Microsoft offers free support for Vista SP1 installs

Standard practice, says the company, but it's not advertising the deal

Microsoft is offering free support to any Windows Vista user experiencing problems with installing Service Pack 1 (SP1), according to a company spokesman.

"[Anyone] needing technical support regarding your installation of Windows Vista SP1, please go to the following URL and choose the bottom option that says 'Windows Vista Service Pack 1 (All Languages)'," said Brandon LeBlanc, a Microsoft employee who posted several comments to the company's Vista blog. The link LeBlanc pointed users to led to a Vista SP1-specific support site.

"You have a variety of options you can choose for support, all of which will not cost you any support fee," said LeBlanc. "I repeat: support for SP1 will not cost you anything."

"That's a good move on their part," said Michael Cherry, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft.

The SP1 site offers support via e-mail, online chat and telephone, and lists hours of operation for the last two options. Free phone support, for instance, is available from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Pacific time on weekdays, and from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Pacific time on weekends. The free support will be available for one year, and covers installation and compatibility issues.

Normally, Microsoft offers no-cost support only to users who bought Windows at retail. Users who obtained the operating system already installed on a PC are referred to the computer manufacturer, or OEM (original equipment manufacturer); the company's for-a-fee support runs US$59 per request unless the user or business has a pre-paid support plan with Microsoft.

That policy, as well as the wording of the Vista SP1 support site as late as last Friday, confused one user commenting on the same thread. "You cannot get free support from [Microsoft] if Vista came pre-loaded on your HP. At least, that is what the Web site indicates," said romroyer.

LeBlanc quickly replied. "You are incorrect. We are offering free-of-charge support to anyone who is having issues installing Windows Vista SP1 -- even folks like pat [an earlier commenter on the thread] who may be using a OEM copy of Windows Vista that came with their HP laptop," said LeBlanc. "Again, anyone can get free support for installation issues of SP1."

By Sunday, Microsoft had modified the Vista SP1 support site and removed references directing users to contact their OEM if they had acquired Vista on a new computer. The site's wording had been altered to read: "No-charge: Unlimited support requests."

That's Microsoft's standard support policy for service packs, a spokeswoman said in an e-mail. "The no-fee support is actually part of our Windows Service Pack policy, not something specific to Windows Vista SP1."

Microsoft, however, has done little to broadcast news of the free SP1 support. The home page for the Windows Vista Solution Center, the operating system's help and support starting point, makes no mention of it; nor does Microsoft's main Windows Vista SP1 site.

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