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Microsoft Tech Support

Friday, September 29th, 2006

I called Microsoft Technical Support today. I've been laughing about it all evening.

First I called Sony, the manufacturer of the computer I was working on. The hard drive had crashed, so I had to recover as much data as possible, replace the drive, and reinstall Windows. The catch was, not only did this PC not come with a standard Windows install CD, it didn't come with a recovery CD either. Actually, it came with a little piece of paper with a drawing of a CD on it, explaining that you don't need one. Or, if you really do need a recovery CD, you can burn one yourself, using software included on the hard drive. Of course if the hard drive hadn't just crashed (thus making that impossible), I wouldn't be looking for a recovery CD anyway.

So, in the interest of time, the client decided to just go ahead and buy a full copy of Windows XP. The problem was, I couldn't install Windows onto the new hard drive, because Windows doesn't include a driver for the on-board RAID controller, so the installer can't see the hard drive to install on. There's an option to load a third-party driver from a floppy disk (yes, this is 2006 and most new PCs don't have floppy drives, and no, you can't use a CD). Fortunately this system does have a floppy drive, and after awhile I found a program to make a driver disk on Intel's web site. Unfortunately, after loading the driver, the Windows installer still couldn't see the hard drive.

So that's when I threw in the towel and called Sony for help. Their response? Because this is a retail version of Windows, I should call Microsoft for support. I tried to explain that since this is a hardware driver issue, Microsoft will just tell me to contact the hardware manufacturer for support, but the Sony support rep was adament. So I called Microsoft.

Are you ready for this?

The Microsoft technician didn't know what a RAID is. I had to explain it to him.

I could understand if the first person who answered the phone didn't know what a RAID was; their job is to find out what my issue is and then transfer me to a specialist who knows how to deal with that particular issue. But no, the guy I was transferred to, whose job it is to troubleshoot problems installing Windows, didn't know what a RAID is.

After I briefly explained how a RAID works, and the Microsoft technician put me on hold for a few minutes to do some research, he suggested that I try installing again, but this time without the driver.

After I explained that of course that was the first thing I had tried, and the only reason I went hunting down a driver disk is because I can't install without a driver, he did one thing that impressed me: rather than telling me to hang up and call Sony, he actually called Sony himself (after asking me for their phone number), and brought me in on a conference call. The new Sony tech support guy couldn't solve the problem either, but at least with the Microsoft guy on the line, he couldn't tell me to hang up and call Microsoft. Eventually he concluded that a clean install is possible, but only if you also have a Sony recovery CD.

I just bought a PCI SATA RAID card and made a driver disk for that. It works fine.

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