Surface Pro 3 Notes

Surface Pros are a pain to support (more so than a regular laptop).


 It’s a good idea to update the driver package, if you see any type of hardware issues in the system event log. When you check the Microsoft support site for newer drivers, you will need to know the current build version of your Windows 10 OS. The easiest way to determine the version, is to run the “Winver” command. The version of the driver package you down load should match your OS build version. Also, make sure you have a system image, so that you at least have the option to roll back.

If you update the feature or build to the next version and it completes successfully. I recommend checking to  see if a new driver / FW package is available for that new release. Example Windows 10 OS build 1607.14393.1944 would use the update package for with 1607.14393 in the name (the package number is 17_037_02). You’re not just downloading the newest Microsoft bundle off the web site, the numbers have to match.

Also its a good idea to run SFC /scannow after you have installed a new feature release, to verify there hasn’t been some form of system corruption. Hopefully there won’t be any errors, but if there are errors, most likely SFC will be able to fix them for you. However, if they cannot be fixed with SFC, it can take a lot of work to correct with other utilities and a copy of the Windows install files.

Feature release downloads fail from time to time, especially in the 1511 days (new updates seemed to be pushed every week or two). So if you’re on something newer (i.e. 1607) that is still under support, I wouldn’t necessarily rush to be on 1703 or 1709. Also, don’t forget to do the drive cleanup and get rid of the BT~ and Windows.old folders after a feature update, they can take up 20 GB or more of space.

I don’t know that Microsoft can continue feature updates for free forever with Windows 10. More than likely, they will continue to come out with new versions of Orange Crush, that we really don’t want on Windows 10 Pro for business. Unfortunately, unless your rolling out a large scale scripted deployments of Microsoft 10 Pro in an enterprise, or are very good with PowerShell scripts, you won’t be able to avoid frequent Orange Crush or Xbox updates (I just turn those Apps off).

If you are concerned that a new feature or driver may cause a problem (not just for Surface Pro’s, but any workstation as well). These updates can be excluded if you have Windows 10 Pro, by using a built in tool – gpedit. On my systems, I delay new features, and turn off driver updates, see my “Windows 10 Patching” blog, to find out how.

Windows Recovery

Windows System Images

Lets face it Windows workstations are patched a lot, and some times they have issues. It could be from a download, a Microsoft patch or a malicious web site. So if your PC has an issue you want to be in a position to recover it quickly. One of the easiest free methods is to use System Restores and System Images all built into Windows 7, 8 and 10.

Restore Points let you roll back to a previous system state. So if you are going to install a new application, you could create a restore point before the install, and then if the application does not work as expected, you can remove it and revert back to the previous state. What that does is remove any new registry entries that were created during the install and restore the original ones.

To create a restore point go to Control Panel, System & then look for System protection on the left side. That will get you to System Properties and allow you to turn on and configure restore points. Normally I just do this for the C:\ drive or the system partition. I don’t do that for my data drive. I use a custom script that will backup my data drive to another disk on a regular basis.

System Images are a complete copy of your system drive. If you designed your system with a separate data volume and keep the C:\ system drive relatively small, it will make for very quick recovery of your OS. If the OS has a virus, you can recover everything on C:\. But you have to do your home work, and you will need the items below:

  • Created a system recovery drive that you use to boot the PC
  • Have a System Image backup already saved on your data or external USB 3 drive
  • Keep your C:\ system partition small, and save all your files to a separate data drive

If you already have a separate data drive, then you are a head of the game. You can simply use that to save your system images. I also recommend having and using an external USB 3 drive to save the images to as well. Both the internal or external drive should be at least 1 TB in size, to save multiple images and data. If you don’t have a drive, go over to your nearest office supply store and purchase one. If you are not familiar with installing internal drives, then you can learn on line or contact me and I would be glad to help.

Next make sure you have created a recovery disk while your system is still healthy. You will need a USB 3 drive and then run the “create a recovery drive” utility already built into Windows. From the start menu or windows button just type “create a recovery drive” and the following menu will open allowing you to do that. Just be sure to use a thumb drive that at least 16 GB, may be 32 GB if you have a lot of applications on your system.

The recovery drive allows you to boot the system without a functional system partition, and run the recovery utilities. Those include restoring your system from a previously made image backup. There will be a few options, so the key is booting from the recovery disk and becoming familiar with the options before you really need them.

I won’t go through all the recovery options here, their are a fair number of discussions found through Google on how to do that. I just want to make sure your thinking ahead, and have all the pieces that you need to recover your system. If you don’t have a bunch of other data on the system drive, the operating system alone is typically 50 – 60 GB.

A USB 3 drive with the system image backup, that is restoring to a SSD partition can be done in 15 minutes or less. If you also have all your data on the system partition, you could be looking at a few hours or more. If the System drive is not SSD, plan on doubling or tripling the recovery time.

To create a system image just go to Control Panel, then select “Backup and Restore”. Keep in mind widows will let you perform a plan backup as well, but you can’t use that to recover your system, just the data on the volume backed up. Once your in Backup and Restore, look on the left hand side and select ” Create a System Image”. That will walk you through the steps of making an image of your OS..

If you ever have to do a restore, it will be a simple procedure to get the whole OS back. That includes your applications and email, along with any data on C:\. If you have an internal data drive D:\ or E:\, none of that data will be affected by the system restore going to C:\, which restores the OS.

That’s why this is really great, because if for any reason your system starts running bad,  its easy and fast to restore it back to its previous state. Why not just use a recovery point, well mainly because recovery points restores sometimes fail for different reasons (Antivirus software can cause a glitch with restore points). If your PC is hit with a virus that damages system files, it may not boot or work well enough to allow you to try a restore point.

But with a recovery USB thumb drive, no matter what the state the OS is in, you can boot to a recovery menu and then restore a system image. Also, if you want to upgrade to a SSD drive, you can use a system image to do that. One caveat,  the SSD needs to be the same size or larger than the drive you are replacing. Even if it doesn’t have a lot of data on it, the utility looks at the total size (available space) of the volume. Some third party cloning tools let you work around that limitation, and will allow you to clone a larger HDD to smaller SSD.

Windows Utilities

System tools

In order to keep your system running well, I’ll list a few built in utilities that are worth using once in a while to keep your workstation healthy. Also use restore points and system images (see Windows Recovery), to minimize recovery time.

Windows 10 like Windows 7 has a built in Disk Cleanup tool. you can use it to empty the recycle Bin, clean up temp files. It can also clean up error and dump files if you select clean up system files.







If you are running a SSD, Windows 10 comes with an Optimize tool that helps to flush deleted files. Windows will automatically run this, which is similar to a defrag if it exceeds 4% or based on a schedule that you set. I generally choose weekly, to maintain optimum performance.

If you think that an update or software install may have caused an issue, you can run a tool called sfc /scannow which will scan all protected system files, and replace corrupted files with a cached copy that is located in a compressed folder at %WinDir%\System32\dllcache. You should run this from a command prompt with Administrator rights:

Always keep Windows Defender updated with the latest files and you system should run well. If it doesn’t please touch base and I’ll see if I can help with any issues you might have.

Windows 10 Must Do!

Windows 10 Pro Tip

Microsoft has taken a hard line with patching in Windows 10. You no longer have the ability to select some patches and omit other as easily as before in Windows 7. You do have the ability to perform a manual install with “Microsoft Update Catalog”, if you want to target a specific patch, while avoiding other bundled updates. But if you desire any control over patching here is what I suggest:

Run gpedit.msc and  go to: Administrative Templates \Windows Components \ Windows Update

Next select “Defer Windows Updates” and enable to select when you receive new Windows Features. This is important because, you want to be able to run and install the normal security updates without having to worry about prepping and doing a system backup like you would when a new feature release is available. Also you may need to test and plan when you really want the new feature release added, all of which take a good deal more time than regular patching.

Two other items that should be configured are the Automatic Updates themselves and if they should include drivers. Microsoft will sometimes bundle video and other drivers in with regular security patches. You may not see them unless you click on details, but you will get them, unless you specifically enable the setting below so they are not included. I personally don’t want Microsoft updating my video drivers, so I enable – “Do not include drivers with Windows Updates”.

Also, so you can decide when to install the normal security updates, and at times may choose to use Microsoft Update Catalog to manually target larger updates. Its best to choose option #2 to have that ability. Note that option #5 does not actually exist for Windows 10, and the maintenance schedule only applies with option #4.


Computer Tips

PC Windows Upgrades

There are a lot of computer options to choose from, since I mainly work with Windows systems, most of my advice will be centered on that OS. As an update I now run Windows 10 Pro both at home and professionally, and I am familiar with installing and upgrading both systems. If you need help with fixing or upgrading a PC please let me know.


Windows 10 does have some advantages, like touch screen, but there is a learning curve. Will Windows 10 run all Windows 7 applications, mostly. A lot of drivers are compatible, but printers and graphics cards can be a different story. You will need the latest drivers which may not be available. That means purchasing a new printer or graphics card.

Some applications will realize the OS is not Windows 7 and you will need to down load or purchase updated software.  Some of the new features of Windows 10 are that it uses UEFI boot by default, which does decrease start up times. However, Windows 7 can also be configured to use UEFI for the same advantage. Both Windows 7 and 10 are fully compatible with SSD drives and use TRIM natively.

Tips:  If you want to install Windows 7 with a UEFI partition, there are a couple of requirements:

  • The boot device for the install must have a bootx64.efi driver under the efi\boot\   path, if it is an USB drive and not a DVD.
  • HDD disks often need an AHCI driver for the best performance, which should be loaded during the Windows 7 install under drivers.
  • SSD drives may prefer the more general Microsoft driver, and will give   you a warning during the install if you load the Intel f6flpy-x64 driver.
  • Companies like Paragon offer tools to migrate your HDD drive to SSD. Samsung also offers a free imaging tool, but it only works on Samsung SSD drives.

UEFI partitions include a 100 MB FAT 32 EFI system volume and a hidden 128 MB Microsoft Reserved Partition (MSR). A clone drive will need to copy these as well as the OS or the new SSD drive will not boot.Yes, SSD drives still wear out over time, due to a finite amount of writes, but that should be several years for home users, as long as you go with one of the leading drives.

The disadvantage for wide spread use is still cost, but if you paying over $1000 for a system, another $100 dollars for a SSD drives won’t break the bank and will definitely improve performance. It’s optimal to still use a large 1 – 2 TB HDD for storage and put the OS and page file on the SSD volume. If you do purchase a SSD drive make sure that it is at least 120 GB, because you need to keep about 25% free space on the volume for the best performance.

If a clone tool recognizes UEFI and moves the boot partition, your original source drive will no longer boot, only the SSD drive. The source drive can become a secondary data disk, but if that is not your intention, be aware! Regardless of the OS version you choose, I do recommend a SSD drive for new system with fast i7-4770 type processors, the performance limitation will most likely be your HDD, and not your video card or memory.

On my system the Windows experience index went up from 5.9 to 7.9 with the installation of a Samsung 840 EVO SSD drive for the boot OS. What does that mean in real terms, well boot times go down from 30 seconds to less than 20 seconds to the log on screen. In addition to much faster read times (5X), you will also get with the newer second generation drives better MTBF and a longer warranty over HDD drives.