Earlier I reported that official technical support will be ending for those who use Windows 98, Windows 98 SE, or Windows ME. According to Microsoft, these aging operating systems may expose users to security risks. Customers are encouraged to upgrade to a newer, more secure operating system.
In light of this announcement, I’ve received questions from readers about Microsoft’s product support policies. Since the policies can be rather lengthy to discuss and difficult to understand, I want to only answer a few of the frequently asked questions. You always can check out the Microsoft Support Lifecycle Web site to find specific product support policies for the Microsoft products you use.
How long does Microsoft provide official support for their products?
Microsoft guarantees a minimum of 5 years for consumer, hardware, and multimedia products (business products have a different timeline). They also will provide a minimum of 1 year support for each additional service pack upgrade or until the support period for the original product runs out (minimum 5 years). Consumer products include software such as Windows, Microsoft Office, and games. If you use products that are released annually (e.g., Money, Streets & Trips, Encarta), minimum support is provided for 3 years. Self-help online support is provided for at least 8 years for consumer products.
Can I receive any support after Microsoft stops providing it?
You are able to get self-help for Microsoft products for at least year after the initial support period ends. Self-help consists of searching through a database of questions and answers on the Microsoft Support Web site to find the help you are looking for. Unfortunately, you can’t get any software updates through the self-help site.
A simple Internet search will provide you with more help than you could ever imagine. Be careful, however, and don’t try to change any of your settings before confirming that the advice you are receiving is legitimate. One way to tell if tips and help are legitimate is by reading the same general answer, stated using slightly different words, on various Web sites. If you read the same exact answer, word-for-word on various Web sites, it could mean that one bogus tip is being copied from site to site. Just be careful if you aren’t receiving help from a legitimate Web site.
Do other companies have similar support policies?
Yes. Each company sets its own policies regarding the support they provide. Some smaller companies will provide free extended support for quite a few years as they try to attract loyal customers, while other companies provide little support in order to keep costs down.
Often, after providing free support for a period of time, companies will offer paid support for an additional time period. This means that you will have to pay to receive answers or help for the products you are using. Again, you can try to find free answers from various Internet Web sites, but be careful about which answers and advice to accept.