Microsoft operates over 100 retail stores across the USA and Canada. They’re not just places to shop — Microsoft Stores will perform basic Windows PC maintenance for you, for free. It doesn’t matter where you bought the PC, as long as it runs Windows.
These are the kinds of services most stores — like Best Buy’s Geek Squad — will charge you a premium for. Microsoft Stores are more than just places to buy a clean, malware-free laptop.
No, this isn’t an advertisement for Microsoft and their stores. This is a way to get some free service from Microsoft for the Windows PC you already own. It’s about time Microsoft provided more support for all those Windows PCs they made their fortune on.
Is There a Microsoft Store Near You?
This is obviously only useful if there’s a Microsoft Store location near you. There are locations in most US states and some major urban centers across Canada. Microsoft is opening more and more stores each year, so you may have one near you soon if you don’t already. View an up-to-date list of Microsoft Store locations on Microsoft’s website.
What You Can Get For Free
This service is a part of Microsoft’s in-store “Answer Desk” service. Think of it a bit like the Genius Bar at an Apple Store — yes, those Microsoft Stores feel very modelled on Apple Stores.
The Answer Desk website allows you to choose a nearby store and make a free appointment. Drop in and a “Service Advisor” will offer some free services for any Windows laptop, no matter where you purchased it.
Free services include “extended diagnostics,” “software repair or support,” “virus and malware removal,” and “PC tune-ups.” For comparison, just the “Virus and spyware removal” costs $199.99 if you go to Best Buy’s Geek Squad instead.
We recommend against using the Geek Squad, obviously. You can service your computer on your own. But, if you do want some professional help, you can get it for free. And, if you have relatives you live near a Microsoft Store and they ask you to help remove malware from their PCs and make it run faster, you can tell them to take it to a Microsoft Store and have Microsoft do the work so you can avoid the frustration and save your own time.
Beware the Upsells
There’s always a catch. Microsoft Stores are retail stores where they want to make money, not service locations operated only for the benefit of their customers. They do offer some paid services, and you may be offered these if you go into a store.
To be fair to Microsoft, these services aren’t priced absurdly — at $49 each, they’re much cheaper than comparable Geek Squad services, for example. Data recovery services are understandably more expensive.
Those $49 paid services range from the potentially useful, like a “Warranty concierge” service where Microsoft Store employees will deal with your PC’s manufacturer to get it fixed under warranty so you don’t have to fight them, to the absurd, like “OneDrive setup” that consists of installing OneDrive apps on all your devices and signing in with the same account.
“Hardware upgrade/install,” free with purchase of a hardware upgrade in-store, is an understandable service if you’re not comfortable doing this on your own, while “App install” — which seems to consist of installing apps — is something every PC user should just get comfortable with on their own.
This is a simple tip, but Microsoft Stores haven’t been around for very long — the first one opened in 2009. This service may exist to draw you into Microsoft’s own stores, but it’s also an attempt to compete with Apple at providing a single place you can go to get answers and support. If you need help, it’s worth a try.
But, if you do go — or if you advise a relative or friend to go — be sure to tell them not to get sucked in by the $49 OneDrive setup service and other questionable services.
If you have experience using these services at a Microsoft Store, feel free to chime in and share them. We’ve heard some good things, and these services don’t seem like they’re designed to upsell every single person who walks in the door.