With so many stories about bogus Microsoft Support calls, it’s a sure bet many Windows users wonder what an official Microsoft Support experience is like.
Here’s what you will — and won’t — experience if you contact Microsoft for Windows, security, and application support.
Before we start, one caveat: This article was written on a computer located in the United States. That means all the support/security offerings discussed are U.S.-based. They don’t reflect the links and experiences you might receive if you’re residing in another country. Microsoft makes varying support offerings for each geographic region and language (click the country/language name at the bottom of the MS support options page to see the entire list). Thus my experiences will not necessarily match yours.
Microsoft doesn’t have your phone number
It seems that every week we hear of someone getting a phone call from some scammer pretending to be a technician from Microsoft Support. Fred Langa detailed one Windows Secrets reader’s experience in the Feb. 28 Top Story, “Security alert: Bogus tech-support phone calls.” These “techs” have various malicious goals including: tricking you into giving them direct access to your computer, giving them money to “fix” problems that don’t really exist, and/or letting them plant malicious software on your system.
In a moment, I explain what to expect from a real Microsoft Support case. But first, here are two important facts:
- Microsoft does not have beacons on your machine that report back to MS Support when you’re infected by malware. Yes, your system checks in with Microsoft servers, but it does so primarily for updates or activation, or when Windows Genuine checks that you have a valid key code.
- If Microsoft does have your phone number — provided by you for purchases or previous support, or when signing up for a Microsoft (e.g., Hotmail) account — the company doesn’t associate the number with your PC. Again: Any contact a PC has with MS servers is not linked to the owner’s phone number.
As someone who buys Microsoft software licenses, I get calls from Microsoft’s marketing department about new Windows Server 2012 offers or the latest on Office 365, and about other products of interest to business. But I’ve never had anyone from Microsoft call me and claim that my computer has been flagged with a virus. It just never happens! Microsoft phone support always starts with a call from a user.
There are two types of support Microsoft offers to customers: consumer-level support for individuals and IT Professional, a business category. This article focuses on consumer support; a future story will discuss options for small- and medium-size businesses.