Latest patch for Surface Book, Surface Pro 4 may actually work

Latest patch for Surface Book, Surface Pro 4 may actually work
Credit: Pixabay

There are lingering problems reported after yesterday's update, but Microsoft's new delivery mechanism gives cause to hope

It's still much too early to declare for sure, but initial indications on the Surface Book/Surface Pro 4 patching front are largely positive. The Surface Dock continues to come under fire, however.

Yesterday Microsoft released the latest, long-awaited patches for its Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 laptops. (The Surface Pro 3 and Surface 3 were not targeted.) According to Microsoft, the fixes for Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 consist of four separately identified patches:

  • System Hardware Update – 2/17/2016
  • Microsoft driver update for Surface UEFI
  • Microsoft driver update for Surface Management Engine
  • Microsoft driver update for Surface System Aggregator Firmware

As usual, the updates are staggering out through Windows Update, so your SB or SP4 system may not have updated yet. Most people saw the patches installed first thing this morning.

The reaction has been largely -- but not universally -- positive. Writing on the longest Microsoft Answers thread on the Surface Book problem, poster Ian Horswill says:

This definitely seems better. Sleepstudy shows the processor is actually going into low power state for the first time ever during sleep. And it's no longer warmer during sleep mode than while running. Sleep study is still showing 4W power dissipation during sleep. It looks like it's primarily the wifi interface, which is interesting given that the "stay connected to wifi during sleep" setting is set to off.

Horswill includes the results of a Sleep Study run, which confirms 4.8Wh (watt hour) drainage -- 7 percent of the battery -- in six hours.

Others echo that result, with the caveat that the system must be rebooted more than once after the installation. Also, those who had manually changed their system to Hibernate mode were moved back to the default Sleep mode.

On the Surface Pro 4 side of the Microsoft Answers fence, not all is sweetness and light. For example, poster DjeTe says:

After this update that should fix the sleep isuess etc, I have trouble waking my Surface at all. Either just close the lid ( the type cover keybord) or turn the Surface of, wait 5-10 minutes I can hardly Wake it up. I have to press Power button several times to get this thing started. Please Microsoft. It's worse now since the update.

Another short test:  Battery said 5h 50 min 89%. Close the type cover, let it wait for 2h. Started it (with the above trouble). Then it said 68% left and 3h 50 min.

The Surface Dock comes in for some blistering comments as well.

What concerns me the most is this early-morning commentary from Zac Bowden, senior editor at WinBeta.org and a very experienced Surface Pro user, who tweeted:

:( i just went to use my surface pro 4 but found it had drained its battery and is super hot.. Running latest firmware update :( :( :(

The jury's still out on the effectiveness of the fix.

One other detail caught my eye and raises a tantalizing question: For those of you who have been following the Surface Book/Surface Pro 4 patching mess (patches were released on Oct. 23, Nov. 2, Nov. 18, Dec. 2, Dec. 17, Jan. 27, and now Feb. 17), you know that Microsoft has been releasing monolithic updates, identified as a single glob, like Windows 10's undifferentiated updates. From my point of view that's a big mistake.

With this update, the official Surface Book/Surface Pro 4 changelogs have started separating the monolithic "firmware update" into four separately identified updates. Microsoft says:

On 2/11/2016 we made a change in how updates are delivered to Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book. Surface updates may now be delivered as multiple updates when you check for updates in Windows. Prior to today, Surface Pro 4 and Surface Book would have received a single update called "System Firmware Update – 1/27/2016". With this change, if you had not already installed the 1/27 update, it will now be delivered as 4 updates.

To my jaundiced eye, presenting the patches in more granular form is a great step forward -- one I hope Microsoft will continue to use in Windows 10. While patching Surface firmware and drivers is different from patching Windows 10 as a whole, Microsoft has now shown us it can move away from the "drop the whole mess at once and we'll sort it out later" approach.

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