Is MSI Customer Service Good? 2018 Rating
With confusing web support and a punitive registration process, MSI wound up dead-last in our Tech Support Showdown Rankings last year. Based on my research this year, it's not likely to move up in the world very much. Although the company's phone support is fast and somewhat accurate, that's about the best you can say for the brand.
|MSI Tech Support|
|Overall||Web Score||Phone Score||Avg Call Time||Phone Number||Web Support|
|Phone Hours (PST): 5 am - 4 am|
Between nonexistent social media support, incomprehensible online instructions and hit-or-miss phone calls, if anything goes wrong with an MSI laptop, your best bet is to try to find an answer on your own or pick up the phone and call the company.
To test MSI's customer support, I picked up an MSI GL62M 7REX laptop and familiarized myself with it. I then asked three questions, both over the phone and online. Two were generalized Windows 10 questions: "How can I protect myself from Spectre/Meltdown?" and "How can I activate Cortana?" One was specialized for MSI notebooks: "How can I adjust the fan speed?"
Phone support was largely able to diagnose these issues correctly (sometimes after diagnosing them incorrectly at first), but online support was no help at all. Both methods required a lot of tedious setup on my end.
When I sat down to write this piece, I opened the MSI Support website to use as a reference. After failing to load twice, it finally informed me that the site was down for an unspecified amount of time, due to an unspecified error. This experience is a surprisingly good microcosm of MSI’s web support in general.
Let's take a moment to talk about registration as well. MSI insists that users register their products before they request either online or phone support. While you have to go through this process only once, it's one of the most arduous I've been through.
You'll need your name, email address, phone number and computer's serial number — fair enough. But you'll also need your computer's Windows service pack (Windows 10 does not have service packs) and BIOS version (which is difficult to find, impossible to copy and — in a final insult — was too long to fit into the box provided by MSI. Luckily, the form accepted a partial number and didn't verify it). It's not possible to leave these fields blank, or the website will kick you back to the application without accepting it.
You'll also need to upload a copy of your receipt — hope you kept it! — but I imagine you could upload any image and it would work, since the website accepted my registration immediately, without any kind of verification.
To be fair, MSI offers an automated tool that identifies your computer and bypasses a lot of this manual input. The tool doesn't work at all, however, which mitigates its usefulness somewhat. The executable file identifies your computer, brings you to a web page, and then hangs indefinitely. The MSI website will often hang indefinitely, but I wasn't able to overcome this particular bug.
If you can grapple with the registration process and the sluggish website, you can submit an online form with any questions you might have. Since there's no live-chat option, I decided to try this form for one of my questions. After filling out a sheet almost as complex as the registration form, I asked MSI how best to defend my computer from Spectre/Meltdown.
About 5 hours later, I received a response ("Your recent request has been replied," it informed me. "Click here to read the detail.") with a URL that led to another slowly loading web page. There, MSI informed me that I should make regular backups of my data, and create a USB recovery drive. This isn't bad advice, but it didn't address the question directly — and it took a decidedly fatalistic outlook on the situation.
Otherwise, I was able to use the website's search feature to find a fairly decent explanation of how to adjust the computer's fan speed in the website's support section, although it was hidden away in a downloadable manual. The site claimed that it could help me get Cortana working, then linked me to a general Windows 10 page from Microsoft, which was not a useful place to begin my search. The MSI site did not have any information about Meltdown or Spectre.
If you have a problem with an MSI computer — well, you should call the company. But if you have a problem and you insist on getting a solution online, stick to the website. As far as I can tell, the company doesn't respond on either Twitter or Facebook.
MSI doesn't have a dedicated Twitter feed for customer support, but I directed a question to its USA account, which does occasionally answer customer queries. I asked about activating Cortana, while trying to verify whether this was an account that could give tech-support answers. I never got a reply.
Likewise on Facebook, I found MSI's page, and noticed that it doesn't really reply to reader posts directly. I sent it a private message instead, since Facebook informed me that the company usually replies through that venue. The company didn't communicate with me, although if Facebook's data is accurate, another user might have better luck.
Once you're all registered, getting phone support through MSI doesn't take very long at all — and the answers the company provides are pretty good. MSI is available 23 hours a day, and while you may experience some hold time very early in the morning or very late at night, I generally didn't have any trouble getting ahold of a knowledgeable representative. The call center is in City of Industry, California, and employs native English speakers.
My first call was at around 3 p.m. ET during a workday. I spoke with a representative named Jose, and asked him how to adjust the fan speed on my computer. He suggested that I use an MSI program called Afterburner — which comes with older MSI notebooks, and wasn't installed on my machine.
We cleared up the misunderstanding quickly, though, and he was able to direct me to Dragon Center about a minute later. All told, the call took 6 minutes and 16 seconds.
My next call was before standard working hours at 8 a.m. ET on a Friday. (Remember, this is 5 a.m. in California.) While I had to wait on hold for a little while, a representative named Greg picked up within about a minute, and fielded my question about Spectre/Meltdown safeguards.
For what it's worth, Laptop Mag chose the Spectre/Meltdown query deliberately because it does not have a single correct answer. There are multiple ways to protect yourself from the flaw, but none of them is perfect or comprehensive. Greg actually told me as much, explaining that, while I could take proactive steps to keep my computer safe, I could not eliminate the threat caused by Spectre/Meltdown completely. I admired and appreciated his honesty. It was one of the best answers I've ever received from a tech support professional, both in my professional and personal lives.
However, I do have to nitpick just a little. Greg told me, specifically, to keep my antivirus software and my "major software packages" up-to-date. This will help protect against Spectre and Meltdown, true, but the most important thing is to keep Windows itself updated. I suppose Windows counts as a "major software package," but singling it out would have been a good idea. The call took 4 minutes and 14 seconds.
My final call was probably the least effective of the three. I called back just before 11 a.m. on a week day and spoke to Greg again. I asked how to enable Cortana, and we went on a bit of a wild goose chase before we arrived at the right answer. When I said Cortana didn't recognize my voice, he assumed it was because of a known issue where MSI computers don't activate the microphone unless the webcam is also enabled. (I had no idea this was an issue with MSI machines, but it's not encouraging.)
After going through the whole process of enabling the webcam and activating the microphone, Cortana was still turned off, and didn't respond to my queries. At this point, Greg directed me to the Cortana settings menu, which could walk me through the rest of the process. The call took only 6 minutes and 53 seconds overall, but it probably could have taken one-third of that time with a better initial diagnosis.
Every MSI product comes with at least a one-year warranty that covers hardware and software faults on the manufacturer's part. If you register your product (and, as stated above, you probably should), you'll get an additional three months on the warranty, as well as one-time accidental damage protection. (In other words: You can drop your laptop in the bathtub and get it replaced once, but not twice.)
Some MSI systems come with up to three years of warranty coverage, plus the three months from registration, so it really depends on which laptop you purchase. You can extend any MSI machine's warranty up to three years, but doing so gets pretty pricey: up to $349 extra.
MSI does not pay for shipping if you need to send your computer in, but it does pay for shipping when it returns the system.
In spite of a few small misfires, MSI's phone support is top-notch. It's comprehensive and comprehensible; it's effective and efficient. If only I could say the same for the web support.
MSI's registration process is headache-inducing; its website is a navigational hazard; its online support wavers between unhelpful and nonexistent. I can only imagine how harrowing the online tech- support process would have been if my machine were actually broken. If you have an MSI notebook and it's even remotely possible to resolve a problem yourself, I recommend you do that.