FREE Microsoft Support

Ignore the posting date — everything on this page is current! 
 
As a Microsoft consultant I’m pleased that practically every resource is available freely on Microsoft’s website. They provide many useful downloads & fun “goodies”, as well as their support information.
Locating the proper Microsoft Support information however isn’t always so easy; and with the additional pressure of finding information DURING troubleshooting – you’ll have to agree it can sometimes be quite frustrating! I’ve gathered all of Microsoft’s disparate support resources here all in one location.
 
GENERAL INFORMATION: To locate a product’s home page type:
http://www.microsoft.com/"Whatever you’re looking for"
Example 1: /windows, /security, /mom, /sms, /xbox (or most anything really)
 
SUPPORT CENTER: For general troubleshooting 
 
Events and Errors Message Center Enter one or more of the following parameters: Event Id, event source, message text, file name (found in the Event Viewer logs (Windows 2000, XP, &  2003)
    • All Products (if you’re unsure which software is causing the problem)
    • Baseline Security Advisor 1.2
    • BizTalk Server 3.0/2004
    • Business Solutions CRM 1.2
    • Exchange Server 6.0/2000 & 6.5/2003
    • Host Integration Server 6/2004
    • ISA Server 3.0/2000
    • MapPoint Location Server 1.0
    • Money 12, 13, 14/2005, & 15/2006
    • .Net Framework 1.x
    • Office 11/2003
    • SQL Server 8/2000 & 9.0/2005
    • SQL Notification Services 2.0
    • SQL Reporting Services 8.0
    • System Management Server 2.0/2003
    • Windows 5.0/2000, 5.1/XP, & 5.2/2003

    • ActiveSync Error Codes (received after a synchronization attempt)
    • Exchange Server Error-1018  Detailed discussion of the conditions that result in error -1018; covering the detection mechanisms that Exchange uses to discover and recover from damage to its database files.
    • NEW! Network Load Balancing Event Messages – A complete list of all Network Load Balancing event messages, their causes, and detailed instructions for remedial actions, if any.
NET HELPMSG The net command returns a description of the error. From the command prompt type:
C:>net helpmsg <decimal code>
For example: if COM returns the error 8007054B, convert the 054B to decimal (1355). Then type the following:
C:>net helpmsg 1355
returns the error message: The specified domain did not exist.
 
DIAGNOSTIC TOOLS:
    • Bootvis – Microsoft states this tool is no longer available, but they still “support it”.  This program “was” a performance tracing and visualization tool designed to help identify performance issues for boot/resume timing while developing new PC products or supporting software. (Alternate Site: MajorGeeks)
    • NEW! Desktop Heap Monitor tool examines usage of a WIN32 subsystem that has an internal heap area known as "desktop heap". When you run a large number of Windows-based programs, "Out Of Memory" error messages appear when you attempt to start new programs or try to use programs that are already running, even though you still have plenty of physical and pagefile memory available. (Support Document: KB126952 – "Out of Memory" Error Message Appears When You Have a Large Number of Programs Running)
    • DLL Help Database – helps identify DLL version conflicts
    • Exchange Server Error Code Look-up determines error values from decimal and hexadecimal error codes.
    • Fiddler is an HTTP Debugging Proxy which logs all HTTP traffic between your computer and the Internet. Fiddler allows you to inspect all HTTP Traffic, set breakpoints, and "fiddle" with incoming or outgoing data. (Support Document: HTTP Debugging)
    • Guided Help (depending on the problem) can automatically guide you through various steps to perform some diagnostic tasks yourself. (Support Document: How to . . .)
    • NEW! IIS Diagnostics Toolkit (x86ia64, & amd64) is a compiled set of tools aimed at reducing the overall time to resolve problems with Internet Information Services (IIS) products. These tools include tools aimed at resolving problems related to Secure Socket Layer (SSL) issues, permission or security problems, gathering data for your SMTP server included with IIS, as well as the famous Log Parser utility used to sift through hundreds or thousands of log files very quickly.
    • Log Parser is a command-line tool that lets you run SQL queries against a variety of log files and other system data sources, and get the results out to an array of destinations, from SQL tables to CSV files. (Log Parser Support Website)
    • UPDATED! Malicious Software Removal Tool checks your computer for infection by specific, prevalent malicious software (including Blaster, Sasser, and Mydoom) and helps to remove the infection if it is found. (Updated on the second Tuesday of each month.)
    • The MDAC Component Checker tool is designed to help you determine installed version information and diagnose installation issues with the Microsoft Data Access Components (MDAC Support Website)
    • Network Diagnostics for Windows XP tool (xpnetdiag) analyzes information about your network connectivity to help troubleshoot some of the most common connection problems encountered in a home networking environment. (Support Document: KB914440)
    • PortQry Command Line Port Scanner is a command-line utility that you can use to help troubleshoot TCP/IP connectivity issues. The utility reports the port status of TCP and UDP ports on a computer you choose. For details, see KB310099 and description. (Description of Microsoft Port Numbers & All Port Numbers)
    • Port Reporter logs TCP and UDP port activity on a local Windows system. Port Reporter is a small application that runs as a service logging which ports are used, which process is using the port, if the process is a service, which modules the process has loaded and which user account is running the process. (Description of Microsoft Port Numbers & All Port Numbers)
      • Port Reporter Parser Tool is a log parser for Port Reporter log files. Port Reporter Parser has many features that can help you analyze Port Reporter log files.

    • Promqry and PromqryUI are two tools that enable you to detect a network sniffer that is running on a computer that is running Windows Server 2003, Windows XP, or Windows 2000. If a system has network interfaces in promiscuous mode, it may indicate the presence of a network sniffer running on the system.
      • PromqryUI is a tool with a Windows graphical interface that can be used to detect network interfaces that are running in promiscuous mode.
      • Promqry is a command line tool that can be used to detect network interfaces that are running in promiscuous mode.

    • Product Support’s Reporting Tools  facilitates the gathering of critical system and logging information used in troubleshooting support issues. There are 8 specialty versions, one for each of the following support scenario categories: Alliance, Directory Services (not for NT 4.0), Networking, Clustering, SQL, Software Update Services, MDAC and Base / Setup / Storage / Print / Performance. NEW! Premier Services Reporting Utility (Alliance version) (Support Document Support Blog Article)
    • PSSDIAG Data Collection Utility is a diagnostic data collector for Microsoft SQL Server. It simultaneously collects Perfmon/Sysmon logs, Profiler traces, event logs, SQLDIAG reports, and detailed blocking information.
    • UPDATED! System Configuration Utility (msconfig.exe) for Windows XP has been updated with a Tools TabThe System Configuration utility automates the routine troubleshooting steps used when diagnosing system configuration issues. (Support Document: How to troubleshoot using MSCONFIG) 
    • SQL Server Express Utility (SSEUtil) lets you easily interact with SQL Server to handle connections, execute scripts, perform maintenance tasks, and more.
    • NEW! User Mode Process Dumper (userdump) dumps any running Win32 processes memory image (including system processes such as csrss.exe, winlogon.exe, services.exe, etc) on the fly, without attaching a debugger, or terminating target processes. Generated dump file can be analyzed or debugged by using the standard debugging tools.
    • UPDATED! User Profile Hive Cleanup is a service to help with slow log off and unreconciled profile problems ensuring that user sessions are completely terminated when a user logs off when using Roaming Profiles or locked profiles as implemented through the Shared Computer Toolkit.
    • Video Decoder Checkup Utility helps determine if an MPEG-2 DVD video decoder is installed, and whether it’s compatible with Windows Media Player 10 or Windows XP Media Center Edition.
    • Windows Installer CleanUp Utility can remove a program’s Windows Installer configuration information if experiencing installation (Setup) problems.
    • The Windows Memory Diagnostic tests the Random Access Memory (RAM) on your computer for errors.
    • Windows XP Support Tools are intended for use by Microsoft support personnel and experienced users to assist in diagnosing and resolving computer problems.
 
SEARCH THE KNOWLEDGE BASE: With the Standard Knowledge Base Search, it can be difficult to locate the article your need, so I recommend using the Advanced  Knowledge Base Search – this can help you quickly isolate your question to a specific product and published date.   
1) Pick your Product – The Advanced  Knowledge Base Search allows you to easily choose the product you’re troubleshooting. (Which is easier than remembering "kbWinOS2000” is the keyword for Windows 2000.)
 
2) “Guess” keywords that describe your problem – Error messages can go through a great deal of editing. We had an Outlook problem of the username field coming up blank (not saved) on some computers. We tried searching for everything (blank field, empty field etc.) – ultimately we discovered that the proper "Microsoft" word for a “blank field” is “unpopulated!
Microsoft only prints a fraction of their keywords list, as well as keywords used for programmers. Some keywords are too specific (as with these Windows 2000 keywords), while others keywords are based upon an acronym. I hope Microsoft expands the list of keywords available to the public. 
 
NOTE1: Remember to think like the game show Jeopardy. You’re looking for an “answer” not your “question”; so ask your question in the form of an answer. Articles will probably not have a question like “How do I change the system clock?” it will more likely have the answer “To change the system clock”
 
NOTE2: Wildcards (*), “Quotes”, AND, OR, NOT commands can be used just like any other search engine. 

NOTE3: Read Microsoft’s  How to ask a question 

3) Pick an “Article Type” Keyword (optional) – Helps pinpoint the specific type of support you need.
BUG – Known problem (may have a FIX)
DOC – If your printed docs are wrong
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
FILE – Downloadable support files
filename.ext – Search for a specific file
FIX – Shows fixes for known “BUGs”
HOWTO – “How To” Articles
INFO – Product Info & Specs
PRB – End-user Perceived Problems
QFE – Quick Fix Engineering Patch
SAMPLE – Sample Program Code

NOTE:  Microsoft also provides short concise support documents called cards or value cards — and NEW Posters & Overview Posters.

4) Modified Date  – You can refine your search results to see the most recent articles, or broaden your results if you do not know when the article was written/modified.
 
 
 
5) Categories – Unless you know which specific category to search, start by selecting all of the categories, as well as the “Community Solutions Content” which include solutions from knowledgeable non-Microsoft employees. 
How To Articles displays KB articles describing a feature or how to perform a task.
 
Downloads displays KB articles contain content that links to a Download. It also includes hotfix or security bulletin information.
Troubleshooting displays KB articles describing how to fix a problem or that have information about a virus.
MSDN Content provides in-depth technical content, including references, technical articles, downloads, and code samples, for all developer-related Microsoft products and technologies.

TechNet Content provides content that is geared toward information technology professionals. It provides information about technology issues, security and virus information, information technology solutions, and community resources.
Community Solutions Content displays articles written by customers and also by Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs)

 

6) Rinse, Lather & Repeat – It’s doubtful that you’ll find your answer on the first search. So go back to Step # 2 and try fewer keywords, more keywords, or “entire phrases within quotation marks.”

There simply is no single method to “divine” an answer within Microsoft’s Knowledge Base – but trust me your answer is indeed in there. . .”somewhere”  🙂 

 
NEW & UPDATED BETA 2! Microsoft Community Search locates text within Codezone, GoDotNet & Microsoft Blogs
 
NEW WIKI PROJECT:  MSWiki is a project to create a free, complete, up-to-date and reliable documentation about Microsoft Products.
 
NEW! Smart Search for MSDN – Created by Microsoft’s Andy Pennell "which modifies a search engine query to greatly improve the hit rate."
 
UPDATED! MSDN Product Feedback Center updated advanced search for existing bugs and suggestions, review their status, validate bugs, vote on the importance of bugs and suggestions, join discussions, and view published workarounds (Support Documents: Help & FAQTeam Blog)
 
NEWSGROUPS: This information is “informally” organized, but there are indeed many support gems hiding here.
 
MICROSOFT BLOGS: Not always a source of immediate help, but these blogs are a must read. Be sure to note the additional employees links on each of the team blogs. 
  • NEW NOTE: Due to the large number of Microsoft bloggers on TechNet, MSDN & MSN Spaces — a complete list is being maintained here:
 
ROAD TO KNOW WHERE:  I’ve prepared additional articles detailing troubleshooting tips and free Microsoft  software available for download. 
 

About blakehandler

BLAKE was a Microsoft MVP and award winning programmer with over 20+ years experience providing complete Windows and networking support for small to medium sized businesses. BLAKE is also Jazz Musician and Instructor for residential clients on the Los Angeles West Side.
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9 Responses to FREE Microsoft Support

  1. M says:

    hidear sir thanks very much for informing me. so nice of u :)

  2. Unknown says:

    Great collection of resources! I agree that finding the information is the big challenge — so much is out there, it’s just hard to find. Nice of you to do the hunting for the rest of us :-)

  3. Anthcoll says:

    Great source of info… Very much needed.

  4. Luise says:

    I have yet to see a usable explanation on how to recover email from MSN Explorer. I have tried to follow the Microsoft remedy but it does not work. I have an external hard drive case which has in it my former C drive. I have been unable to recover the email from it. The commercial recover software seem to limit themselves to Outlook or Outlook Express neither of which I use for email. Blakes Road is a very nice resource which I am sure will provide me with a solution to this and other problems. Thank you in advance.

  5. Unknown says:

    You are absoutely on the right track. As a newcomer to .Net and C#, the biggest obstacle was finding good examples and solutions. I had really expected to be able to hit F1 and find a snip of code. The examples that are there are either too simple or miss the matter at hand.ThanksMike

  6. WiX says:

    Hello, do you know or does anybody know whether Microsoft is planning to start a call center support site in SOUTHEAST ASIA?

  7. ann says:

    my lap top will not turn on giving error message windows\system32\configsystem. telling me a file is missing or corrupt wants the original setup cd-rom but we did not get one with the computer and it is a new computer. can anyone help me please

  8. Blake says:

    Ann which manufacturer portable do you have? Every (big) laptop company will send you the CD (it may costs $10 etc.) — but they will be able to assist). If this is a "no name" laptop (clone) then you may not be able to get the CD, in which case you’re stuck and may need to purchase a copy of Windows.

  9. michael says:

    HiI been having a problem trying to install adobe photoshop cs5 for windows vista . I called adobe customer support for help I was getting a code 7 when trying to install photoshop cs 5 spent a few hours with them on the phone which they could not fix the problem they told me to call you people about it so when I install the program I get error code 7 .if you could let me know what to do with this thank you ! mike cavaliere

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