My First 24 Hours w/ Microsoft Surface Books

as told by a Microsof’t fan

I got 5 Surface Book’s, so far I have used 4 of them. These are my first impressions. The first 3 are i7/dGPU 8/250.

First Surface Book

During the OOBE (Out of Box Experience) I booted the computer into Audit Mode by holding CTRL-SHIFT-F3 when it asked me if I agreed to the Express Settings. Not long after I got my first taste of polish, when the Intel Video Drivers crashed and told me my Windows 8 drivers had stopped working.

After that, everything was pretty smooth sailing until

Until I tried to dock it in Microsoft’s new $200 dock. Over and over and over and over again it told me only one monitor was connected until finally after clicking the extend options enough times, it finally recognized the two monitors and the internal screen. Great, everything is working now. Then fate struck. I detached the screen from the keyboard while it was docked. When I reattached, the computer sat at the logon screen and continuously flashed black. My assumption is the graphics drivers crashed forever. I undocked, rebooted, and redocked, and the computer never picked up the monitors again. Then it started doing something really glitchy, and I decided I needed different docks, cables, and monitors to test with.

So I did the only thing I could, I went to the Microsoft Store. I went to a flagship store, they had a Surface Book on the day it was announced. I saw my first one hours after the initial unveil. Well now on launch day, they only had one tech working. When he finally got to me, which took a while because a profession had cut in line somehow, he could tell I sorta knew what I was doing and politely explained that he was busy and had customers who didn’t know what they were doing. He said he would help me as long as I wanted but also implied that I understand that he felt other people probably deserved his prioritized attention, considering they had problems with actual solutions. It was refreshing hearing a frustrated employee be honest and frank. The subtext of his comments was that I was wasting other peoples time. Props to him for caring about the other people in line and handling the situation well. He still put control in my hands and was willing to help until I was ready to let him move on. I respected his concern for others and tried to keep it as brief as possible.

Sooo he walked over to their demo dock, and had it plugged into one of their Surface Pro 4s. The demo computer and dock couldnt detect the demo display, at which point I said “well if your floor models dont work either, there is no point in even troubleshooting the hardware.” He apologized that they didnt have any stock to replace my computer with. We had talked about wiping the computer earlier, and I had wanted to troubleshoot a little first. But without working docks, we agreed that a factory reset was the next step.

Before I got that far, this happened.

So I ran a restore on the computer, and lo and behold, the restore hung at 99%. Eventually I had to cut the power after watching it sit at 99% for hours. It rebooted, and told me the TPM chip was given a command to erase itself but had not succeeded, and that I have to press ok. I pressed ok. The OS reinstalled.

Later the computer hung during some kind of hibernation (since Windows 10 never shuts down.) I turned it on, and get this.

Eventually it turned back on, and brought me back to my last state, telling me it had resumed from hibernation. I tried to delete a shortcut off the desktop, it hung at 0%, and didn’t move. So eventually I tried rebooting, and it got stuck rebooting, and spun and spun. This had happened once before when I was having problems with the dock. So now the second time this happened. After reboot it got stuck on a boot loop. My first Surface Book now can only do this.

Second Surface Book

Bluescreened twice. Two different bluescreens. One of them was when I set it on a Chairman of the Board’s desk, to show him the future. The future was blue, and it crashed as the laptop and desk made contact. Not a good first impression, but he was still interested in one, once the kinks are worked out.

As I walked around the building I could hear the computer making the fake latch and unlatch sounds. It was pretty clear to me the monitor wasn’t attached correctly, but I unattached and reattached multiple times to no avail. After however many attempts to get it to stick correctly , eventually it seemed to click correctly without deatching if the laptop wiggles slightly, and it hasn’t caused any problems since. Well, except I can’t report bluescreens because computer was booted into audit mode. Once the computer is sysprepped, bluescreen dumps are lost. Quite lose-lose situation. Sorry I couldn’t send you the diagnostics Microsoft, maybe change it so I can click the “Check for solutions to problems” while in Audit Mode.

Oh yea, one other problem. Windows 10 still falls asleep in audit mode, locking you out of your account till you do a hard reboot or soft reboot. It seems sporadic whether it lets you press the power button on the screen or completely locks you out of everything including the reboot button! This problem has existed since Window’s 7 and Microsoft’s suggested workaround is to edit the registry to change the default settings. Maybe not locking you out of your installs should be the default setting?

Third Surface Book

this was the most well behaved machine

This machine has been running pretty well. Only once the NVIDIA drivers crashed. Not too shabby. I used this machine to troubleshoot the dock setup for machine one, and I could only ever get it to recognize one of the two monitors. Maybe we can blame the dock and not this Surface Book (In reality, its probably a mix of Microsoft’s, Intel’s and NVIDIA’s fault.) The guy at the Microsoft store had mentioned that he hoped the constant driver crashing at the logon screen while I was away from the computer, hadn’t fried the dock. I agreed that the thought had crossed my mind, and also concurred that it would suck if the dock was indeed fried.

Fourth Surface Book

Fourth is the top end 512GB model. Took forever to get the docking station working with two monitors. Very scared to touch anything or detach the dock for fear of never getting it to work again. It is working at the moment, but mainly as a desktop because chances are the second it is moved, it will never dock correctly again. It takes up more desk space than my Intel NUC’s.

Other Issues

Once you sysprep the computer, post audit mode, the stylus fails to resync during oobe. Probably because it is already paired? There is no visual indication that you are actually connected. Later, one of the machines prompted me asking if I wanted to sync the stylus. My suggestion is to not sync the stylus if you plan to enter Audit Mode.

The mousepad isn’t active right away, you have to touch it and wait for it to turn on. It’s annoying if you walk away from your computer often, especially at a standup desk.

Other minor quibbles include the glossy screen and lack of a trackpoint. Comeon Microsoft, make a Business Edition (and I’ll forgive you for making me watch bluescreens all day yesterday, and leaving one of the Surface Book’s stuck in a boot loop.)

My Takeaway

These things will be pretty awesome for most people. For people that want to dock with two monitors, I would wait. The dock’s aren’t ready. The graphics drivers aren’t ready. Windows 10 isn’t quite ready to handle this hardware.