on a CRT display: Refresh rate.

    Some CRTs can display high resolutions only with a very low refresh rate.  Honestly, on a CRT, 60Hz hurts my eyes.  For me, it has never been about the size, but rather about the noticeable flickering.  So this can also be attributed to the hardware's performance, and not Windows' performace.  :-)

  • I think you've successfully proven that there are more legacy 4:3 screens out there than newer widescreen 16:9 screens. Could have told you that. However, if you go to a store today, try and buy a non-LCD display or one that isn't widescreen. These numbers are going to turn around faster than you think. Also, its skewed because for desktops with a separate monitor, most folks want as much screen area as they can get. With laptops/portables, size is an issue and these are almost always smaller screens and with less resolution. The question is, do you really want to encourage anyone to run Windows 7 on an old 4:3 CRT? Again, I just don't recommend anyone is going to try an in-place upgrade. They may try and re-use older peripherals, but LCDs are cheap enough now they might as well replace them. In a corporate environment, I don't think there's much need for HD, but in consumer devices, I don't know why you wouldn't start there. Is anyone really still buying 720p TVs? The savings over 1080p just isn't worth it.

    I'll also comment on the number of files. Its ridiculous. My Windows directory contains 21,000 files and 2,300 folders. There are 46 folders at the base level (not counting hidden ones). For anything that is part of the OS, it should natively appear as a single file container: Windows.WIN. Or if not that, a very minimal number. Better still, put it in its own locked partition that I can't see and can't access without special tools. It needs to be an archive type file, not a whole bunch of individual files. Provide special commands to update the archive file with new versions, and have it retain all the old versions and make it easy to revert. Any application should also be a single main 'file' container, not 500 DLLs in a folder. Any complexity like this should be well hidden from a user, and furthermore, you can load the whole file into memory at once and then figure out what's really needed/linked/activated rather than loading each file individually. There should also be one config file per user for each app, easily located.

  • The issue with performance-sapping background tasks is that they kick off without warning or can't be switched off. When gaming, I run ProcessIdleTasks before I start so the OS doesn't suddenly decide to 'optimize' my file system and robbing me of FPS. Other culprits: antivirus scans (Norton runs one every 15 minutes in advanced mode, no way to temporarily turn it off) and any and all numbers of background updaters, some of which I can configure and some of which I can't and that seem to kick off at random times. Yes, I've looked at all the suggestions on what services you can safely stop, but I've always got a bunch I can't identify where they are from or what they do. When gaming, ANYTHING which starts off as a background task unexpectedly can both grab disk accesses, grab network bandwidth, or grab CPU resources ALL of which results in slowdown/glitches in the game. I use a TrackIR. It takes about 2% of CPU, which doesn't sound like a lot, but it creates a noticeable stuttering. Even a very low percentage can create problems. I also have a LCD monitor I can rotate. That little utility takes 6% of CPU... so yes, I disable that before gaming.

  • The best update in Vista compared to XP was the ability to postpone the automatic reboot after a Windows Update by up to 4 hours at a time, instead of just 10 minutes at a time.

    However, how about going one step further: Why require a reboot at all? It is technically possible to engineer the system such that no reboot is necessary, no matter what the update does (unless it touches something like the kernel virtual memory subsystem, at which point the effort required might be too much).

    In fact, I could install Vista, and then download and install a new graphics driver, without rebooting the computer. That was a good feeling! Make sure that Windows Update, and Windows Installer, deliver that same feeling for any update/install.

    Requiring a reboot just because a hole in IE was patched through Windows Update is quite annoying, especially since my poor 2GB RAM dual-core laptop takes 5 minutes just to shut down (all the apps I run each need to page in all their data, just to figure out there's nothing to save and then quit), and rebooting takes another 5 minutes until a responsive machine (at which point I can start apps I regularly use, like Outlook, Photoshop, etc).

    Also, the responsibility of the system for non-I/O-bound processes when some I/O-bound process like Outlook is running could probably be improved, say by prioritizing I/O requests from apps that don't make lots of them.

    But, most importantly: Don't require a reboot just to patch anything at the application/DLL level!

  • I don't like having to have both WMP and Zune software on my computer. It would be nice if you could combine WMP into Zune and then Windows 7 would just come with the Zune software for managing/playing media.

  • Seconded.

    My suggestion on this line is to allow for integration between the playlists, and then merge the Zune software into the WMP software, with the Zune software as the base. The WMP team should be folded to the Zune team or something.

    As for branding, the more advanced version can be called Windows Live Media Player and have the Zune bits, and the scaled back version can retain its WMP name.

    I dunno, it just seems like a waste to have two playlist formats let alone two media players.

  • @Christina Storm: The 3D column chart is not a good idea here, can anyone see the value for .htm/common? Also what is the y-scale here? 100 files as the zero point and 110 files at the top?

    Why not using a stacked column chart or grouped bar chart? And axis labels please.

  • 22" monitors are becoming affordable and standard at least in Western Australia.  LCD native is 1680x1050 32 bit colour.  My ati 1650x pro card does not list that.  Causes all sorts of reset problems. (Even with a profile set.)

    Most web browsers allow you to increase or decrease the text size by holding down the [Ctrl] key and rolling your mouse wheel back and forward. One browser even remembers the size you choose for each page view and retains it for future visits.

    In Vista, My Documents is renamed DOCUMENTS and is under Users and your name.

    To enlarge desktop icons right click> View and select large, medium or classic.  To increase the text size through-out Vista open Control panel, select ease of Access and Optimize visual display - then Change the size of text and icons.. (Default is 96)  I am 57, so have mine set to 120 dpi.

    It's not that things aren't available, it's how easy the general public (that's me) can find them.  I always found Vista the easiest OS to navigate.  It's just I couldn't connect to the Net (for 2 months) because my former 3G wireless ISP hated it.

  • Most 3:4 20" LCD's are 1600x1200

    Before the 20" widescreens became popular that was the best size to have.  I have a Dell 2001FP which is 1600x1200. It's a awesome IPS-S LCD. Anyhow all the comments are correct, windows DPI scaling is hardly useful. Some programs scale some don't most end users just lower the resolution of their LCD's from native. Heck, I can't even stop my mother from lowering the Res. She claims the high res is too hard to read. I can change the DPI but menus in word do not scale. So it is in effect currently a near useless feature.

  • I'm confused, Isn't 1280x720 an HD resolution?

    I realise that 1920x1080 is the higher standard for HD and I am aware of 2k cinema and 3 higher standards.

    My point is Isn't 1280x720 considered HD? Because as far as I am aware they don't sell very many 3:4 monitors any more. I think that if they are planing on the basis of past hardware they may be making a poor choice. How many people with old systems will purchase Windows 7?    Most likely the person who buys windows 7 will have a 19" or 22" widescreen monitor with 1680x1050 or better resolution.

    Keep the past in mind, but plan for the future.

  • take advantage of this thread, to close in advance lies in the blogosphere

    this is a mid fake?

  • Customization , efficient and smaller core , services enabled and disabled when needed what has do work with programs <- can't it be done that they run like you are switching profiles  when some things need restart or something then it just makes some refresh while eliminating  unneeded stuff?

    And can it use different ways for SSD and HHD ?

    Because there can come many different performance issues if computer doesn't change its behaviors of handling based on hardware.

    Will beta be released after the conferences counting peoples feedback s gathered there?  

  • Interesting in jwatte's comments about not rebooting. Most of the time you need to reboot in order to update files that are in use. If you update an operating system component you could potentially kill the process that's using it. However other applications might then become unstable, because they were not expecting this operating system component to just disappear.

    Even my Linux computer needs to reboot after some updates.

  • Ok that's gonna be great. I have always wanted to give feedback on Windows and test beta versions. Why will Windows 7 beta be only available to some testers? why not to all the users? If it's available to all the users, users will submit more bug reports to Microsoft via error reporting and give their opinions about features to Microsoft via connect. Which will help Windows to become more stable and user friendly. As opposed to waiting for SP1 like many have always had because of many unfixed and annoying bugs and security holes like there's always been in Vista and XP. I didn't buy XP and Vista until SP1 was out. So doing so would enable Microsoft to release a more stable and stable operating system. Thanks

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