Julie Marto of Medfield, Massachusetts, purchased a Dell Inspiron notebook running Windows XP last October. Through a program called Express Upgrade, she was promised a free copy of Windows Vista when the operating system became commercially available. It's been five months since Vista went on sale January 30. Marto is still waiting and steaming mad.
"I've done everything I can to get my Vista upgrade including e-mailing a request to Michael Dell himself," Marto says. She says she never received a reply from Michael Dell.
Marto isn't alone. Since PC World originally reported problems back in March with the Vista upgrade program, people have continued to send us e-mail and post complaints to our community forums citing paperwork nightmares, Vista upgrade disc no-shows, and long hold times when trying to contact vendors or third-party companies handling the upgrades.
One company handling the Vista Express Upgrades, ModusLink, acknowledges some problems persist, but maintains most customers have received their Vista upgrade discs by now. Dell complaints have been filtering into PC World, but can also be found by scanning the company's support forum.
In one Dell support forum a company representative offers an apology and the statement: "As of April 30, we have shipped approximately 80 percent of the upgrades. We expect the bulk of the remaining orders to ship by May 15, and all scheduled orders to be shipped should be completed by the end of May, barring any unforeseen additional delays."
Root of the Problem
Upgrade problems began when consumers purchased a new PC late last year. That's when computer makers enticed people to buy new systems preloaded with Windows XP prior to Vista's release by promising a free or reduced-cost Vista upgrade when the OS became commercially available.
When a PC was purchased, the new owner received a Microsoft Certificate of Authenticity number. The upgrade process was supposed to be simple: When Vista went on sale, all a customer had to do was visit a special upgrade Web site and enter their COA number to confirm their eligibility to receive a Vista upgrade disc in the mail. Finally, new owners were directed to mail or fax in their proof of purchase (Dell, however, waived this step).
"I was told it would be an easy process," says William Bond, of Tampa, Florida. But, he says, the process has been anything but simple. Bond purchased a Hewlett-Packard Pavilion desktop in November at Circuit City and is still waiting for his Vista upgrade disc from ModusLink, the company handling the program for HP.
Bond says he has been asked repeatedly for his proof of purchase. "I must [have] e-mailed, faxed, and mailed that proof of purchase five times by now," he says, but ModusLink still hasn't acknowledged receipt. "I'm exasperated," Bond says.
New Issues Delay Vista Upgrade Discs
ModusLink, which is processing Vista upgrade requests for people who bought Acer, Fujitsu, Gateway, HP, and Toshiba computers, says the company is very sensitive to the fact that customers are frustrated. "We are doing the best we can," says Christine Pothier, the company's marketing communications manager.
When PC World spoke to Pothier in early April she said the issues with handling extremely large volumes of Vista upgrade requests had been remedied by hiring extra staff. She now says that new issues are delaying shipment of some Vista upgrade discs.
Pothier says the remaining delays stem from customers whose Vista upgrade orders included a declined credit card (some PC makers made their customers pay the shipping cost of the Vista upgrade disc), address changes, and incomplete or erroneous shipment information. Dell echoed the same issues on its message boards.
Initially, problems delivering Vista upgrades in a timely manner, Pothier says, were because PC vendors were four to eight weeks late in sending ModusLink the Vista upgrade discs. "We are just the middlemen here," she says. "There was nothing we could do."
Vendors Tight-Lipped on Delays
HP declined to comment when asked about the delay, simply offering a statement that it had issued on February 9: "During the past few weeks HP has received e-mails and phone calls from many customers concerning the ordering process for the Express Upgrade kit for Windows Vista. We are aware of these problems and are working on an aggressive schedule with the fulfillment vendor and the software product supplier to resolve these issues."
Richard Black, director of marketing for Acer, says most of the company's shipping delays have been resolved. "There were some missteps on our side and on Microsoft's and ModusLink's," Black says. "These are the kinds of problems you do your best to resolve when you have to sort through hundreds of thousands of orders in a matter of months," he says.
Says ModusLink's Pothier: "Is it possible customers have had to resend things and are still not happy? Yes, and I apologize for that." She says ModusLink is doing the best it can to resolve issues with the "few remaining" people who haven't received their Vista upgrade yet.
Keep an eye on PC World s Windows Vista & XP coverage to see how the upgrade rollout progresses. If you're one of the unlucky PC owners still pulling your hair out waiting for a Vista disc, we want to hear about it.