It’s all about the placebo effect in this blog post. Does the hyped “Dr. Watson tweak” (which is supposed to shut down secret, resource-intense background-logging activities) actually improve your system’s performance? Let’s figure out if it’s really a tuning fact or fiction.
Unfortunately, some technical books and articles discussed the “Dr. Watson” program that apparently logs all of the activities on your Windows XP, Vista, and 7 machines and sends them to Microsoft. This was rumored to not only compromise your privacy but also decrease the performance of your PC.
To disable the “Dr. Watson” program, various sources recommended opening the registry key “HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\AeDebug”, double-clicking on “Auto” and typing in “0″. But does this really help?
What is the “Dr. Watson” program?
“Dr. Watson” is a debugging tool for applications. If a program crashes, “Dr. Watson” is able to jump in, collect data and, if you choose to do so, manually transfer this data to support personnel to diagnose the problem. The data is stored in the “Drwtson32.log” file and can be immediately sent to Microsoft. Some additional background information on “Dr. Watson” within modern Windows operating systems:
- Microsoft developed an advanced technology based on “Dr. Watson” that was introduced in Windows XP. Known as “Windows Error Reporting” (WER), this technology automatically offers to send debugging information to Microsoft, thus helping the company to solve most of the problems in the operating system. So, “Dr. Watson” is almost obsolete in the operating system but is still there if someone needs it.
- “Dr. Watson” is only available in Windows XP and earlier Microsoft operating systems. It was replaced with the “Problem Reports and Solutions” applet of the Windows Vista Control Panel, which is called “Problem reporting” in the Windows 7’s Action Center.
As you can see, “Dr. Watson” is nothing more than one of the many legacy tools in Windows XP.
Debunking the myth
First of all, “Dr. Watson” does not run at any time during regular Windows XP (SP3) usage, which we’ve monitored for long periods of time. Even during a couple of application crashes, “Dr. Watson” does not magically turn itself on; instead, WER appeared.
To further debunk this myth, we conducted a small series of benchmarks using PCMark Vantage (To see how we conduct benchmarks at the TuneUp Blog, read this blog post.) Here are the performance results—both before and after disabling “Dr. Watson”.
PC Mark Vantage
As you can see, the productivity benchmark, PCMark Vantage, did not show any noticeable differences, regardless of whether “Dr. Watson” was enabled or disabled. “Dr. Watson” doesn’t affect performance in Windows XP, and it’s not even a factor if you’re using Vista or 7.
Are there any tweaks that you think don’t have a purpose or that you’ve always doubted? Leave us a comment; we’d love to prove if it’s just a myth—or if there’s any truth behind it.
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