Where’s the warranty for Microsoft Windows?

December 11 2009 by Ellen Roseman

I took my laptop out of town last week and hooked it up to my hotel’s Internet service. When it stopped working after I got home — I couldn’t load Windows and kept getting messages about fatal system errors — I blamed the hotel.

So why did it crash? The repair shop said Windows often messed up while doing updates and I remembered seeing it do an update while I was on the road. (Had to wait a while to turn off my computer.)

Here’s why I’m angry. I bought my Lenovo laptop last February, along with an extended warranty for two years. But I’m in the first year of ownership, so I’m not covered for the cost of reinstalling Windows — or for buying another copy of Microsoft Office.

Lenovo’s warranty covers only hardware, not software. But the computer comes with an operating system, Windows XP, chosen by Lenovo. Why slough off responsibility?

Where’s the warranty for Microsoft Windows? Why can’t I get covered for a problem that Windows itself created doing an update?

Now I understand why the Mac guy in the Apple commercials always acts so superior to the PC guy. I knew Windows often had bugs, but I picked an older operating system (XP) to avoid the Vista horror stories I’d heard about.

I’m really annoyed with Microsoft making me pay good money to fix a computer that’s not even 10 months old. I’m working on my office computer all day and keep the Lenovo just for after-hours use.

Are Apple products any better? The other people at the repair shop all had MacBooks.

I bought my son an iPod Touch for his birthday last August. It already has a problem and he has to send it back to Apple. (His Best Buy extended warranty didn’t kick in yet.) Also, iPods have flimsy batteries that won’t keep a charge after a couple of years.

How can consumers protect themselves from problems with bug-ridden technology and built-in obsolescence? Suggestions are welcome.

14 comments

  1. Nelson Yee

    Dec 11 2009

    I own a Lenovo Thinkpad and if I’m not mistaken, isn’t there a backup and recovery partition that allows you to restore the factory installed version of Windows that came with the computer? I don’t use mine, so I don’t know the mechanics of how it works, and whether you have to create a restore disk or if it comes with one, but I thought that was an option?

  2. regan

    Dec 11 2009

    Why would you have to buy another copy of Microsoft Office? Your computer should have been shipped to you with recovery disks provided by Lenovo for reinstalling all the software and settings that were on the computer when it left the factory. Some manufacturers use a recovery partition on the hard drive instead. You should be able to just use the tools included with the computer to recover it.

  3. Vasile

    Dec 11 2009

    Hi, Ellen!

    I think you are wrong this time: if you bought Windows already installed on the computer, it’s an OEM version and the computer manufacturer should legally provide the support. It’s written somewhere on the licencing agreement, aka EULA. Microsoft isn’t without flaws, but there are many times that they are blamed for other’s faults.

    Re: automatic upgrades. When you are not sure about what happened (and I agree it’s sometimes impossible to find) it’s easy to start guessing, as your tech did. In my previous life I used to do computer maintainance, and I cannot remember even a single time when an upgrade caused something similar to what you described, although I also agree it’s not impossible. If you don’t trust the automatic upgrades, you may just disable the feature – but I would not recommend doing so…

    As for Office, you may install it as many times as you want on a single computer. If you have trouble activating it online, you can always call MS for that. Since it’s probably a retail version, you have MS support.

  4. Ace82

    Dec 11 2009

    Ellen,

    It’s not about the interesting sales pitch or the quality of the product for me, it’s how a company takes care of you after you purchase a product. Now speaking as someone who has never owned an Apple product (never had a need), I give Apple top marks for their support. I have had positive B2B dealings with Apple support and if you check out this article, you’ll see that end user support varies drastically, specifically when it comes to laptops, as it is most relevant to your story: http://www.laptopmag.com/mobile-life/tech-support-showdown-2009.aspx?page=4

    Feel free to pick some of the other companies for comparison. There are companies out there that will never see another penny from me because of the way I was treated when I needed support or service. There are other companies that have my loyalty even though their products have failed on multiple occasions – because they did the right thing, they provided a great customer experience and they did it on first contact.

  5. Cynthia

    Dec 12 2009

    As for restoring windows, simple as pie. Disk 1-4, depending how old your restore disk. Just follow the directions on screen. Since you would be reinstalling windows, or should I say repairing, your office program may still be there, but if not, you should be able to simply reinstall it with the key provided. MS sees the machine # that’s how it “Knows” how many copies of said software is running. Office 2007 Student and home office is $100. Lacks Outlook and Access, but has what 95% of the people need. it even allows you to retain your old Office. It can also be installed on 3 computers.

  6. Bylo

    Dec 12 2009

    > So why did it crash?
    Microsoft arrogantly downloads and installs updates in the background. (Good luck if it tries to do a SP upgrade while you’re on a slow, e.g. dialup, line.) You were travelling, at a hotel and probably in a hurry to shutdown the notebook so you probably interrupted the update process. Don’t blame Lenovo for this. Blame Bill Gates. He’s done more to decrease the productivity of people using computers that any other person.

    Note that unlike WinXP, Vista at least tells you when you do a Shutdown that updates are in progress and that you shouldn’t interrupt it until it completes — however long that may be.

    Others have given you good advice on reinstalling Windows from the Recovery partition. Note, however, that unless you used the Lenovo-supplied Rescue and Recovery application to constantly backup your personal data, you’ll lose that data when you restore Windows and Office. This is one area in which Lenovo, through its ThinkPad Advantage set of utilities, does add considerable value to your system compared to a basic Windows system.

    BTW, not to justify the practice, but it’s not just Lenovo. All PC makers are the same. Given what Bill Gates has given them, they’d all be bankrupt otherwise.

    Disclaimer: I’ve owned several ThinkPads over the past ~15 years and would never consider any other brand of notebook. If you think Lenovo is bad, you haven’t tried the others (although you’ve written many horror stories about them ;))

  7. Ram

    Dec 12 2009

    Ellen,

    I understand your frustration.

    Being in the industry for several years, I could say that computer technology hasn’t grown as user friendly as other technologies (e.g. automobile). Using a computer should require no more technical knowledge than what you would expect a car driver to know about a car, but unfortunately it is not the case. I don’t see this changing in near future.

    The shortcomings are not unique to any operating system. Anyone who claims that one OS is better than the other is ignorant. Agreed, in some specific areas, one is better than the other. But overall, each OS has its own problems and has its own ways of solving it.

    Regardless of the OS or computer. These are some guidelines I follow to reduce my frustration.

    1. Never turn on automatic updates for any software. I am basically not comfortable about the idea of a vendor installing software without my knowledge or approval. It is like giving your house key to the gas company for them to check and fix gas leaks (assume they cannot guarantee there won’t be leaks). That said, getting to know about updates being available is a good thing. So, I would turn on only notification of updates.

    2. Understand that any data in the computer may be lost anytime for reasons completely beyond your control. You cannot do anything to prevent it. You can only mitigate this risk by keeping sufficient backups. Daily backups are best.

    3. Understand that every time you install a software, there is a
    a) possibility that the computer may become unusable after the installation
    b) software may steal information that is in your computer or in your network.

    4. Understand that any computer connected to internet is vulnerable for data theft. So any super confidential data should always be password protected.

    5. Understand that software vendors cannot (and when they can, they will not) provide warranty the same way other vendors do. If something is broken other vendors can replace the broken piece. But in software, it is not practical to identify the broken component and provide a fix for it. The solution you’ll get from the vendor is to uninstall and reinstall the software. This may have the unfortunate consequence of losing data or recreating them again. Even in theory, a vendor will be fix a broken piece only if no additional software is installed in the computer and the computer is used as the vendor had provided. As you know this is not useful.

    Aside, to the best of my knowledge, no vendor requires you to purchase a new license just because your computer crashed and you had to reinstall everything. You may have extra work to do, sending email or calling them, but you shouldn’t have to pay a dime.

    Hope you get your computer back up and running. BTW, I think Lenovo makes better computers compared to other vendors. I am heavy duty user and my Thinkpads have served me well.

    Ram

  8. Mark

    Dec 14 2009

    Apple is rated #1 in customer satisfaction for a reason – they look after their customers before, during, and after the sale. A quick look at my own blog will show some of my own personal stories of where Apple went above and beyond repairing my Apple products, even replacing the battery in my Macbook a year after the warranty expired simply because their diagnostic software showed that it failed as opposed to wore out.

    My 2 year old iMac has been trouble free since day 1, and we also own an iPhone and an iPod touch, all trouble free.

    I’m not sure what repair shop you went to, but I find it incredibly surprising that “everyone else” there had Mac products, unless you took your Lenovo to the Apple Store for repair!

  9. Bylo

    Dec 15 2009

    > Apple is rated #1 in customer satisfaction for a reason…

    Indeed. It’s because they need service so often. According to no less an authority than Consumer Reports, “it may be wise to get an extended warranty (which includes extended tech support) if you’re buying an Apple computer, because they come with only 90 days of phone tech support.”

  10. Lior

    Dec 22 2009

    Ellen,

    The Microsoft issue is a bit bizarre. If your computer came installed with Windows, technically the manufacturer of the system has to provide support for the installed operating system as well.

    Vista is a decent operating system. When it came out there were plenty of issues but most of the problems have been ironed out by the time Windows 7 launched this past fall.

    The issue with XP is it’s a really old system and the restore program has evolved tremendously with both Vista and Windows 7. I would definitely suggest to pull some strings and get Lenovo to send you an upgrade disc to Windows 7. You won’t be disappointed.

    As for Apple hardware, it’s reliability is grossly overestimated. Just like many others technology corporations, Apple outsources the manufacturing of its devices to the lowest bidder in Asia where labour and raw material costs are a fraction of what they are in industrialized countries.

    While this certainly doesn’t mean you’re getting an inferior product from the onset, it’s obvious that today’s electronics are not built with long-term durability in mind, especially with how often these companies keep coming up with new gadgets every year or two.