When I called Microsoft to ask about an unexpected screen when I tried to log on to Windows 10 on a freshly upgraded computer, I already knew there would be a wait.
Still, it was a surprise when the computerized voice on the other end of the line said that I could expect a call back in 465 minutes—which is just less than 8 hours. A quick calculation told me that I would get a call back from tech support in the middle of the night.
Sure enough, when I got into my office the next morning, there were two voicemail messages waiting. Both were the automated voice from Microsoft letting me know that I’d received my return call just before midnight. So the next day, I tried again, and this time I was given a call-back time about six hours into the future.
The time came and went, and there was no call. I left work, and the call eventually came in, again late at night and again, long after the time it was promised.
Eventually, I realized that I might skip some of the long wait if I called the number that came with my paid support contract for Windows. But those times were just as far into the future as the free tech support. Meanwhile, my computer continued to boot into something called the “Error Recovery Mode.” Fortunately, I’d been able to get past this on my own to get my work done.
Another light dawned a week or so later, and this time I got up early, called the tech support number before breakfast, and was rewarded with a promise to call back in less than an hour. So I made some toast, scrambled my eggs and fortified myself with caffeine before heading into the office. The long-sought call came in a little over an hour.
Unfortunately, the technician wasn’t able to solve the problem, but promised a call from a Level 2 tech the next day at 1 p.m. Eastern Time. That call never came. Neither did another promised call, nor another. But the delays continued. So I started checking around to see if I was the only person having these problems, or if everyone was experiencing the same long delays for Windows 10 tech support.
Microsoft maintains a support community and there are other support communities as wells as message boards, all with the same sad tale. The wait times for Windows 10 tech support were incredibly long. It wasn’t just me.
So what’s going on here? Did Microsoft misjudge the number of problems people would encounter in their Windows 10 upgrades? Was there something wrong with Windows 10 that they weren’t telling us about?
Probably not. As of the end of last week, about 75 million Windows 7 and Windows 8 computers had been upgraded to Windows 10. Because of the vast variety of devices that work with Windows, it’s a certainty that there would be at least a small percentage that would have troubles.
Expect Long Waits to Get Microsoft’s Help With Windows 10 Upgrade
Of the five Windows computers that I’ve tried to upgrade in my office, I was able to upgrade the two Windows 8.1 machines without a hitch. Of the two that were running Windows 7, one was upgraded without incident. The other one had that “Error Correction Mode” report, and one couldn’t be upgraded because a processor instruction in the Xeon CPU doesn’t work with Windows 10.
The computer that has the incompatible processor simply would not attempt the upgrade, so there was no mystery there. I received a descriptive error message and went in search of a version of Linux that will work well on that machine. That left one that nominally worked with Windows 10, but had the slightly problematic login issue.
Overall, this is really not a very large set of problems, and none of the problems caused any significant downtime—certainly not as much downtime as was caused by an UPS battery that failed while all of this was going on.
So I asked a Microsoft spokesperson just how bad the problem actually is. “We have seen incredibly strong interest in Windows 10 with over 75 million devices already running Windows 10,” the spokesperson said in an email. “High demand for Windows 10 may sometimes cause longer-than-usual wait times for customer service. We are working as quickly as we can to address all customers’ questions.”
So, clearly, Microsoft is aware of the long waits for Windows 10 tech support, and it’s going to take time for it to work through all of them.
So what should you do to help ensure that your business isn’t brought to a halt because of a balky Windows 10 upgrade? In a word, if you haven’t upgraded already, then wait until the worst of the rush is over. This is especially the case if the computer you’re planning to upgrade is not really new.
If you have upgraded, and you’re having problems, then it will pay to call Microsoft as early in the day as possible when the queues are shorter. I found that waits are very short around 8 a.m. Eastern Time. However, having a paid support contract doesn’t really help any. There are only so many Microsoft technicians, and apparently they’re all fully occupied with the task at hand.
Meanwhile, start with computers that are less essential to learn how to do the Windows 10 upgrade. The learning curve really isn’t bad, but it does exist. And if you have to choose, it’s best to work with less essential computers that are relatively new.
It really shouldn’t be a surprise given the enormity of the task that Microsoft is dealing with that there are a few problems. What is a surprise is that, at least in my experience, problems are relatively rare. But that may not be the experience of many of those people who are trying Microsoft tech support. So if possible, just wait.