Problems with Windows/RT 8.1 updates continue, with 0xc000000d error workaround

We're at day six in the ongoing Windows/RT 8.1 upgrade debacle, and many of the problems aren't going away

Six days after the free Windows 8.1/Windows RT 8.1 updates were released, Microsoft still hasn't solved any of the problems that Windows 8 and Windows RT users have encountered when trying to apply them, and the Windows RT 8.1 update that the company yanked hasn't magically reappeared. But there's been a little bit of progress, including an official Microsoft blessing bestowed on a DOS command-line hack first developed by blogger Scott Williams.

Here's where things stand early Tuesday morning.

Yesterday, with very little fanfare, Microsoft released a Surface RT 8.0 recovery image, for North America only. For those with bricked North American Surface RT systems, the recovery image is good enough to let you boot into a DOS command prompt. Once you get to the prompt during the boot cycle, there's a series of eight commands you have to type into your Surface RT, to fix the file that was nuked by the Windows RT 8.1 online update. Microsoft has published a "simple" 17-step procedure for using the recovery image to fix your system and get RT 8.1 to work. Computer science degree not required, but it wouldn't hurt.

Note that, in spite of what you may have read, the intent here is to get Windows RT 8.1 running -- and not to restore Windows RT 8.0 to your clobbered Surface RT.

ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley says that Microsoft's been in touch with her and assured her:

Based on our investigations of a situation customers have encountered updating to Windows RT 8.1, we can confirm that as of now this is a Windows update issue only affecting Surface RT customers. While only less than 1 out of every 1,000 (or less than 0.1 percent) Surface RT customers who have installed Windows RT 8.1 have been impacted, improving their experience and ensuring their systems are fully operable as quickly as possible is our number one priority.

That may be the view in Redmond, but Drew Maxwell, responding to my original article, would beg to differ:

This is not just happening to Windows 8 RT owners, I have full copy of Windows 8 on Lenovo Yoga 11s and the exact boot error happened to me. Had to go back to factory settings!!

Poster Martin on the Microsoft Answers forum has a slightly different take:

I have the same probleem with My Acer Aspire P3 tablet. I contacted Acer and thy point to Microsoft for a solution. After installing the update My uefi bios is corrupted witch was NOT before the update.

Working in devil's advocate mode, I have to wonder how Microsoft came up with that 0.1 percent figure for the number of affected Surface RTs. If the machines are bricked, they aren't phoning home, are they? Perhaps 0.1 percent of all the Surface RTs used by Microsoft employees bit the dust? One wonders.

Presumably anyone who bought a Surface RT outside of North America or bought a competitor's Windows RT tablet is out of luck.

Pro tip: If you get Windows RT 8.1 working, take a moment and a 4GB USB drive and make your own system recovery drive. Microsoft has full details in a 10-step procedure that (saints be praised!) doesn't involve the DOS command line. It will take 10 to 15 minutes, according to Microsoft, and it may save your tail if we run into this kind of stupidity again.

There has been no official confirmation of the problem I described yesterday with Remote Web Access onto an SBS 2011 server hitting a 404 after the Windows 8.1 upgrade. I've been told there's a blog post in the works from Microsoft and will point you to it in the comments below when I see it. The fix remains the same: Turn on compatibility mode in IE11 and make sure the RWA site is in your Trusted Sites list.

Microsoft still isn't distributing ISO images of the 8.1 update. Those of you with dozens of machines to upgrade may well have to schlep to each of them and wait for the 3.7GB download dozens of times. Or you can do what most of the world is doing, and use a torrent.

No matter how you slice it, this is a testament to Microsoft's accelerated release schedule. For decades I've heard that Windows is hard to update because of the huge variety of platforms, application software, and operating environments that are part and parcel of the Windows ecosystem. But this screwup happened on simple, Microsoft-manufactured North American Surface RT machines -- you can't get much more vanilla than that -- and the borked installer took down the whole tablet. Locked it up tighter than a drum, unless you're good at DOS command lines.

Don't know about you, but I'd be happy with 18-month release horizons, or even the old three-year cycle, if it avoided this kind of drama.

Wanna buy a Surface 2?

This story, "Problems with Windows/RT 8.1 updates continue, with 0xc000000d error workaround," 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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