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Microsoft To Drop Community Forums Support for Windows 7 and Office 2013 Next Month

Microsoft plans to stop the active participation of its employees in Microsoft Community forum discussions starting next month for certain older Windows and Office products, plus a few others.

The Microsoft Community forums will continue to exist, but Microsoft staff won't answer questions starting in July. They won't respond to questions for the following products across Microsoft's various community forums, according to a June 8 announcement by Michelle Mad, a forum moderator and "former" forum owner:

  • Windows 7, 8.1, 8.1 RT
  • Microsoft Security Essentials
  • Internet Explorer 10
  • Office 2010, 2013
  • Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2, Surface RT, Surface 2
  • Microsoft Band -- this topic will be locked. Users are invited to participate in Microsoft Band 2 topic.
  • Mobile devices forum – Microsoft support will continue in "Other Windows mobile devices" topic
  • Zune -- this topic will be locked, but will remain available for browsing

Under Microsoft's Fixed Policy for business and consumer software, "complimentary" or free phone and online support aren't available during the "extended support" product lifecycle phase, which is the last five years of the product's lifecycle, although access to online content is still available. Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 are currently in the extended support phase.

Participants in Microsoft Community forums can "continue to use the forum to ask questions and post answers," Mad added, but there will be no Microsoft employee participation in them, starting next month.

Forums in the Microsoft Community include the participation of volunteers, moderators, article authors, Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) and Microsoft staff. They get various badges and awards based on their contributions. The forums also include various "forum owners," who are described as being Microsoft employees, according to a Microsoft Community FAQ description.

It seems that some of the Microsoft agents in the Microsoft Community forums aren't Microsoft employees, formally speaking, but instead work for "third-party support companies," according to an observation by Susan Bradley, a Microsoft MVP. She noted that these agents report trends back to Microsoft. It serves as a sort of "early warning system" for problems. However, that feedback mechanism likely will get somewhat lost for those products given Microsoft's decision to pull back on forum support, she suggested.

The Microsoft Community is a free support network typically accessed by consumer users with problems. On some technical issues, Microsoft offers free phone or technician support for consumers if the product falls under "mainstream support" (the first five years). For organizations, Microsoft charges for providing technical support. The current paid offering is the Microsoft Premier Support program. It will get replaced by a Microsoft Unified Support program worldwide next year, which has a focus on cloud services.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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