Microsoft: No tech support for you

I try to get free tech support for Windows XP SP3 and for IE7.

The day Windows XP SP3 was released I advised waiting a long time before installing it. In the three months since, I haven't installed it on a computer that mattered to me. Today, I installed it on a computer that didn't matter much, and it caused a problem. So, I tried to take advantage of the free tech support Microsoft offers for SP3 - and got a lesson in fine print.

The computer shipped with Windows XP SP2 and some vendor utilities installed. It was a good guinea pig for SP3 because there were no user-installed applications and no user-created data files on the machine.

I downloaded and installed SP3 without incident. Then I rebooted and ran Windows Update again to get the latest patches. There were a handful of recent patches, and I installed all of them except for Internet Explorer 7. This too went fine and I rebooted again, little knowing the grief that awaited.

Back to Windows Update to install IE7. As you can see below it found another patch too.


Now however, Windows Update can't install either the patch for the .NET framework or IE7. It politely says that "Some updates were not installed".


Under the error (see below), it says to try again. So I did, but that didn't help. I tried one at a time, but that didn't help either. I rebooted, to no avail.


So I called Microsoft (866-234-6020) hoping to get some of the free tech support for XP SP3 mentioned here. But I didn't qualify.

The free support is for "installation and compatibility". In my case SP3 installed fine so I don't qualify there. And compatibility doesn't seem to include SP3 being compatible with Windows Update.

No Free IE7 Tech Support Either

While on the phone with Microsoft, I have an idea. Because of the problem, I couldn't install Internet Explorer 7 and Microsoft offers free tech support for IE7 too. This page clearly refers to "Free Internet Explorer 7 installation and set-up phone support".

Switching from asking for XP SP3 support to asking for IE7 support stumped the person I was speaking to, and I had to wait on hold while he got a ruling from the judge. Again, I didn't qualify.

Despite the offer of free installation support for IE7 and despite the fact that I couldn't install IE7, the Microsoft person explained that since my problem was really with Windows Update, I didn't quality for the free help.

The patch for the .NET framework did me in. Since it also wouldn't install, this pointed the finger at Windows Update rather than at IE7. Adding insult to injury, Windows Update created the need for this patch by installing the known buggy Service Pack for the .NET framework in the first place, a situation I wrote about back in April (see Don't get burned by Windows Update ).

Lawyers reading this, must find it a hoot. Internet Explorer 7 is installed with Windows Update and there is free telephone support for installing the product. But if Windows Update is the problem, no free support.

After hanging up, I tried Microsoft Update instead of Windows Update, but it failed in the same way. When turning off the machine, automatic updates tried to install a patch, but that failed. At the next boot, automatic updates wanted to install both IE7 and the patch for the .NET framework. I let it try, but it failed in the same way. At the next shutdown, Windows again tried to install a patch. It's confused.

Microsoft offers free tech support for Windows Update too. But that's not on the phone, only by email. I went down that route, filling out the necessary forms and accumulating the required data.

I don't expect it to lead anywhere. For one thing, as you can see from the screen shots above, there is no error code, just a generic warning about "a problem". I checked the event logs and there were no error messages there either. Debugging errors without an error code is really hard, especially by email.

I think it's time for some more Linux postings.

Update: July 22, 2008: This was not a fluke, it happened again on another machine.

See a summary of all my Defensive Computing postings.

About the author

    Michael Horowitz wrote his first computer program in 1973 and has been a computer nerd ever since. He spent more than 20 years working in an IBM mainframe (MVS) environment. He has worked in the research and development group of a large Wall Street financial company, and has been a technical writer for a mainframe software company.

    He teaches a large range of self-developed classes, the underlying theme being Defensive Computing. Michael is an independent computer consultant, working with small businesses and the self-employed. He can be heard weekly on The Personal Computer Show on WBAI.

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