What’s the fastest, best way to get your hands on a Microsoft Knowledge Base article? As most veteran support professionals know, the answer used to be: “Send an e-mail message to MSHelp@microsoft.com with the Q-number in the subject line.”

In the past, if you sent such a message, Microsoft would send you the Knowledge Base article you referenced but no more. Here’s the skinny.
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TechRepublic member Jeff M. Belina, MCDBA, MCSD, MCSE, MSS, i-Net+, recently forwarded me an e-mail thread that he initiated with Microsoft’s customer service department. Jeff was not a happy camper when he discovered that the MSHelp service had been discontinued.

Jeff devotes a lot of time to helping other IT professionals. He is an active part of the Swynk.com team that manages discussion lists on topics such as

  • Professional development
  • Microsoft Exchange
  • Microsoft Windows NT
  • Microsoft Transaction Server
  • Microsoft SMS
  • Microsoft SQL Server
  • Internet Development

As you’d expect, those kinds of discussion lists include lots of references to Knowledge Base articles. Jeff wrote, “[MSHelp@microsoft.com] was much easier to put into an e-mail newsletter than to include the full URL to a Knowledge Base article. Also, I am aware of a number of people outside the United States who do not have Internet access but do have Internet e-mail capability. For these people, one of the only ways to get [Knowledge Base] articles was to use the MSHelp e-mail address.”

According to Microsoft’s customer support representatives, when the MSHelp service was discontinued, no new service replaced it. Instead, customers are encouraged to use Web Response Help instead. Although this service doesn’t automatically send you back a Knowledge Base article, it does provide a convenient way to share concerns, questions, and software “wish lists” with Microsoft. (The e-mail address is WRHelp@microsoft.com.)

How to search the Knowledge Base
Every IT professional I know has used the Knowledge Base to locate the most up-to-date and complete information available about Microsoft products. If you’re a “newbie” or if it’s been awhile since you needed to search the Knowledge Base, visit Microsoft’s Knowledge Base search page. If you know the article’s ID number (the “Q” number), enter it in the text box as shown in Figure A and click Go. (The image is an excerpt from the Microsoft Web site as it appears at the time of this writing.)

If you don’t know the article ID number, you can drill down on a specific product or search for a keyword. Either way, if you can’t find the answer you want on TechRepublic, check out the Knowledge Base.

Figure A
Microsoft has discontinued the MSHelp e-mail service, but you can locate a specific Knowledge Base article by entering its ID number as shown here.

If you or the users you support took advantage of the MSHelp service, we want to know what you think of Microsoft’s decision to discontinue it. To comment on this column or to share your experiences dealing with contract help, please post a note below or follow this link to write to Jeff.