What support can one expect for preinstalled OS?

  Ellen G 16:03 08 May 2004

I have had difficulties accessing (free) technical support for XP, which came preinstalled with my new laptop, and which behaved oddly after set-up. I thought I could contact the manufacturer's telephone helpline and get free advice. Silly me! They refused saying the XP problem was not a 'fault'. I must have done something wrong so they would only help if I paid them.

When I read the license agreement details for software on the manufacturer's website, I realised that they there was no obligation for them to provide support, even for people like me, with three year warranties. Re software at least, you are on your own, lest you're lucky and get a sympathetic person on the line.

I have a disability which means I can't spend hours trawling through info online to find the answers. And the one book I bought didn't have the answer.

In the past, the companies I bought my computers from have been immensely helpful. Is the change peculiar to the company I chose this time, or is this an industry-wide trend?

Thank goodness for PC Advisor's helpline. (They couldn't solve the problem either, so proving I wasn't dealing with something terribly basic).

I'm sending my laptop back. When I paid for a this model plus the three year warranty, I paid for more than help with hardware. But legally, I know I'm on shaky ground. Once I switched the computer on, I 'accepted the computer'. And in terms of the hardware, it works.

I thought technical support for the OS was for all sorts of problems. Not just 'bugs'.

  Diodorus Siculus 16:07 08 May 2004

Do you want to post the problems here and see if someone has come across it before?

  powerless 16:07 08 May 2004

How you tell us what your problem with XP is?

Pre-installed = OEM = Support from the company you bought the PC of.

  temp003 16:16 08 May 2004

The problem with pre-installed Windows is the computer manufacturer and Microsoft quite often keep passing the buck to the other. Both say that it's for the other party to sort it out.

Who did you buy the laptop from, or who is the manufacturer? Some of the larger OEMs have "representatives" on this forum, and if you name the OEM here, or start a new thread with their name in the title, you might get a response from them, especially if they know you suffer from a disability. You might get a sympathetic ear.

  961 16:35 08 May 2004

It's a fact of life these days that manufacturers of hardware buy windows operating systems from Microsoft at a large discount on the basis that they, and not Microsoft, provide the suppoet for the software. In practical terms, so far as you (and me too) are concerned, that generally means a phone helpline, often at a premium rate, which may eventually connect to an advisor who may not know much about the solution to your problem even if you are technically minded enough to explain it properly.

The basic advice must be to buy the computer with a credit card, test the product on arrival and see that it works to your satisfaction. If it doesn't, then send it back under the distance selling regulations and if there is a problem getting a refund then kick up a fuss with the credit card company

An alternative is to buy (again with a credit card) from a local retailer and see the thing up and working properly before you purchase. If it goes wrong and the supplier is local you can always take the laptop in for him to help. (I'm not talking Dixons or PCWorld here)

Once you have bought a computer you will find that the Microsoft web site and probably this forum are the two places to find help

At Microsoft there is a help page where you can type in the problem and see what it comes up with. It may sound unlikely, but it does actually work most of the time

This forum can help. Most of the folk here have had software problems galore and many of them have found the answer which they will be happy to share with you, even if only to show how totally clever they think they are

You have learned that support for software is pretty thin these days. Even if you buy the full retail product and rely on Microsoft support it only lasts a very short time and after that you will have to pay a hefty fee

It may be some consolation that if a new product works ok when you get it, then it will probably continue to do so, and even if the software goes wrong the current system restore arrangements will usually put things right easily

If it doesn't work well when new then, as many of us know, it may well be a total pain and is best sent back from where it came straight away

  Ellen G 17:46 08 May 2004

Thanks to all who responded but spending long periods reading articles on the microsoft site, trying to finds the right one and reading them, is not an option for me. My eyes just stop being able to see anything after a while but blurred images. When the muscles go, that's it. Please accept that my restriction is a real restriction. I really needed tech support on the phone.

The unsympathetic company was IBM. I've had two computers from them in the past and they were brilliant. Indeed, they used to send engineers down from the local service centre to help me. All I had to say that I was disabled and they were round here, often within 24 hours. That changed in recent years but they were still friendly and helpful on the phone. Not that I had many problems. And the few I had were ably managed by PC Advisor experts, who unlike IBM, were there for me after 5.

Re going to a shop: not many shops have IBM laptops for you to look at. Not around here. I have a John Lewis, which has a lot of Toshibas, but Toshibas don't have all the ports I want. My IBM had everything. When I chose the model, I checked with the dealer and they said that IBM would help with tech support. Ahem! I could also pay a subscription to them.

I solved the problem of the keyboard using my knowledge of 98SE, the clock going back for no reason is a mystery but did not recur after I reset it and the lovely man from the PC Advisor helpline checked that I had done what I should have re stopping Windows Messenger from loading and the fact that it this did not stop it harrassing me was therefore odd. No info on Knowledge base except a warning not to remove it. The point is, this forum is online and requires eyes. Ok for now but not for all my problems, should i have any, in the future. Eggs and baskets?

I bought the laptop using a debit card and have sent the folks at the bank a copy of the letter to the dealer rejecting the computer. But as IBM have a notice on their website and in their manual with the get-out clause (no free help for software), the machine works (i.e. it's not unsatisfactory under the Sales of Goods Act 1979)and the Distance Selling 2000 regulations state that it doesn't cover personalised computers (mine had extra memory), this is not straightforward. The legal issue therefore is, was IBM entitled to charge me for questions re the preinstalled OS? Should the terms and conditions and info on warranty have made it clear that support for issues other than faults in XP was to be paid for? (I don't think it did). Was I paying for the hardware and use of software only? (I think, legally, I was).

For other disabled users, Dell allow you to check the computer at home and will give free technical advice (though have no experience myself how good that is). My last laptop was a Samsung, which fell apart after four years. But they offered good advice for the first three. (They spoiled me, so what IBM did came as a shock).

  hugh-265156 17:58 08 May 2004

with most companies after the first switch on and accepting the windows license you are then on your own when it comes to windows.

usually most windows problems are caused by the user installing something or deleting something or changing a setting when they should have left it alone.for that matter if software technical support help is given its usually paid for.

faulty hardware is a different matter.

there are not many windows problems that cannot be easily fixed.what is the problem/s you are having?

sombody here will be able to help you if you can give us some more details on the faults etc please.

  Ellen G 18:37 08 May 2004

Dear huggy71,

The XP problems have been solved by reverting to factory settings courtesy of IBM's system restore software. It meant loss of personal settings and documents though. Sigh. It would have been easier to find a solution which required less draconian measures.

As I stated before, I cannot rely on online resources. I will therefore continue to use telephone advisors for the majority of problems.

It wasn't only that IBM were unhelpful. They also made me feel stupid. So I was grateful for the PC Advisor expert who took me through all the options to control Windows Messenger and agreed I had done exactly what he would have. And there wasn't a solution.

All water under the bridge now. Using hired computer with Windows 2000 pro.

  961 18:46 08 May 2004

Unfortunately a debit card will not give the protection that a credit card does and therefore I fear the Bank will not help on this occasion with rejecting the goods

Software helplines virtually always charge and generally computer literature and specifications will give the terms of warranty and costs, usually with a freephone or lo-call number for hardware help and another number for software help. This will usually be at standard or premium rates

In present circumstances I suggest a gentle letter to Chief Exec of IBM in the UK asking if he will look into the problems and see if they can be sorted out to your satisfaction

  Ellen G 10:00 09 May 2004

In this case, I found no information about costs of software support in any Terms and Conditions. And in past times, the companies did not charge for software support.

Times have clearly changed.

I did not see a detailed warranty document before I signed up for it. And legally, that may be the only argument I'll have.

But thanks for your thoughts.

  961 11:07 09 May 2004

Times certainly have

One of the factors is the severe competition within the industry compared to even two or three years ago. As an indicator of this, I could buy parts to build a computer cheaper than I could buy one, even a year ago. I can't do that now. It's cheaper for me to buy from one of the mail order companies. This shows me that the margins they have are slim, and getting slimmer

Another factor is the number buying these computers who have no experience of how they operate and how to put things right if they do something to stop the computer working. Advertising leads one to expect that you can buy a computer, open the box and it will work and keep on working even if you know nothing about what the various buttons are for. Life, as I am sure you know, is not like that.

This has led to a great increase in the percentage of buyers who require help. That help doesn't come cheap. And the fact is that while well over 90% of computers work right out of the box most of the problems that the help lines get are software related because by and large computer hardware now is extremely reliable. If it's properly assembled it will work and go on working. Even among the few new computers that don't work, a substantial number will have software related faults from incorrect loading of software before despatch, and most of the other failures will be from rough handling during delivery

So your own best advice line if things go wrong is probably the magazine helplines, as you have discovered, including the PCA one. True you pay, but they are certainly much cheaper and more certain of reaching a result than the manufacturers helplines. Partly this may be because the guys at the other end are interested in what they do whereas the manufacturers fellow is probably fending off the complaints about the product as well as the usual (justified)row about how long someone has been hangin on at £1 per minute

Hope the difficulty sorts itself out.

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