Surface Pro 3 problems linger despite three firmware patches in a month

Slow/dropped Wi-Fi, heating issues, and lockups persist, but Surface Pro pro's manual driver installation procedure may help

If you have a new Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and it's working fine, you're probably in the majority and I wish you well. But if you're among the tribe bitten by a bug that remains unresolved even after three firmware updates, here's a manual driver installation procedure you should try -- if you haven't already returned your Surface Pro 3.

You may recall that Microsoft issued its first firmware patch for the Surface Pro 3 on June 19, the day the first Surface Pro 3 shipped. On July 8, Microsoft pushed another firmware update and hedged its bets by saying there would be yet another firmware update on July 16. That July 16 patch has now come and gone, but many people are still complaining on the Microsoft Answers forum about Surface Pro 3 problems, likely associated with faulty firmware and/or drivers.

On July 25, poster A. Salazar said:

All updates installed.

Heat issues started on day 1 of owning the device and have had SP3 for 3-4 weeks now... Like another user mentioned, the Microsoft mahjong game will be enough to bring the temp enough to be uncomfortable if you are holding the device like a tablet. With other casual games like tetris and spelunky the heat is also fairly high. I am not sure if this is normal or not normal. Some heat is expected but doing simple tasks at 5-10% CPU utilization does not seem like a heavy load.

However, poster Nick Himes says the latest patches and drivers cured his heating problem.

On June 22, Anthony Wu reported a hard-to-diagnose freeze on his Pro 3. TheBigFont followed up with a post on July 27, after the third firmware update:

Same problem. Mine has frozen 8 times since I bought it. I have spent 7.5 hours on the phone with support. No resolution. Watch out on the exchange for a new one, because the Microsoft Store wasn't going to refund my tax until I escalated the case.

As for the Wi-Fi slowdown (the earliest source of complaints), not all Surface Pro 3 customers have found the three firmware updates sufficient. In fact, some customers who had no problem with the original firmware update and the July 8 update, are now reporting slowdowns after installing the July 16 update. Bharath Krishna reported last night:

I am also facing the same problem. I got only 3mbps when it was on mixed mode. Now I am getting 10-15mbps after changed into G mode. I tried N and got only 3mbps download.

John Humenik posted a very detailed list of the problems he's seeing when resuming a Surface Pro 3 from sleep while on battery:

1. My wireless will not be connected after I resume and I have to either disconnect/reconnect or disable/enable WiFi. This will also apply to Bluetooth devices too.

2. Instant on doesn't work and it appears that the computer is coming out hibernation. I see the Surface screen with the spinning status icon. Hibernation is not an option on the shutdown menu, but all my apps are restored correctly.

3. After sleeping for a long time (1 hour or more, typically overnight), my wireless and bluetooth devices are completely missing in device manager. After scanning for new devices they reappear and connect.

4. This issue seems to happen when the battery percentage is low (in the teens or less), my surface will completely shut off and when I get back to the desktop all my apps that were running are gone. As if I shut down before...

These problems seem to manifest when the device is put to sleep and not plugged in. I've never came across this problem when it was plugged in. When my devices are missing, they are missing. They are not listed in device manager as if they were deleted from the system. Scanning for hardware finds them again without rebooting. My only power option is Balanced and it has less options to change than Windows 7 based plans.

MVP Barb Bowman (who like all MVPs is a volunteer, not a Microsoft employee), replied to Humenik, describing how some systems have fallen further down the rabbit hole:

I don't think Microsoft actually knows what is causing these issues. From what I've read, the people afflicted don't find the issues resolved after a reset... Microsoft does not seem to be acknowledging the issue of devices going missing. I don't think that a large number of people fall into the seriously afflicted group as this forum and other venues aren't flooded with these reports. If you purchased at a physical Microsoft Store, they should exchange it for you. You shouldn't have to jump through any more hoops and perform work arounds.

On July 23, Michael Adamission found a surprise with the latest update:

I know I checked for more updates after doing the update on the 16th a couple of times... but checked again tonight and there was a second hardware update for the 16th. Initial testing seems like it's working much better. My advice to anyone having issues with the 16th update is to try checking for updates a few more times.

Adamission posted a screenshot of a Windows Update log that shows clearly, "System Hardware Update - 7/16/2014" was installed on his system twice -- once on July 16 and again on July 23. Did Microsoft re-issue or tweak the July 16 firmware patch? Hard to say, but having the same firmware update applied twice, a week apart, is very odd behavior.

If you're having problems with your Surface Pro 3, you should try to run through Bowman's manual procedure for installing the latest firmware and driver updates. It could save you a lot of grief -- and may even solve your problem.

This story, "Surface Pro 3 problems linger despite three firmware patches in a month," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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