Windows XP Upgrades Give Users Fits

Installation, driver and device compatibility issues emerge; lengthy support delays also reported.

For some users trying to load or upgrade to the Windows XP operating system, the experience has not been as seamless as Microsoft Corp. has promised.

Officials of the Redmond, Wash., software maker contacted last week acknowledged that there have been installation, driver and device compatibility issues raised by users. In addition, some customers have had to wait on the phone for hours before reaching technical support representatives. Some users have complained about problems upgrading to XP, particularly XP Professional.

"I have had endless trouble upgrading from Windows ME to XP Pro, even though my system meets all the requirements," said Wayne Goodan, an IT professional in San Francisco.

"I have had to download just about every driver known to man," Goodan said. "It has taken me nearly a week, and its still not working properly. I also had to wait more than 2 hours on the phone before reaching a technical support representative, who really wasnt very helpful and certainly did not solve the problem."

Acknowledging that there have been long delays reaching the free support lines, Jim Cullinan, lead product manager for XP, said Microsoft recently increased the resources available to take support calls for installation issues.

"In the initial stages, there were occasions when customers experienced long delays, but it is much better at this point," Cullinan said here at Comdex last week. "The support calls we have received thus far show no huge flash point of issues. Rather, there have been a wide range of issues like application and device compatibility."

An IT consultant in San Diego, who requested anonymity, said he removed Windows 2000 from his relatively new computer so he could do a clean install of XP. But he, too, encountered problems related to incompatible drivers and peripherals such as his printer and scanner.

"Contrary to what Microsoft says, many drivers and peripherals that work with Windows 2000 just do not work with XP. I spent hours trying to get it to work and finally gave up and reinstalled Windows 2000," the consultant said. "I am going to warn my customers to exercise caution about upgrading to or installing XP at this point. I think they should wait until after the first service pack or when Microsoft addresses these issues."

Microsofts Cullinan declined to say when, or if, the company will follow XP with the first service pack. "At this point, the future direction in that regard is unclear," he said.

Many problems appear to be affecting users buying XP off store shelves. Sales clerks at several CompUSA Inc. and Circuit City Stores Inc. locations across the nation said there has been a strong demand for XP, but they are seeing quite a few returns, as well as reports of people complaining about installation problems. A Circuit City spokesman declined to comment on the number of returns, while CompUSA could not be reached for comment.

Cullinan said Microsoft had not heard about a high level of returns from its retail partners. "I would hope people dont buy the product if they do not have a system that can run it. Most of the feedback we have revolves around applications, printers and scanners that wont work," he said.

Microsoft said it believes its education program for XP before the softwares Oct. 25 launch has been successful.

"We tried to educate users about the upgrade process. We include Upgrade Advisor as part of the product. It warns consumers and, hopefully, helps prevent them from having a bad experience," Cullinan said.