Stealthy Microsoft Surface Pro 3 firmware update brings BSODs, mayhem

Stealthy Microsoft Surface Pro 3 firmware update brings BSODs, mayhem
Credit: FindYourSearch via Flickr

Microsoft has issued 19 separate firmware updates for the Surface Pro 3 in the past 15 months

Microsoft released a firmware update for the Surface Pro 3 on Sept. 29 with no warning or explanation. It came out the Windows Update chute, which means Windows 10 users had no choice but to install it. By noon on that day, complaints started pouring in. Nearly a week later, we still have no definitive solutions and no official acknowledgment from Microsoft, posted patches don't work, and SP3 owners are fuming once again over yet another botched firmware patch.

After applying the update, Surface Pro 3 owners reported:

  • Blue Screens with the message "Attempted write to read only memory surface driver (surfaceintegrationdriver.sys)."
  • Failure to boot.
  • Able to boot but no wireless or unreliable wireless. Apparently this update requires two reboots in order to complete. Some -- but not all -- customers were fine after the second boot.
  • Failed firmware upgrade in update history.

A description of the firmware update appeared on the Microsoft Answers forum on Sept. 30. On Oct. 1 -- two days after the patch was released -- Microsoft finally added details about the firmware update to its official Surface Pro 3 changelog site.

Barb Bowman, Microsoft Windows Experience MVP, Answers Forum Community moderator (a volunteer), and owner of the Digitalmediaphile site, puts it like this:

I knew something was wrong immediately and started sending emails mid morning Sept 29. I don't think Microsoft thought they had a serious problem until nearly 36 hours after the patch was rolled out. Even then I don't think they reacted fast enough.

Bowman posts on her Digitalmediaphile site:

The Sept 29 firmware was unexpected as there had been one on Sept 15. I installed it and rebooted and the wireless was MIA. I rebooted a second time and had connectivity, but it was intermittent, slow, and unreliable. Fortunately, I had the older zip files and drivers and was able to re-install the .193 driver and regain my great connectivity.

But this was not the case for others. Reports started appearing on the Surface Answers Forum and customers were reporting loss of wireless, BSOD loops and failed firmware updates in Windows Update history.

I sent emails to Microsoft on the issues and was forwarding threads for several days. The update was pulled on Friday (Oct 2) I believe. A couple of bad files were posted for SP3/W10 -- both a zip and MSI file -- neither of which contain wireless or bluetooth drivers for the SP3. This means there are no drivers posted on Microsoft's site officially for Surface Pro 3 owners running Windows 10. I've always thought (and asked) that Microsoft should post all the drivers and leave older drivers available for those that need them.

Word came down that doing a system restore should get people up again followed by running the MSI to get the firmware/drivers installed, and the Forum owner posted that after doing a system restore, running the MSI file would take care of the issues. This has not been the case for many. And even getting to System Restore has been a problem for some.

Microsoft posted two files for Sept 29. I looked inside and there are NO drivers for wireless or bluetooth. As of right now, Microsoft's official Surface Pro 3 firmware and drivers download site has two files you should not use: SurfacePro3_Win10_150929_1.msi and SurfacePro3_Win10_150929_1.zip.

Bowman wrote to me, "The only thing that really works as of this weekend is doing a system restore to a point before the Sept 29 update was installed. If the customer can get to System Restore and get this done, they should be ok. I'm trying to get that message out in the forum."

As of late Sunday afternoon, the update was available once again, at least on my Surface Pro 3.

The Microsoft Answers forum is rife with complaints: Repeated BSOD after firmware update - Surface pro 3, Windows 10; 9/29/2015 firmware caused wifi "device cannot be started"; many more. There are several Reddit threads and miscellaneous posts all over the Internet in many languages.

That said, there is also a success story. Rexx_3270, who posted his tale of firmware update woe on the Microsoft Answers forum, took Bowman's advice and schlepped his Surface to the nearest Microsoft Store.

I went into the [Microsoft] store and spoke with the tech and store manager there. They initially tried fixing the BSOD but the USB port wouldn't work which they said has been a common issue since the bad firmware went out. After that they replaced my Surface with a brand new one and have had no issues…  If they had told me in the first place that they would swap it out I would have gladly driven the 1+ hour trip earlier rather than waiting for support to call me back, which they never did.

The Surface Pro 3 has been dogged by bad firmware and even worse firmware updates since it shipped in June 2014. If I count correctly, there have been 19 separate firmware updates in the past 15 months. Even now, the situation seems to be getting worse, not better.

That has to be a record of some sort.

If you're thinking about running Windows 10 on your Surface Pro 3, take note.

If you're thinking about ordering a Surface Pro 4, take a larger note. 

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