What is an Error Report?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

An error report is a document which provides information about an error or series of errors which have occurred. Error reports are used in a number of different settings, with the goal of improving systems so that users are less likely to experience errors, and informing users when errors happen. A group of error reports lumped together may be known as an error log, indicating that the document contains multiple entries.

Woman holding a disc
Woman holding a disc

Most operating systems and software programs write error reports when errors occur, and a warning pops up to alert the user to the fact that an error has happened. Many systems also offer users the option of sending in an error report. In this case, the documentation of the error in the form of an error report is sent to the company which developed the product, so that the information can be used to address bugs and other problems with the product.

The practice of sending error reports has been controversial in some areas. Some users do not send error reports because they are concerned about privacy; while identifying details are stripped out, a great deal of information can be embedded because it may be important to the context of the error. Some programs are not clear about how the data will be used and what steps are taken to protect user privacy, in which case users may not be enamored with the idea of authorizing their computers to send an error report.

On the Internet, most servers keep error logs which can be accessed by the webmaster. The log details the errors which happened on the server, and what kinds of errors they were. This allows webmasters to make fixes which are designed to make their websites easier to use. Error logs can reveal bugs, problems with browser incompatibility, bad links, and so forth, and can sometimes be sorted by parameter so that webmasters can look for all errors of a particular type to identify patterns.

The contents of an error report can vary, depending on the program logging the reports. The report usually indicates when the error occurred and what the user was trying to do. If an error message was displayed, the report indicates which message was displayed. Reports can also show the program's best guess at what went wrong, how the error was resolved, and so forth. More detailed error reports can include operating system information, data about which other programs might have been running, and other information about settings on the computer or device which might have had an impact on the error.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon65904

My script error problem only occurs upon receiving an e-mail from one particular address.

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