Which? is calling on Microsoft to improve support for Windows 10 following a range of issues centring around customer service, compensation and smooth rollout of updates.
Issues with the operating system are nothing new, and in October 2016 we published an article in Which? magazine criticising Windows 10 after more than 1,000 members contacted us with complaints about the software update.
We asked Microsoft to do better, and yet almost two years on we’ve found that some consumers are still struggling with Windows 10. After challenging Microsoft again in the June issue of Which? Computing, it has agreed to work with us to help consumers left frustrated and out of pocket due to the update.
Unhappy birthday to Windows 10
We surveyed more than 1,100 Which? members in March 2018 who use Windows 10. Half had experienced some kind of issue or problem with the software.
The most common complaints (21%) were software compatibility issues such as programs not working properly, or at all. Some 16% of those affected revealed that it was hardware that had come a cropper when their PC was updated, with printers and other peripherals refusing to play ball with Windows 10.
The PC ecosystem is huge, with a wide range of different devices, software and programs all depending on Windows, so we can, in part, cut Microsoft some slack. However, in many cases reported to us Windows 10 has caused computer slowdown and, worst of all, PC failure. Of those in our survey who experienced this, 46% told us they had paid someone to fix it, at an average cost of £67.
Struggling with Windows or other computing issues? We can help. Visit Which? Tech Support for more information.
Microsoft support comes up short
Which? member Arthur Shaw updated his PC to Windows 10 and found that he had trouble using some of his favourite programs. Arthur contacted Microsoft and allowed one of its experts to take control of his PC in an attempt to remedy the situation.
He could see the technical support expert trying all sorts of things, until eventually a message appeared stating that an earlier version of Windows 10 was about to be downloaded and all personal files would be lost.
The expert asked Mr Shaw to attach an external drive in a frantic last-minute effort to back up, but it was too late and several programs had been lost, including his email and antivirus software. Even those files moved to the external hard drive hadn’t escaped unscathed, with some becoming corrupted.
Mr Shaw complained to Microsoft but that didn’t go anywhere. So he was left to pay a local IT expert to unpick the damage caused by the update.
We put Microsoft in touch with Mr Shaw and the company issued an apology and gave him £150 as a ‘gesture of goodwill’ for the disruption he experienced.
Microsoft said: ‘At Microsoft, we value all of our customers and are committed to ensuring they have a great experience on Windows, whilst also delivering the support they need when its required. Unfortunately it appears that this has not been the case with Mr Shaw and we apologise for the frustration and inconvenience this has caused him.’
What we want from Microsoft
Better customer support
As you can see below, there are options for contacting Microsoft for help if you have issues with Windows 10. However, we remain unclear how far the free support goes and, as shown in Arthur Shaw’s case, Microsoft’s support can’t always fix the issues.
We’ve challenged Microsoft to make its support services much more visible and to commit to fixing – for free – all issues consumers have with Windows 10. The company has now agreed to meet with us to discuss ways it can do this.
Microsoft told Which?: ‘We want to make sure our customers receive the right support they need to get the best Windows update experience, and we will continue to review customer enquiries and issues on a case-by-case basis to ensure individual help and resolution where possible.
‘In addition, Which? members are very important to us so we are currently exploring ways in which we can work together in the future to ensure they have the support that they need in a way that is easy and quick.
‘Windows 10 is the safest and most secure version of Windows and we are glad that Which? shares our recommendation for customers to stay current with the latest Windows updates.’
Microsoft has offered ‘gesture of goodwill’ payments to some people who have had issues with Windows 10 such as Arthur Shaw above. However, it has so far not discussed any real compensation for the many consumers who have got in touch with us. Or, indeed, the many more who may have been affected.
We want Microsoft to offer compensation to people who have spent time and money trying to get their computer back to the state it was prior to the software being installed.
Microsoft told us: ‘We value all of our customers and are committed to ensuring they have a great experience on Windows. We do not comment on individual cases, but all customer issues are taken very seriously and are dealt with on a case-by-case basis.’
Smoother updates in future
As Windows 10 is billed as the ‘last version of Windows’, Microsoft says the operating system will receive significant ‘feature’ updates twice a year. These feature updates will then be supported with security updates for up to 18 months after they’ve been launched. After that time you’ll need to install the next feature update in order to continue receiving important security patches.
This ultimately means that 18 months after refusing or reversing an update because it breaks your computer, you could find yourself stuck on a version of Windows 10 that can no longer receive security updates, making your computer far more vulnerable to online attacks.
We’re calling on Microsoft to commit to do everything possible to ensure software updates associated with Windows 10 do not cause problems within the consumer PC ecosystem in the future. As part of this, we would like Microsoft to split out vital Windows 10 security updates so that consumers don’t have to download significant and potentially fault-inducing updates just to stay secure.
Microsoft said: ‘Windows 10 is seeing the highest customer satisfaction and lowest number of customer support enquiries of any version of Windows. Windows 10 is the safest and most secure version of Windows and we strongly encourage our customers to stay current with the latest Windows updates.’
What to do if you have a problem with Windows 10
You should always give Microsoft the chance to address any issues that you believe have been caused by Windows 10. Head to support.microsoft.com/en-gb, where you can schedule an appointment or connect immediately to a Microsoft expert, either via online chat or on the phone.
Make sure you know you’re actually talking to a Microsoft employee. Type in the web address directly and don’t just Google ‘Microsoft support’, as this could bring up links to other companies that will want to charge you for help that you can actually get for free. Also, Microsoft won’t just contact you out of the blue and offer help – that would most likely going to be a scammer.
If you hit a dead end with Microsoft, bear in mind that you do have legal rights. If you bought your laptop or PC after 1 October 2015 and had problems following a Windows 10 update, you could potentially be covered under the Consumer Rights Act.
If digital content, such as Windows 10, damages your laptop and/or other software/content you have running on it, you have the right to be compensated or to have items repaired. Likewise, if you’ve paid for a third party to repair your PC, you can potentially recover that sum from the maker of the faulty goods.
As a last resort, you can consider paying a fee to take the case to the small claims court. Whether it’s worth taking this course of action depends on the cost and inconvenience involved and how determined you are to get redress.
To get impartial legal advice, use our online chat service to find out more about Which? Legal. Head to which.co.uk/legalservice and click ‘Chat with us’.
Software updates: It’s not just Microsoft
Software updates can be fantastic for consumers. They add new features and functions to our products and services, and also provide crucial protection against the latest security threats.
However, Microsoft isn’t alone in causing problems when updating software. Apple has frequently had to fix or address some glitch or flaw that was uncovered following an update to its iOS or macOS operating systems. Sometimes this has caused critical issues to pricey Apple devices.
Updates can also negatively impact performance, too. In December 2017, Apple admitted that a software update to iOS meant that older iPhones would be slowed down when a lot was being demanded of the device and the battery was showing signs of age.
If all software updates were properly tested and checked before being rolled out to devices, the chances of them causing problems would be reduced. But in cases where problems do happen, it should be the company, not you, picking up the pieces.