Microsoft recalls bad Surface Pro 3 firmware update

There's no official acknowledgment yet, but the bad firmware update from Sept. 29 is gone from Windows Update and Microsoft download sites

Microsoft recalls bad Surface Pro 3 firmware update
Credit: Shutterstock

On Sept. 29, with absolutely no notification or documentation, Microsoft rolled out its 19th firmware update for the Surface Pro 3. It caused all sorts of havoc. As of this morning, it looks like the patch has been pulled from Windows Update, its files removed from the Microsoft download sites, and the latest firmware update available is the one dated Sept. 15.

Per Barb Bowman, Microsoft Windows Experience MVP, Answers Forum Community moderator (a volunteer), and owner of the Digitalmediaphile site, "The bad Sept 29 MSI and ZIP files are gone from [the Microsoft] downloads [site], and WU is no longer sending down the bad bits."

Predictably, Microsoft's official Surface Pro 3 update history site doesn't mention a thing.

Pulling the patch is particularly important for Windows 10 users, who have no control (other than the metered connection hack) over when the Surface Pro 3 decides to upgrade its firmware. Most Surface Pro 3 units shipped with Windows 8.1, and those machines at least have the ability to hold off on Microsoft's updates.

For those of you stuck with unending blue screens after installing the Sept. 29 firmware update, Microsoft engineer Josh_F has posted this workaround:

If you receive a blue screen error after installing the 9/29/2015 Surface Firmware Update please start at step 1 to address.

Step 1: System Restore Point

  1. Boot Surface using USB recovery media. If you do not have recovery media you can download from here. Once you have recovery media proceed to next steps. Note: The USB drive must be formatted to FAT32 (not NTFS) in order to work correctly.
  2. Press and hold the volume-down button while you press and release the power button. When the Surface logo appears, release the volume-down button.
  3. When prompted, select the language and keyboard layout you want.
  4. Select Troubleshoot, then Advanced Options, followed by selecting System Restore, then select the target operating system.
  5. In System Restore, click Next.
  6. Click on a system restore point that was prior to applying the System Firmware update. Please use a restore point 9/28 or earlier.
  7. Click Next.
  8. Click Finish.
  9. Click Yes when asked if you want to continue.
  10. After moving to an earlier restore point, you should boot into Windows.

If you were able to restore to an earlier restore point, you should now be able to use your Surface again, no additional steps are needed. If you were not able restore to an earlier restore point or you did not have a restore point then continue to step 2 below.

Step 2: Safe Mode

  1. Boot Surface using USB recovery media by pressing and holding the volume-down button while you press and release the power button. When the Surface logo appears release the volume-down button.
  2. When prompted, select the language and keyboard layout you want.
  3. Select Troubleshoot, then Advanced Options, followed by selecting Command Prompt.
  4. Type the following command in the command prompt and then press enter:
    bcdedit /set {bootmgr} displaybootmenu yes
  5. Type the following command in the command prompt and then press Enter:
    exit
  6. Press Turn off your PC.
  7. Press the power button on Surface to turn it on.
  8. Press F8 when the Windows Boot Manager screen comes up to go to Startup Settings.
  9. Press 4 to enable Safe Mode.
  10. Surface may do disk checking as well as perform a scan and repair. Surface will then restart. If Surface does not do this and instead boots into Safe Mode, go to step 13.
  11. Press F8 when the Windows Boot Manager screen comes up to go to Startup Settings.
  12. Press 4 to enable Safe Mode.
  13. Surface will start in Safe Mode. Sign into Surface. Press the Windows Start Menu, press Power and select Restart.
  14. Press Enter when the Windows Boot Manager screen comes up to boot into Windows 10.
  15. Surface will start normally. Sign into Surface. Right-click the Windows Start Menu and click Command Prompt (Admin).
  16. Click Yes to allow this app to make changes.
  17. Type the following command in the command prompt and then press Enter:
    bcdedit /set {bootmgr} displaybootmenu no
  18. Press the Windows Start Menu, press Power, and select Restart.

If you are now able to boot into Windows you should now be able to use your Surface again, no additional steps are needed. If you were not able to boot into Windows then continue to step 3 below.

Step 3: Reset Surface to factory settings

  1. Follow the steps in the article below to boot Surface using USB recovery media and reset Surface back to factory settings: USB recovery.

I swear I don't make this stuff up. That's the only official announcement we've had.

If you own a Surface Pro 3 and it was clobbered by the Sept. 29 forced firmware update, and you don't have a degree in Computer Science, you have your work carved out for you. At least Microsoft got around to posting a workaround ... after a couple of weeks.

The Surface Pro 4 demo on Tuesday sure looked nice. I wonder if it'll be dogged by the same patching problems that have hounded the Surface Pro 3.

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