If you've ever purchased a new system and then had problems making something work, you know how important technical support can be. Having a problem with your notebook in the middle of the night or while you're in a foreign city can seem dire, especially if you can't get the help you need. The Windows NT Magazine Lab checked how the vendors in our Windows NT notebook roundup handled a simple technical support call (placed at 2:00 am) about how to install the proper video and sound drivers.

AST
AST bent over backwards to help. The technical support operator (I could have opted for the automated support system) told me he wasn't too sure about NT, but would try to help (and did). He also told me to check out the Cirrus Logic Web site for the latest version of the video driver and provided the Internet address.

Broadax Systems
I called Broadax, requested technical service, and was on hold for about 25 minutes. The technical support person told me to call Broadax's BBS, download the file I needed, and follow the instructions included with the file. I asked if Broadax had a Web site where I could get the driver, and the technician told me I couldn't yet download from the company's site.

Compaq Computer
Compaq's answering system requested my registration number. Because I didn't have one, I waited for assistance. An operator asked for my model and serial numbers, assigned me a registration number, and transferred me back to the automated system, which told me I might be charged $35 (payable by credit card) if my problem wasn't covered by the Compaq warranty. Once I identified my system, a technical support representative told me which files I needed and how to download them from Compaq's Web site or BBS. I asked him whether I could call back for help with installing the drivers after I downloaded the files, and he told me to call Microsoft for that kind of help.

Digital Equipment
Digital is known for its technical support, and this time was no exception. The technician who answered my questions directed me to Digital's Web site and BBS system, where I found the latest versions of all the drivers for NT 3.51 and 4.0. He also told me which video drivers to use from the NT distribution disk. He wasn't able to help me get the sound card going, but he resolved what he could in a quick, professional manner and directed me to other resources.

FutureTech Systems
I called the number I had and got an answering service. The person who answered asked whether I wanted sales. I answered that I needed technical support. She took my name and telephone number, then told me that someone would call me back.

I received a call about two days later. I was out of my office so the caller left a message telling me to call back. I was never able to make contact. I'll follow up with FutureTech Systems and report the results in a future issue of Windows NT Magazine.

IBM
The IBM technical support engineer I spoke to told me which documents to retrieve from IBM's Web site and warned me that because NT wasn't pre-installed on my system, support might cost $35 (it didn't). He told me that IBM offers free NT support for 60 days on computer systems that come preloaded with NT. He then reviewed IBM's support packages and the costs. He described which drivers I needed, mentioned other utilities that I might find useful, and told me how to download them from IBM's BBS or Web site.

Polywell Computers
Polywell's technical support message told me that the technical support engineers were available only Monday through Friday from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm PST, and from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm PST on Saturday. The message said I needed my Polywell invoice or serial number and let me leave a message. I left a message describing my problem and expected them to call me back that night. I haven't heard back from them.

Texas Instruments
The technical support engineer who took my call told me which driver to use and helped me go through the steps of configuring the system for both the sound and video drivers. We had a few problems along the way, but he was very professional and stuck with me until we had the system set up correctly.

Technical Support Contact Info
AST
800-727-1278
Web: http://www.ast.com
Broadax Systems
818-442-7038
BBS: 818-279-6977
Web: http://www.bsicomputer.com
Compaq Computer
800-656-6277
BBS: 713-518-1418
Web: http://www.compaq.com
Digital Equipment
800-354-9000
BBS: 508-496-8800
Web: http://www.pc.digital.com
FutureTech Systems
800-275-4414
Web: http://www.futuretec.com
IBM
800-772-2227
BBS: 919-517-0001
Web: http://www.pc.ibm.com
Polywell Computers
800-999-1278
Web: http://www.polywell.com
Texas Instruments
800-848-3927
Web: http://www.ti.com