Windows 2000 Professional Support
When I checked Microsoft Support Online for new Windows 2000 and Windows NT 4.0 entries this week, the search returned just 11 Win2K articles and 5 NT 4.0 articles—all of which rehash known issues. Predictably, when I checked the Win2K post-Service Pack 2 (SP2) bug list, I noticed that Microsoft has posted no new postings since October 25, which is about when I last complained about the lack of updates to this page. So this week, we'll try something different. Because you must frequently contact Microsoft Support Services (MSS) to get code fixes for the problems that I review, I've decided to put together a "how-to-contact-Microsoft" list. This week, I summarize the MSS options available for Win2K Professional; next week, I’ll provide the same information for Win2K Server.

The Per-Incident Support Model
All fees for telephone and Web support are based on the resolution of one "incident," which Microsoft defines as

"... support \[that\] requires assisted support from a support professional for a single support issue that cannot be broken down into subordinate problems. If a problem consists of subordinate problems, each shall be considered a separate incident. Before Microsoft provides support for an assisted support incident, the customer and Microsoft's designated Support Professional must agree on what the problem is and the parameters for an acceptable solution. An assisted support incident may require multiple phone calls and off-line research to resolve it. Support Professionals are responsible for determining what a single support issue is and communicating this to customers. Support Professionals are responsible for determining whether an incident should be decremented or refunded to the customer... If a customer calls in or submits a Web incident a second time about the same issue that was not effectively resolved on the first assisted support call, Microsoft considers this the same incident."

How You Pay
You must provide a valid Visa, MasterCard, or American Express credit card number before Microsoft will connect you to a support technician on the phone or before you can submit your problem online.

What’s Free?
If you purchase a system from a vendor such as Dell, Gateway, or Compaq, you must call the vendor—not Microsoft—for support. When you purchase a system with Win2K preinstalled, the license number indicates that you have a vendor-installed OS. However, if you purchase a new or upgrade version of Win2K Pro at a computer or retail store, the license number reflects that you purchased a retail version. In this case, Microsoft includes two no-charge Professional Support incidents with the purchase (a value of $490). If you purchase Win2K Pro upgrade software for 30 workstations, you’re also buying $14,700 of support calls. I assume you’ll need to track calls by license number, but it'd be well worth the effort, wouldn’t you say?

When You Can Expect a Refund
If the support technician determines that the cause of the problem is a bug, the support technician should credit your card for the full amount of the per-call fee within 24 hours. The official disclaimer states that Microsoft Support Professionals are responsible for determining the nature of the bug. However, if you read about a documented bug in this column, you should be prepared to argue your case and get a code fix without paying for a support call. I generally provide you with all the information you need to document the problem as a known bug.

Win2K Pro Telephone Support
The phone numbers below are current as of November 27, 2001. According to the Microsoft Web site, the helpful folks who answer these phones are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (including holidays). If you're a home user, you might have to masquerade as an IT professional to get through. Microsoft charges $245 for each incident, and you can buy a five-incident set for $1225. To purchase the set, visit the Microsoft Web site.


Your Job Number to Call
IT Professionals (800) 936-4900
Developers (800) 936-5800
Partners (Resellers and Consultants) (888) 456-5570
Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) (800) 936-2197
System Builders (888) 456-5570
Microsoft Certified Partners (888) 677-9444
TTY users (800) 892-5234

Win2K Pro Online Support
Online support is also available every day, all day, including weekends and holidays. You can submit a Win2K Pro problem online at the Microsoft Web site. As this page indicates, you provide a credit card and a description of your problem. In return, Microsoft promises to respond to your problem within one business day. The bad news is that if you submit a problem Friday afternoon, you won’t get your first response until Monday afternoon if everything works according to plan. If the process becomes bogged down, you'll have paid a lot of money to sit on your hands and wait for 2 or 3 days. Clearly, this option is viable only when you have an intermittent problem that you can live with in the immediate future. Microsoft charges a fee of $195 for each incident. If you plan to use the online option on a regular basis, you can buy a six-pack of online incidents for $975 at the Microsoft Web site.