There's far too little Consumer Reports-like testing in tech, where the publications pull a sting operation rather than identify themselves as press to computing vendors. That's why Laptop's annual Tech Support Showdown, where they test the phone, social media, and Web support systems of major laptop vendors under cover is a nice change.
And in this case, it's rather revealing. As part of a series of calls to the major OEMs, several agents actively discouraged Laptop's callers from upgrading to Windows 10, tried to get them to go back to older operating systems, or at the very least they didn't understand core features of Windows 10.
In calling Dell's support line to ask how to change the touchpad's scrolling direction on an Inspiron 15 5000 that had been upgraded to Windows 10, an agent told a Laptop reporter the company is getting a ton of support calls from Windows 10 users and that they should roll back their laptop to Windows 8.1 because "there are a lot of glitches in Windows 10."
In calling HP for help with its CoolSense utility, the Laptop reporter spent 57 minutes on the line with a support agent, and when that failed, she recommended the Laptop editor roll back to Windows 8.1. When even the rollback didn't work, she advised them to buy a $40 recovery USB key to get back to the older version of Windows.
Lenovo didn't suggest a rollback, but its reps weren't too well-versed on Cortana. When seeking help to enable Cortana's always-listening mode, Laptop spent most of its 32-minute call trying to explain what they wanted to do, and the reps, with their poor English skills, didn't understand.
Finally, a rep suggested leaving the microphone always on, which is not correct and isn't even possible, and when Laptop asked for help to adjust the microphone setting, they were told they'd need to sign up for a $19.99 per month software support service to find out.
The Windows rollback suggestion is very interesting. I never would imagine OEMs advising people to go back to the most hated OS Microsoft ever released. Clearly, call centers are on the front lines of issues like this and their reports would point out the major problem spots, so you have to believe they are seeing a lot of Windows 10 calls.
Also, a lot of folks upgraded from Windows 7 and 8.1 to 10, and I don't care what Microsoft says, you should do a clean install. Wipe that C: drive clean and install it fresh. Upgrades have always been a dodgy proposition and I'd go for the clean install option.
The general cluelessness of the tech support people is why when I get into a technical pickle I go to the Anandtech help forums. They have never steered me wrong and I always get a fast answer. The fact is technical support lines for most firms are not a priority, and they try to get away with doing things on the cheap. That means farming the work out to international call centers, usually in India, where the staff may mean well but are often untrained or poorly trained and their English is rough.
But it's also the dividing line between consumer and corporate support. What Laptop found is what you get if you buy a $500 laptop from Best Buy. If your company has a service agreement with Microsoft, you'll be helped by an MVP in the U.S., not an overseas call center. That's just how it goes.