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Toshiba Tech Support: 2014 Rating

Last year, Toshiba earned its third-straight C+ score for overall tech support, despite its newly revamped website. This year, we ran into many of the problems as we did in previous years, but the company did improve its social support. That brought the overall grade up, earning Toshiba a B-.

Toshiba offers phone support for up to 90 days after purchase. After that, services are both limited and inconsistent, unless you're willing to pay. You can also seek help via social channels, including Toshiba's Twitter account (@ToshibaUSAhelp) and a Facebook page.

For this evaluation, I used a Toshiba Satellite NB15t-A1304 running Windows 8.1, and asked how to set up a picture password, how to prevent the laptop from going to sleep when the lid is closed and what to do if I forgot my Toshiba supervisor password.

Editors’ Note and Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that we visited Toshiba USA’s Facebook page. We visited the wrong Toshiba Facebook page, which does not field tech support-related queries. For the retest, we posted the same question to the Toshiba USA Facebook page. My question was answered within 11 minutes. We have adjusted Toshiba’s Web grade from a B to a B+.

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Web and Social Support

Toshiba's support page is exactly the same as it was last year — it's clean and easy to navigate. However, important information, such as tech-support phone numbers and online chat access, is tucked away in the corner.

At the page's center is a search box, where users can enter their Toshiba product's model or serial number. This brings up a page for that product's driver software, community forums, "Knowledge Base," and manuals and specs.

Toshiba did not have any Knowledge Base information available for the Toshiba Satellite NB15t-A1304 I used in this test. After doing a quick sampling of the website, I found that several other Satellite products also lacked Knowledge Base information.

Below the search box on the home page are links to Toshiba's troubleshooter, community forums, repair services and how-to videos. These videos are not sorted by topic and can't be searched (though there is a search bar for the entire website on the top right of every page).

Using this search box, I found information in the Toshiba forums on how to create a picture password. In the Toshiba Support section, I also found information on how to change the laptop's behavior when I close the lid, but the article was specific to Windows Vista, and there didn't appear to be other versions.

When I searched for "Toshiba Supervisor Password" in this search box, it brought up a Toshiba Support page on passwords in general (which did include the answer to my question), as well as several Community pages.

Toshiba's Virtual Help Desk, accessible from a menu on the right of the screen, lets you live chat with a chatbot that might have seemed intelligent in 1998. I don't necessarily expect all robotic intelligence to have achieved the singularity by now, but when I type "how to set picture password" and the response I get is, "Is it true that HDMI?", there's a problem.

Toshiba's Twitter support was very helpful. I tweeted at @ToshibaUSAhelp around 11:30 a.m. EDT, asking how to set up a picture password, and just more than an hour later, Toshiba answered. Instead of trying to jam everything into a 140-character Tweet, the company tweeted me a link to a longer message in which it concisely but thoroughly answered my question.

To test Toshiba’s Facebook support, I posted a question — How do I make it so the laptop doesn’t turn off when I close the lid? — to a Toshiba Facebook page. My question went unanswered. However, consumers in the U.S. are supposed to use the Toshiba USA Facebook page. In a retest, I posted to that page and my question was answered within 11 minutes. The response also included a link to the Toshiba forums for further information. 

Toshiba has also recently verified its Toshiba USA page with Facebook, and disabled posts to page in its other Toshiba page, which helps let consumers know that they should take their questions to Toshiba USA.

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Phone Support

Toshiba has two phone lines: a toll-free 800 number and a priority-access number. When you call the toll-free number, an automated operator picks up, requiring users to navigate a tree of options before speaking to a live person.

On my first call, I was connected with Shirley. I registered the laptop with her under a fake name. Then, Shirley said that, to answer my question — how to set up a picture password — she would need to set up remote access to my computer. She said this would cost me $50, because the computer's 90-day warranty had expired.

When I protested, she said Toshiba was offering a "back-to-school promo" of 14 days of telephone support for $40 instead. When I protested again and said I didn't want to pay, Shirley suggested I look on Toshiba's support Web page to try to find an answer to my question. This call took 12 minutes and 56 seconds.

I placed my second call at 1:30 p.m., and after a much longer wait on hold was connected with Marvin. Like Shirley, Marvin had me spell out my name, phone number and email, and then spelled my name back at me using words for each letter.

Marvin alerted me that my 90-day phone warranty had expired, but said he would still be able to help me. I asked him how to change my laptop's settings so that when I closed the lid it wouldn't go to sleep. The rep put me on hold for 4 minutes, and then said he needed a bit more time.

After 3 more minutes, Marvin came back and told me to open the Control Panel and navigate to Power Options. On this page he asked me to read the options. Marvin let me go right past "Choose what closing the lid does" (the correct option) and had me click on "Change when the computer sleeps." Then, he asked me to adjust the controls for how long before the computer automatically puts itself to sleep. I explained several times that that was not what I wanted. Marvin put me back on hold. After only a minute, Marvin came back and told me he'd transfer me to another representative who would do a "remote test." He assured me that this was still free.

At 35 minutes and 55 seconds into the conversation, I was transferred to Leo, who confirmed my name and number and quickly directed me to "Choose what closing the lid does." After about 3 minutes with Leo, the call was done. From the moment Toshiba's robotic operator picked up to when I hung up, the call took 39:09 in total. Frustrating.

I placed my third call at 8 p.m. EDT. After navigating through the automated menu, I was told that "Due to technical issues, we cannot complete your call at this time." But then, I was put on hold anyway, before being connected to Anne.

My question was, "What do I do if I forgot my Toshiba supervisor password?" The answer, as I had found from Toshiba's support pages, is that "If you forget your BIOS or Supervisor password, you will have to have the password removed by a Toshiba Authorized Service Provider."

When I explained my problem, Anne said pretty much the same thing: "We may need to manually remove the password since it's on your BIOS.” She then told me that she couldn't do this herself; I needed to talk to the Toshiba Repair Services department, which is open only between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET on weekdays.

Anne gave me the department's phone number and my case number, and told me to call back during business hours. I then hung up. This call took 21 minutes.

I dialed Toshiba Repair Services at 3 p.m. the next day. An automated operator picked up immediately, and I was put right on hold. The voice prompt told me I could leave a voicemail, or stay on the line for the next representative.

After 20 minutes, I was connected to Lisa in Ohio. She told me the starting fee for a laptop not under warranty would be $175, but then said that she'd never heard of a supervisor password.

After explaining my problem again, Lisa said that Toshiba Repair Services only does physical repairs on a laptop and that resetting a password is something for regular tech support — the first number I called. This call took 27 minutes and 36 seconds, bringing the total up to 48 minutes and 36 seconds.

So I called Toshiba tech support again, and was connected to Princess in the Philippines. At first, she tried to send me to Toshiba Repair Services. I protested, so she put me on hold and consulted with her supervisor. Then, she came back and told me I needed to register my laptop. I told her I had. Apparently, Toshiba doesn't consider laptops registered unless you have the receipt or date of purchase. Once it was clear she couldn't register my laptop to the extent she wished, Princess told me that she could change my supervisor password via remote access, but it would cost me $49.99. As I was unwilling to pay for help, I hung up with her after 23 minutes and 47 seconds.

All told, these three calls combined on my one question took 72 minutes and 23 seconds.

Bottom Line

Toshiba's website looks good and is decent in terms of organization. The brand's Twitter support is prompt and helpful, and the Facebook support was prompt. Where Toshiba really drops the ball is phone support. If I was still covered under the 90-day warranty, my experience might have been a bit different, but as it stood, Toshiba's practice of charging users $50 for any kind of phone support after 90 days, plus the sheer length of the calls, cost Toshiba a lot of points in our Tech Support Showdown.