Newsletter Archives

  • Windows 11 Surfaces


    Will Fastie

    By Will Fastie

    Microsoft’s September event showcased its updated Surface lineup and doubled down on the Duo 2.

    While Microsoft’s livestream presentation of September 2 was not tremendously exciting, it was a well-done description of the new Surface devices and was hosted by Panos Panay, in fine form.

    I won’t bore you with every detail, but here are some good sources of information.

    Read the full story in the AskWoody Plus Newsletter 18.37.0 (2021-09-27).

  • Plan on the worst

    I have a love/hate relationship with Surface devices. They are my favorite for travel as the Surface Go is the lightest one, with the Surface Pro 7+ being right behind. But… and this is starting to be true for more and more technology…. they cannot be easily serviced. Battery needs replaced? You can’t fix it. Monitor stops working on it? Sorry. So if you stupidly do what I did the other day…. like have your Surface in your purse on the passenger seat of your car. Then you opened your car door when you didn’t realize your purse was way too close the edge of the seat…. and well you can see where this is unfortunately going can’t you?

    When it then hits the cement pavement just at the exact corner of the screen… you can guess what happened:

    Nailed it, right on the edge.

    The computer still booted up, it just was a bit…. crunchy in that corner of the screen with little bits of glass in the keyboard. Ugh.

    When I purchased this device, I did it as part of an All access for business plan. You can add an accidental coverage plan, which I did just in case I did something … well… stupid like this. “Sigh!”, I said to myself, “well I get to test it out this time”.  So I signed into the Surface business access site and started the process to get it replaced. As part of the “replacement” process you only ship the unit itself. You reset it to factory defaults and erase all of your data because you are NOT getting this unit back.

    So in my case, because I tend to use it to remote into other things, I honestly didn’t have to back anything up. I can easily install what I need on the device again. But I did have to remove the AT&T Cellular SIM card that was an extra accessory I got that allows the device to always have Internet connection as long as I’m within range of an AT&T cellular tower.

    Microsoft provided a physical address I needed to send it back to and off it went. I had heard from others that I might get a refurbished unit back and not a new unit, but because the unit they were replacing was a Surface Pro 7 plus, chances were good that I would receive a new unit, not a refurb’d. Sure enough, I received back a new unit.

    I went to reinstall the AT&T SIM and was surprised to see that cellular didn’t turn back on again. Okay I probably need to call AT&T and tell them the new IMEI or some other information that they need to reenable it. Turns out on the Surface Pro 7 plus it supports both an eSIM and a physical SIM there’s a little arrow key in the cellular networking section that you can pull down and choose eSIM or the physical SIM. Duh. Once I picked the physical SIM, the cellular connected right up without contacting AT&T.

    As an aside, remember that Surface devices can get updates for it’s Operating system AND it’s hardware and firmware but they still are not easily repairable. Therefore, plan accordingly.

    In July Microsoft released various updates for firmware and hardware on the following Surface devices:

    Surface Book – security fixes for firmware

    Surface Laptop 3 – various performance issues

    Surface Pro 4 – security fixes for firmware

    Surface Pro 3 – security fixes for firmware

    Surface Studio 2 – security fixes for firmware

    The moral of this story is, buy the support plan for accidental coverage for these types of tech devices that cannot be easily serviced. Even though most of the time you won’t use it, there will be that ONE time when the device slides out of your purse onto the concrete pavement as you open your car door. Trust me. It can happen.

  • This should be the best patching experience

    So many of you know that I have several computing devices.  My favorite desktop computers are HP’s with SSD drivers (mind you with new style SSD drives now days), my favorite “normal” sized laptop is my Lenovo Thinkpad X1 carbon, and my go to travel laptop when I really want portability  is a Surface Go with cellular.  BUT and here’s the but… unlike my prior Surface small travel device the Surface Go has a slightly smaller keyboard.  It’s just small enough to make me mistype words.  Which is REALLY annoying.  So the other day when they announced the new Surface Pro 7 plus with cellular (only available for business/not consumers unfortunately) I tried out the Surface Pro keyboard to see if it was a smidge bigger so that it would type easier and I wouldn’t be mistyping quite so much.

    Now while I’m a geek, I’m a cheap geek so I look for ways to get Surface devices in a price tag that is more palatable.  The thing about Surface devices is that you can’t upgrade them and often they have the LOUSIEST patching and servicing experiences EVER.  You would think they get feature releases first.  They don’t.  You would think that they would be blocked from feature updates that cause issues (they weren’t on one feature release number that I can’t remember off the top of my head and I’m a bit tired to go google for it), and they often are offered drivers that aren’t for their systems.

    Surface devices should have the absolutely BEST patching experience EVER.

    So, Microsoft, I’m giving you another shot.  I’ve just ordered a Surface Pro 7 plus with LTE Cellular.  Given that this device is touted for business, it should have the BEST patching experience ever.  As an aside, I’m a fan of the (US only I believe?) subscription site of that allows you to subscribe to purchase a Surface and get the ability to trade up/replace with another version later on.

    I’ll keep you posted as to how well it behaves on Patch Tuesday.

  • “Microsoft Reinvents the PC Keyboard with a Brand-New Button”

    Sorry. My cynicism is showing. But that’s a for-real headline.

    According to a great little item picked up by WalkingCat on Twitter, MS may put a new key on its keyboards, to the right of the right-Alt key, that invokes the emoji panel. You can see the same panel right now by holding down the Windows key and pressing the period.

    One more reason to buy Surface products, eh?

    Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

  • Microsoft Surface bulging batteries continue to anger and frustrate customers

    The bulging/expanded Surface battery issue has been growing. And it’s obvious that, while Microsoft won’t discuss this openly, that they are well aware of the issue. And trying to close the barn door after the horse has escaped. The issue starts for most customers with a yellowing of the screen which can eventually end up as a battery bulge. Reports of the issue started in November 2017 and it’s obvious from the more than 20,000 views of this thread that this is a problem. Typical of the problem is this post:

    Well, I’m having the same issue. My screen is yellowing and the battery is causing the display to bulge making this “premium Microsoft product” unsafe and unusable. 

    I contacted Microsoft support who let me know I’m outside the extended warranty period. Which was graciously extended because they know there’s a defect with these.

    Support offered me a same generation, refurbished model for CAD $1,000. So, another $1,000 for another Surface Book that will eventually have the same problem.

    This issue absolutely needs legal action.  ”

    Running a search on Microsoft Communities specific to Surface Book and bulging reveals multiple threads like where there are over 8600 views and 398 “me too’s” indicating others with the same issue who may not have posted in the thread. In this case, the original poster with multiple Surface Books with this issue writes:

    I now have multiple Surface Books (1st gen) that the batteries in the tablet part are swelling and warping the screen.  My Surface Book can’t even close the lid due to the battery being so large.  My screen is bulging out.

    We’ve already retired two Surface Books due to the screens peeling off and I have found 2 more where the screens are starting to curve.

    We are now looking at replacing all 15 remaining Surface Books due to potential fire hazards.

    What a shame.  It was such a nice piece of hardware.”

    Microsoft has locked a number of these threads, which results in new threads being created. And there are still customers unaware of the “issue” who start new threads like Carol’s below.

    Similarly, Surface Pro 4 owners are reporting this issue. Microsoft IS providing free, out of warranty refurbished Surface replacements for any customer with this issue, but only if within three years of the original purchase date. This would seem to indicate that the expected lifetime of a Surface device is three years and at this point, a majority of SP4 and Surface Book first generation customers are past the three years and fear that the refurbs they would have to pay for would develop the same issue.

    So what has Microsoft said and/or done about this issue? states battery expansion does not present a safety concern but also states “you should stop using the device” which seems contradictory, but similar language is used by HP:

    Here is Microsoft’s statement:

    Microsoft has recently (and very quietly) also introduced functionality for the newest Surface devices called “Lifespan Saver” that claims to reduce the risk of battery expansion. They’ve also added a “Battery Smart Charging” feature that also mentions battery expansion. It is impossible to determine from the release notes in the Surface Update History for Surface devices exactly when this feature was added. But they’ve obviously recognized the issue with battery bulging afflicting Surface Book (original) and Surface Pro 4 owners (yes, a few Surface 3’s and other devices can develop this issue – I’ve had to junk a Surface 3 myself because of this). More and more customers report that, since they are stuck working at home due to COVID-19 work from home scenarios, that they are using their personal Surface devices more than ever before and there are increasing reports of bulging batteries on the MS Forums and elsewhere. Even iFixit has weighed in on this issue

    Note that now documents the Lifespan Saver as follows (and the table on the bottom of the page pointedly states this feature is only available for Surface Pro 7, Surface Book 3, Surface Laptop 3, Surface ProX and Surface Go 2):

    Battery Lifespan Saver – Battery Lifespan Saver is a feature designed to help protect your battery from the cumulative negative effects of consistent and recurrent use at high temperatures or high states of charge. This feature complements Battery Smart Charging by monitoring battery conditions continuously. If these adverse conditions are detected, Battery Lifespan Saver implements a limited number of permanent reductions in charging voltage. Although this will result in a small incremental permanent loss to battery capacity, it will maximize the total lifespan of your battery by limiting conditions that would otherwise accelerate battery deterioration, significantly reduce battery capacity, or lead to battery expansion.

    Also now documented is Battery Smart Charging (but it is unknown as to when this feature was added as it is not specified in any of the release notes in Surface Update History and it applies to all devices except Surface 3):

    Battery Smart Charging – Battery Smart Charging is a feature that helps protect your battery from the effects of charging patterns and high temperatures that may accelerate battery deterioration or lead to expansion. Battery Smart Charging is always active and engages automatically to limit battery charging capacity when it detects your device is plugged in for prolonged periods and/or used at elevated temperatures. Battery smart charging is automatically deactivated when the battery is discharged below 20%.

    Charles Hill has an interesting theory

    When Microsoft figured out that the Battery Smart Charging wasn’t doing what they expected it to do (strike one) they instituted a firmware update called Battery Limit Mode (No one I know ever received notice that this had to be utilized in the UEFI) but this wasn’t done until 2018 which for most of us was 2 years or more from the date of purchase AND more then a year AFTER our warranties expired. AND, they never notified us that these batteries were prone to these types of actions because the Battery Smart Charging wasn’t performing as they thought it should (strike 2).  Incidentally, Microsoft instituted a new battery mode in the newest surfaces which leads me to believe either the Battery Limit Load isn’t working as they thought it would or they are afraid customers would balk at the possibility that once the customers found out they could only charge these batteries to 50% thus degrading the batteries quicker then normal and they wouldn’t buy the product (strike three).  Microsoft conveniently does not supply these documents with their systems AND does not notify it’s customers (remember that registration form you had to fill out the day you registered your Surface?) through any of the numerous means available from the registration forms…email, address, phone call about these problems or the solutions. It’s become a Con game with Microsoft and we the customers who have spent thousands of dollars have become the marks.

    He further goes on to say in I dig deeper into this fiasco I am finding more and more about the possible cause of these battery issues. Going over my battery report I am finding something very strange, first I see that for the first 58 weeks using the system I am seeing an average overcharge on the battery of 278 to 314 mWh and this stops once the May 2017 Firmware and UEFI (103.1684.256.0 improves battery life during sleep.and other Surface drivers) updates are installed in June of 2017. From here I can trace the degradation of the battery immediately after each and every Firmware and UEFI update to the day. The worst degradation I’ve noticed is immediately after the Aug 2019 Firmware update (Surface – Firmware – 103.2614.257.0) where within a matter of 2 weeks the mWh dropped from 34972 mWh to 28634 mWh and it has been staying within a few hundred mWh per week since then.  “

    The bulging battery issue is NOT unique to Surface devices.

    The big difference between Surface and most other devices is that the Surface batteries are NOT replaceable. Most people wouldn’t mind spending $150-200 for a replacement battery, but the out of warranty cost to replace a SP4 or Surface Book per is $599 USD, which is a lot of money to pay for a refurbished device that was released in 2015. The Surface Team actually stated in a Reddit AMA that the battery replacement cost for SP3 was $200 and “If the battery fails during the warranty period, we’ll replace the battery.” And many of the boxes that these devices came in suggest a replaceable battery (by an authorized service provider). I’ve seen this statement on several Surface Pro models myself.

    It’s certainly easy to see why afflicted Surface customers are upset.

  • The Surface Duo is now official

    Ho hum.

    Microsoft is now taking preorders for the Surface Duo, with delivery starting September 10

    Two screens of Android phone (each screen at 1800 x 1350), a 19th-century hinge, 6 GB of RAM, and wide, fluid expanses of bezels. For a mere $1,400, you get 128 GB of storage ($1,500 for 256 GB) — and a free nano SIM card, if you go with AT&T. $75 for a pen, $200 for earbuds or $250 for headphones.

    Developers can  “optimize the layouts of their apps to really take advantage of the two displays and span across them.” I’m guessing that we’ll see maybe two developers who spend real money to make Duo screens work. “There is an algorithm in there that’s very smart and trying to be predictive. If you’re on one screen and you’re invoking a link, it will fill the other screen.”

    A worthy addition to the Surface line, eh? The Surface D.O.A.

  • Surface Duo (the Android-based two-screen phone) teased yet again

    Credit: MS exec Shilpa Ranganathan

    Yes, the Surface Duo should arrive shortly.

    No, I’m not the least bit interested. I don’t know anybody who’s going to line up to buy one. Look at the huge bezels and the 1930s-style hinge.


  • Have a Surface Pro X? Want to upgrade to Win10 2004? There’s a convoluted way….

    No, I don’t recommend that you install Win10 version 2004.

    But if you have a Surface Pro X (which I don’t recommend, either) and you really really want to move to Win10 version 2004, it can be done, in spite of the notification that says “This PC can’t be upgraded to Windows 10.”

    It involves installing the update, and in the middle – at just the right moment – disconnecting your internet connection.

    Full instructions from ScottGillis on the Microsoft Answers forum.

    Thx @barbbowman

  • Microsoft Closes Retail Stores

    Microsoft has announced it is closing almost all of its retail Stores (and the few that won’t close won’t be selling products and will be turned into Microsoft Experience Centers).

    This is a devastating blow to existing Microsoft Surface users looking for decent support and it certainly won’t do much to help with sales of new Surface devices.

    One counterbalance to the poor online and phone support for Surface products was that if you were fortunate to live within traveling distance to a Microsoft Store, most consumers could get better results for hardware issues than using online support. And then there was the instant exchange, as opposed to sending in your broken device and waiting, sometimes up to two or more weeks for a replacement. And then getting a bad replacement. At the Stores, the replacement process was usually instant and customers could examine the replacement product (reject if needed), etc. For many with bulging batteries in Surface Book and SP4 devices, going to a MS Store was the only solution to avoid a $600 out of warranty charge (Microsoft cut off free replacements after 3 years from date of Purchase). The Store staff “got it”. The Apple Stores right next store to most of the MS Stores replaced batteries and devices all day long. And took care of swollen batteries in Macbook Pros.

    The closest store to me was one mile from the Massachusetts border. That Store had a robust small business sales and support business. When in the Store, I often saw pickups of multiple new Surface devices. And they handled software and hardware issues for these customers easily. There were actually smiles on the faces of those folks waiting for the techs to work on their devices. This speaks to the top level skills of these MS Store technicians.

    As Amy Babinchak stated in the Third Tier Facebook page “This is a sucky development. The Microsoft store was a valuable partner to my MSP. They hand delivered orders directly to clients, managed warranty and repair issues like pros I’ve never seen before. The existence of the store legitimatized the Surface line of products. This is a sad event “


  • MS offers free repair (during warranty period) for Surface Laptop 3 cracked screen

    That’s mighty big of them.

    Per KB 4561768:

    We have investigated claims of screen cracking on Surface Laptop 3 and have determined that, in a very small percentage of cases, a hard foreign particle may cause a hairline fracture in the glass that may seem to appear unexpectedly or without visible cause.

    If you believe your Surface Laptop 3 is experiencing this issue, you are encouraged to contact our Microsoft Support to initiate a repair free of charge during the warranty period of the device.

    If you have previously paid Microsoft for a Surface Laptop 3 repair that you believe experienced this issue, please contact Microsoft Support to learn about reimbursement.

    Wonder what’ll happen to out-of-warranty Surface Laptop 3s?

    Thx @Shawn_Brink_MVP on Tenforums.

    More details from Mary Jo Foley on ZDNet.

  • The new Surfaces arrive

    Would you buy a used operating system from this man?

    Have to admit that his daughter’s “impromptu” appearance was well orchestrated.

    Seriously, Panay is a remarkable salesman and gifted presenter. He’s also in charge of Windows. And he’s peddling some really cheap hardware:

    Surface Go 2 starting at $399 (Pentium 4425Y, 4 GB RAM – see Patch Lady’s admonishment below – 64 GB, just barely run Windows 10 Home in S Mode, doesn’t include a keyboard)

    Surface Book 3 starting at $1599 (13.5-inch, Core i5, 8 GB, 256 GB, Win10 Home)

    Surface Headphones 2 $249

    Surface Earbuds $199

    Surface Dock 2 costs $140 less than the Go 2. For a dock.

    Of course, I wouldn’t buy a Surface product if MS paid me, but that’s just because I’ve seen the way they treat customers. Your results certainly will vary.

    We’ll have more on the products he’s pushing as the reviews come in.

  • Surface Laptop 3’s Spontaneous Cracked Screens?

    A growing number of customers on Microsoft’s Answers Forum and Reddit are complaining that their nearly new Surface Laptop 3’s have developed spontaneous cracks in the screen. It appears that these devices are all the non Alcantara variety and are Aluminum only. Customers are posting pictures like the one below showing the issue in Microsoft’s Answers Forum.

    cracked screen

    Customers state that they did not drop, bang, or mistreat these devices or expose them to extreme temperature swings. So far, Microsoft outsourced forum support has been treating these as individual physical damage claims. For those who spent the extra money on Microsoft Complete, there is better coverage, albeit there is a $49 cost and there are only two “incidents” covered and this counts as one. One customer contacted support and states: “ I am currently waiting to hear back from Microsoft after numerous complaints…. they are taking forever but I finally got someone to admit they were investigating reports of the same issue. They said they had no time frame for a resolution or reply

    Reports of this issue are growing. Here’s a partial list of complaint threads:

    One customer writes: “ Soon after using it I noticed that the hinge would make a creaking sound when I opened it and the bottom chassis would do so as well when I lifted it applying even the slightest pressure. In addition to hearing the chassis creak, you can feel it flex when it happens. 

    It appears that if you are afflicted with this issue and are able to get to an official Microsoft Store, you may be able to convince the Store Manager to waive charges, as Nightryder21 reports:

    Clearly, something is amiss here and the typical silence from Microsoft is deafening. Panos Panay, are you listening?