Windows Live drops the ball on support

Windows Live drops the ball on support

Summary: I've been impressed with the array of apps and services that have debuted lately under the Windows Live banner, including the new Windows Live Essentials package But the glow wears off fast if you need support. As I found through personal experience, support options are difficult to find, and when you're finally able to submit a request, there's no guarantee you'll get an answer any time soon. What was Windows Live management thinking?


Microsoft has rolled out an impressive array of apps and services under the Windows Live banner, including the new Windows Live Essentials package (see Mary Jo Foley’s write-up for more details on what’s in this new release). I’ve been using the new Windows Live products for several months and have become a big fan. But the glow wears off fast if you need support.

About two weeks ago, I began experiencing a problem with my new Windows Live home page. I got in touch with Windows Live support, opening a ticket by filling out a form at That page is nearly impossible to find via any Windows Live app or service. To get there, you have to read an online Help topic in your browser, then click the Get More Help link in the lower right corner of the topic pane, and then click a small, boldface Get Support link in the middle of the page. That’s a usability fail, big time.

As far as I can tell, you have to go through the same cumbersome procedure to submit a support request for any member of the Windows Live family. And then you have to wait for the wheels of e-mail to grind, slowly, and hope that someone takes ownership of the issue and offers a solution.

You want peer support? Good luck. Online support resources are disorganized, to say the least. When I go to the Microsoft Discussion Groups Home, I find only four groups under the heading – one for Messenger, one for Windows Live Mail Desktop, and Live FolderShare and Live Sync groups that appear to cover the same product under its old and new names (see the illustration at right).

Windows Live Groups - most apps and services missing in action

The Help menu from Windows Live Photo Gallery has a Search the Photo Gallery Newsgroup option, which leads to a completely different Microsoft Discussions Group page, this one containing groups for Photo Gallery, Messenger, and Windows LiveID.

The Help menu from Windows Live Writer leads to a Microsoft Forums page, where the Windows Live heading has a couple of lightly trafficked groups for Windows Live Writer and another for the old, apparently deprecated portal page.

I can’t find any Microsoft-sanctioned support resources for SkyDrive, or Family Safety, Windows Live Groups, or the Windows Live home page and profile, as well as other members of this massive Wave 3 release.

Ironically, Microsoft has created a new site called the Windows Live Solutions Center at That sounds like a one-stop support resource for the various Windows Live apps and services, right? Wrong. For now, at least, it’s just the Hotmail Online Solutions Center by another name. The Windows Live Team Blog promises that “other Windows Live services will be part of the site in the future.”

What baffles me is that Windows Live Wave 3 has been under development for … well, it seems like forever. The software side has run exceptionally well, hitting its dates and delivering a generally excellent product. So what happened to customer support? From this vantage point, it looks like management treated support as an afterthought and is only now beginning to build the support resources it should have had in place months ago.

Topics: Windows, Operating Systems, Software

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  • On the bright side...

    At least the new Live Photo Gallery Beta is much better than before. That must count for something... :)
  • RE: Windows Live drops the ball on support

    Indeed they have dropped the ball.

    For about a month I have been unable to sign into Messenger on my Windows Mobile device.

    The email support assistants were a joke, ultimately telling me to upgrade my Windows Live for Windows Mobile to a version without Messenger.

    I have posted on the forums, and heard from someone experiencing the same problem as me, but no luck solving it.

    Maybe one day it will magically start working when they change something server-side. Otherwise, my Windows Mobile device has taken a serious hit in functionality, and I am helpless to do anything about it.
  • Bad Governor bad software

    Bad Governors mess up everything.
  • Is It Any Wonder?

    All you have to do is look at their track record for support on the XBox 360 to tell how wonderful they support their user base.
  • Another good point...

    Is that once you have managed to get in touch with them via the Windows Live Support site, the help you get is VERY good and VERY thorough and from an actual human (a far cry from the automated MSN Messenger support days).

    But, yeah, why is it so hidden away?
  • I had quite a time of installing

    these applications, because they would not, on my machines, complete the install process. What's more, they ruined the existing older versions. Had I not persisted, well past the non sequiturs of the Microsoft error help system, I would have never gotten it done.I had to completely remove the older revisions, and then the install would complete.

    It seems as though Microsoft can't do anything completely right - and that is only a slam of the completeness of the project, not the effort. Once you get the stuff installed, it works well, and looks very nice. But if you want to do anything out of the ordinary, or have a problem, look out - it must boil down to someone's idea that since these are 'free' you shouldn't complain, or need any further help.
    • Same problem with Install

      Had same/similar problem with install:

      I went to try and install the Live ?Essentials? update as they recommended.

      After 135mb of downloads and install of the half dozen various programs the install program gets to the end and decides it doesn?t like something, and aborts. And then proceeds to roll back (hey at least thats something I guess - they don?t hose your system) ? all with zero clue as to the issue - other than a meaningless error code.

      After 45 minutes of searching, including - there is virtually no mention in any of the disjointed ?help? sources ? other than to make sure you have sufficient resources

      There is a Windows Live Team blog ? here is a URL for their announcement of the ?Live Essentials? upgrade!2F7EB29B42641D59!29044.entry

      You can kind of interact with techs but it is thru a ?blog comments? format - which is simply ridiculous - and difficult.

      I agree that the Live platform has promise, but when even experienced users cannot find or get access to simple, easy, meaningful and most important USEFUL, support they are never going to be successful with the platform.

      And its not like it is difficult.

      A forum format makes a lot of sense. But not the horrible ? that is an even bigger nightmare.

      Cartoonish, and extremely user unfriendly ? what should be simple they manage to make difficult. Splitting ?Solutions, Community, and Help? into separate sections of the site (not of the forum).

      This is a huge step backward overall in my opinion.

      What is so hard about support? Go buy vBulletin - install on high power servers, set up a forum for each product group with subforums for each individual product and then man it with techs.

      Problem solved.

      All the information is in one place, and is easily searchable. Almost every user today understands and is comfortable with using a forum. Forum replies by techs essentially become an automatic knowledgebase. Simple, understandable, usable and effective.

      Instead Microsoft comes up with the joke that is ?

      Keep after them Ed ? maybe if they get whacked over the head enough times - by reputable media sources ? they will finally pay attention ? and make an effort at real support for their customers.

      We probably shouldn?t hold our breath, but we can always dream ?.
      • Here is what Microsoft says about their change of support

        Wonder if their legs get tired for all that dancing around and making excuses for the changes ...

  • Nobody lives or works in the clouds

    Terrestrial support will beat the clouds 9 out of 10 times.
  • RE: Windows Live drops the ball on support is a good effort, good site, apps collection. the big problem is organising it, synchronising it all together, linking to one feature from the other, if it even exists, placing navigational bars .....
    the top curiosity is a LINK TO ITSELF from their main site to with a text Live Search .... how more disoragnised, lost, paralysed can you be, if you dont know wht is on your home page of your site ????
    Petr Buben
    • Actually...

      I don't see that. When I go tpo, I see lots of navigation to other pages, but none that are recursive like you describe.
      Ed Bott
      • I'm sorry

        I pressed the wrong button here ... the answer is bellow, as a reply to your whole article. thanks.
  • M$ cannot monitize it..

    The answer is simple. M$ does not make money on that
    kind of support and M$ is all about the money. Even
    when M$ said it was going to provide M$ tech support for
    free at many places that sold M$, what they clairified it
    with is that these people were there to tell you why Vista
    does not suck.

    If M$ cannot make money on it. why should they support

    Just a thought.
    • Nope

      I've since had a few conversations with people inside MS about this issue, and your explanation is off the mark. They're just slow getting the support effort ramped up, it appears.
      Ed Bott
  • RE: Windows Live drops the ball on support

    Cummon folks...this is Microsoft...the biggest monopoly in the world. Bill Gates made his Billions from all of us. Now he's not involved with the day to day functions you can expect things to get worse, I'm sure.

    Wake up Microsoft exec's or your poor quality assurance and support will be your downfall!
  • RE: Windows Live drops the ball on support

    the crux of it is, the is redirected to
    So, at, upper left corner, there is above mentioned link "Live Search", pointing to "", and that leads to itself, ... hahaha ... :]

    they are killing this dear !! where are links to other features, some common nav bar ?? .. how was it with Expo, which they discontinued. It was invisible .. features deliberately NOT linked to, not shown ..

    *I* would make the page better for them. :]

    ==and allow me the last one - KEYBOARD SHORTCUTS ! Where are they? see Gmail, Yahoo .. where is dear team sleeping ????? What do they think Internet is about? to hide links from users?? ... Can't they simply speed up indexing, so that it'l be more useful?
    Thank you,
    Petr Buben
  • RE: Windows Live drops the ball on support

    I have a Windows Live account that I was "advised to
    change my e-mail address" on by someone at Windows
    Live Support. They thought this would correct a problem I
    was having with one of the services. Not only did that not
    work, it now also prevented anyone else from registering a
    new Windows Live account from my domain name. I have
    been trying without any success for over a year with
    Microsoft support. It is nearly impossible to talk to a
    human. When you do, you have to explain everything from
    scratch. It is really deplorable -- especially since I *WANT*
    to continue using their products. You'd think that this
    could get resolved. I can't tell you the number of times I've
    been told, "we're escalating the issue and it will be
    resolved shortly." At this point, if they are to be believed, I
    suspect the issue must be elevated to Steve Ballmer's outer
    office. :(
  • RE: Windows Live drops the ball on support

    Try getting any sensible answer about LIVE SYNC which
    is the mangled wreck with which Microsoft replaced the
    sweet well-oiled application called Foldershare.
    Foldershare worked. Simple.

    Live Sync is a mess, simple. No support and for most
    people hours wasted in finding simple answers - like
    "why doesn't it connect after I download and sign in"?
    When the answers do come they are in geek speak like
    checking proxy settings and LAN settings - can you
    believe that, when everything worked just fine before
    and now MS is implying it is our problem that their
    "enhanced" software doesn't work.

    Don't believe me, see if you can find a positive
    comment at the SYNC team's blog:

    It's the straw that has broken the camel's back for
    me, I'll be gradually migrating every utility away
    from MS in the coming year as they are just rotting
    from the inside these days.

    Walter Adamson
  • Lots more

    Not just support, it drops the locally installed help as well and more importantly API documentation which was present when the apps were part of the OS.
  • RE: Windows Live drops the ball on support

    Typical Microsoft. I mean, really: does anyone anywhere still expect this stupid company to do anything right anymore?? Jeez.