back to article Inside Microsoft's Surface Pro: A fiendishly difficult journey

Microsoft's new Intel-powered, Windows 8–running Surface Pro continues manufacturers' increasing drive to create kit that's all but impossible to repair, according to the part-and-repair folks at iFixit. "The Surface Pro received a 1 out of 10 score on our repairability scale — the worst any tablet has ever received," iFixit …


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  1. Bob Vistakin

    Fallapartgate still an issue?

    They keyboard that is, not this particular vendor.

  2. JDX Gold badge

    Any justification for it being this way?

    Other than cynical marketing reasons I mean. Does using all that glue and solder perhaps increase the overall strength or shock-resistance for instance?

    Anyone know?

    1. Darryl

      Re: Any justification for it being this way?

      Heatsinking? I dunno

      1. Euripides Pants Silver badge

        Re: Any justification for it being this way?


        1. hplasm Silver badge

          Re: Any justification for it being this way?

          Surface sinking?

          1. JDX Gold badge

            Re: Any justification for it being this way?

            Got to love the kind of person who down-votes a genuine question. Perhaps they thought I was trying to make excuses for MS/Apple?

    2. graeme leggett

      Re: Any justification for it being this way?

      If the screen is strong, it would make sense to use it as part of the structure.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: Any justification for it being this way?

        My thoughts entirely. If you have a large piece of reinforced glass covering the whole of one side, using it as the chassis to save the weight of the large metal casting which normally provides rigidity is an obvious move.

        The car industry figured this out years ago. Try driving a modern car with its bonded-in windscreen removed. You'll be amazed at the amount of body flex you get.

        1. Zot

          Re: Any justification for it being this way?

          I thought your analogy to the car was going to be something else. You reminded me of the way modern cars have a massive plastic sheet over the engine to basically stop casual tinkering and repair (ok, sound supression as well). If something goes wrong, the manufacturer gets some cash every time a garage plugs in the diagnostic tool, as it always has to download software, and they charge for each download.

          They used to put oil filters in easy accessible places, now the average person wouldn't even dare look.

          So could it all be about making money from repairs, and hindering anyone else from setting up repair businesses? Also, tinkered-with products may not be reliable and could damage the image of the company, yes, even Microsoft. ;)

          1. Zot

            Re: Any justification for it being this way?

            Actually think about it some more, the answer is probably because it's far cheaper to make one than it is to repair it, so why bother designing it as accessible in the first place. And all those screws, access points, and chip sockets take up valuable space and weight.

            1. Nuke
              Thumb Down

              @Zot - Re: Any justification for it being this way?

              Wrote :- "it's far cheaper to make one than it is to repair it"

              Only because they make it hard to repair, and will not sell you replacement parts anyway because they assume that no-one wants to repair things because they have been made hard to repair. Do you understand the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy?


              I repair loads of stuff. My desktop PC stopped recently because (as it turned out) the chassis mains plug on the back had broken a link. I fitted a "new" one, actually salvaged from an earlier PC. Cost me £0 and 30 minutes. Most people would have tossed the whole PC in the skip and bought a new one ; cost £300 (+ £_petrol) and at least 4 hours shopping.

              The politicians say "re-use, recycle" but for some reason forget to say "repair". Pity, it would make three-R's.

    3. Annihilator

      Re: Any justification for it being this way?

      I assume MS saw that the iPad was non-upgradeable and that was doing well, so instead of making their's non-upgradeable, they just welded it shut as tightly as they could. :-)

      Bit of a half-assed attempt at making their device like Apple's, but gotta love it when they try

    4. Nuke

      @ JDX - Re: Any justification for it being this way?

      Wrote :- "Does using all that glue and solder perhaps increase the overall strength or shock-resistance for instance?"

      I am not sure what you mean by "all that solder". There is only one mention of solder in TFA, the mention of memory soldered to the circuit board. It is normal to solder components to a circuit board, been done for years and solder is perfectly un-solderable (ie the component is repairable by being replacable). So solder is not the issue here.

      (I was not your downvoter BTW, it was a fair question)

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Any justification for it being this way?

      It's a gadget, appliance. Is there much upgradable in a laptop these days? not much other than disk and RAM.

      It's no use complaining about it, just look at the numbers:

      What is the most upgradable device? the desktop, but they're declining while the less upgradable devices are increasing marketshare (laptops and tablets).

      Do you complain that you can't upgrade the CPU and RAM in your phone? nope. Would you accept a phone twice the size and weight for that option? probably not.

      1. NumptyScrub

        Re: Any justification for it being this way?

        quote: "Do you complain that you can't upgrade the CPU and RAM in your phone? nope. Would you accept a phone twice the size and weight for that option? probably not."

        Actually I would love to be able to upgrade the RAM and CPU for my phone, and I'd have no issue with it doubling (or quadrupling) in weight for that plus larger battery options. I am not an average consumer though.

        Having said that, people used to willingly use the Motorola 8500X and NEC 9A once upon a time, and they are a lot larger and heavier than any of todays models... ;)

  3. mark l 2 Silver badge

    I can't understand why manufactures make their equipment so hard to service. I guess these days they expect people to just throw things away when they break and buy a new one rather than get it repaired.

    I am still using my laptop from 2007 and will happily do so until something breaks that makes it not worth repairing

    1. Graham 24

      Not like cars

      The trouble is, devices like this aren't like cars, where the cost of a single component that fails is orders of magnitude less than the cost of the whole. If something fails on a Surface, it's probably going to be expensive to replace, costing a large percentage of the overall price. Suppose one of the surface mount ICs fails. The labour involved in manually unsoldering a single SMT chip and putting a new one in, plus the cost of the chip itself (assuming they're still being made any more) will probably be more than the device is worth. Since it isn't economic to repair the device anyway, it makes sense to manufacture the device in a way that costs less / makes the device lighter / look prettier etc.

      Having said that, for the bits you expect to fail / wear out (batteries, and possibly SSDs), it makes sense to allow those to be replaced easily.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Not like cars @Graham 24

        You've obviously never been told that the reason your car is misfiring and using 30% extra fuel is that ECU needs replacing, and that will be £850+labour+tax thank you very much!

        It's just that cars have a lifetime measured in 10years+, and the manufacturers did not cotton on to making all cars uneconomically viable to repair until just after this century started.

        I've just diagnosed a fuel problem in a 17 y.o car for one of my kids (not the ECU in this case, a fuel injector module), and been told that the spare part to fix it properly is not available in the scrap market because it's a common failure, and getting one from Ford would cost more than I paid for the car! Fortunately, it's not as bad as I was led to believe, and that the problem can be worked around with a bit of effort and s couple of generic cheap parts.

        All the complexity is put in for 'economy' or 'emissions control'. I'd love to know the ecological impact of scrapping a properly maintained older car and building a new one to replace it, rather than extending it's life by 5 years. But that would not suit the car manufacturers (who lobbied for a scrappage allowance to keep their business alive), and who claim to be too important to the economy to be allowed to fail. So they get given the ability to dictate government policy.

        Modern cars, with all the digital dashboards, engine control, limited life plastic components, and reliance on diagnostic units rather than real skilled mechanics are designed to have short the lives, and keep the manufacturers in business.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      My laptops are vintage 2003 or so. A Dell Inspiron 5150 - 15" screen 3ghz P4 - and a smaller Latitude D400 - 12" screen 1.8ghz Pentium M. They have proved easy to take apart for repairs so far. Enough cheap spares in the garage to keep them running for a few more years on XP. Motherboards are the critical component.

      1. WatAWorld

        Your 2003 laptops? Is their size and weight comparable to an iPad or Surface?

        Your 2003 laptops? Is their size and weight comparable to an iPad or Surface?

        That is the thing, it is a trade off. For consumers who want tiny and feather weight, they have to pay a price in repairability and upgradeability.

        Those consumers who do not want tiny and feather weight can buy larger devices that are upgradeable and repairable.

    3. csumpi
      Paris Hilton

      Uhmmm... so when they break you buy a new one?

      Actually this is Apple's game: look at the aluminum body laptops and ipads. The worst material to make a mobile device out of that will be handled and moved a lot. They scratch so easy, people sell them and buy new ones faster than replacing their undies, in fear of scratching the damn thing and losing resale value.

      1. SuccessCase

        @csumpi. Oh dear, you're busting yourself as a blind Apple hater with a comment like that. Clearly you have never owned one. Apple uses a special proprietary anodisation process that makes their MacBooks and iMacs unbelievably tough and scratch resistent. The result, confirmed by independent reports, is a surface as scratch resistant as a tough gem stone. Another benefit is the surface hides the dirt really well so even with a great buildup of dirt the stay looking relatively clean. Owners will tell you one of the things they like about Apple kit is that it is so hard wearing. The same can't be said of the black iPhone 5 though. Due to the "sharp" chamfered edge it chips through to the silver aluminium far too easily, making the white model far better for durability.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Oh dear, you're busting yourself as a blind Apple hater with a comment like that.

          Not blind and not a "hater", just not so well informed. Why does it always have to black & white?

          BTW, "unbelievably" tough is BS too - I *have* Apple kit and although I am someone who tends to take very good care of his kit, I have managed to pick up a few scratches on my MacBook. Given that it is a few years old that doesn't matter much, but I'd hardly call it as indestructible as you make it out to be.

          Let's see if we can get back to civilised discourse here, shall we?

          1. Rawr.

            The toughness of the aluminium actually makes the electronics, the motherboard especially, inside the computer last much longer than their plastic counterparts in the PC world. MacBooks don't twist anything like plastic PCs do. That flex is transferred to the motherboard (and screen when opening from a corner) which causes solder fractures thanks to the lead-free solder introduced by our... "friends" in Brussels.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. the-it-slayer
        Thumb Down

        @csumpi - just NO

        Seriously... so you'd have a crappy piece of Dell/HP plastic holding your kit together? I owned a Dell XPS 13" laptop. Pretty high spec, looked great but the plastic/design was awful the further you looked inside. Aluminium provides the perfect platform to hold all your internals in. Rigid screw holes, more accurate mouldings etc.

        My 13" Macbook Pro. Almost 3 years old and still going with OS X Lion. Just upgraded the RAM and will be installing an SSD next month to get the most out of it. You drop aluminium from a small height closed... most damage is a small dent/scratch. With a plastic Dell/HP... it shatters the corner where the screen hinge is (the weight is with the screen/hinge) and makes it look very tacky. Seen it with plenty of laptops in my desktop support days.

      3. Dana W
        Thumb Down

        Nice argument if you are talking about iPod 5. iPads have matte backs. NO scratches on mine and wipes clean. I'll still choose it over plastic.

    4. Anonymous Coward


      Wholeheartedly agree.

      Stuff like this always reminds me of the very first laserprinter I bought: an awesome HP Laserjet 2100m. The m was important (to me) since that indicated postscript functionality; as such much better Linux support.

      But the really awesome part was that HP used to have a section on their site devoted to this printer where you could find instructions on how to take the thing /completely/ apart to service it. And in full detail too; from what you should look out for when touching the toner right down to how you could use very fine sandpaper to (carefully!) roughen up the main roll should your paper no longer stick.

      Of course this was last century; in the good ole days where you could find much more "geek" stuff online. Nowadays HP would do everything in their power to hide this information from you best as they can. IMO a change for the worst.

      1. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: @Mark

        Same with White Goods. One of the better reasons for buying from the likes of Bosch, Siemens, AEG and such is that they have an online parts catalogue including exploded diagrams.

        Makes 'em very easy to fix on a DIY basis.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Mark

        You forgot to add here "and die". In the early days of the PC I used to run a repair workshop with a couple of other people - initially just computers. Thankfully, I sold my share and left before they added laser printers to the list of items being taken for repair.

        The toner used in the early lasers is as bad as asbestous if not even worse. The main repair guy from our old crowd is already dead from mesotelieloma (at the age of 35 without ever touching any asbestous in his life). The other "survivors" all have lung problems.

        DIY repair of a laser printer, no thanks. I'd more likely go and suck on a Trabant exhaust.

      3. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

        Re: @Mark

        I can get detailed instructions for my trusty HP laptop and it will totally dismantle. (dual core, 2GHz)

        Loads of parts on ebay or from HP.

        Re. the article: It has fans and no way to clean them = Worthless trash.

      4. RobinCM

        Re: @Mark

        HP do still have Maintenance and Service Guides available as PDFs, I used one to help me upgrade a Folio 13-2000 laptop last year, was very detailed and easy to find via Google.

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: @Mark

        > Wholeheartedly agree.


        The problem is not that these days companies design and manufacture this crap, the problem is that people actually cave in and go for it, bells, whistles, trinkets and all.

        And the solution is simple enough ...

        You just don't purchase any of this disposable crap hardware with crap software.

        And that's all.


      6. Nya

        Re: @Mark

        Not really, they have very detailed engineering plans for all the business kit on the site you can download. The plans and designs on the laptops are amazingly detailed. They are fully detailed engineering guides, but it does seem to depend on the generation though and the product line though. If you want plans, you buy business kit. Consumer crap wise, well it's consumer crap.

    5. Anonymous Coward

      Quite so, and it blows their sanctimonious piffle sky high

      What annoys the crap out of me about non-repairable devices is that at the same time as Vendor X is touting their green credentials ("Hey, look at us! Our factory is staffed by eight-year olds that emit zero carbon!") they pump out stuff that is non-upgradeable and non-repairable and therefore destined for the junk pile in only a few years. Or else it ends up at an electronics recycler in China turning towns like Guiyu into toxic death zones.

      The greenest thing you can do as a manufacturer is to make your stuff repairable.

      1. WatAWorld

        Re: Quite so, and it blows their sanctimonious piffle sky high

        True, but this is not the fruity manufacturer that was touting alleged green credentials while making products whose batteries could not be replaced.

        These devices traded away greenness.

        If the batteries are replaceable and they accept a SDHC card those are the mains thing and the only thing we can expect.

      2. jason 7

        Thinking of writing to my MEPs.

        I find it hard to equate a corporations Green credentials when it now makes impossible to fix/upgrade products using lots of rare metals that is designed to last one week past warranty.

        Any device like this should be mandatory for the user to be able to replace the battery and the storage device as a minimum.

        With dwindling resources of metals like silver it's crazy that this kit is now classed as purely chuck to landfill and replace.

        With a few user replaceable parts there is no reason for laptops and tablets to be able to function for 5+ years.

        Sod obsessives and their aesthetic needs, we live in a world that needs to start thinking about making stuff last longer not shorter.

      3. earplugs

        Re: Quite so, and it blows their sanctimonious piffle sky high

        Likely Steve Jobs got cancer from his time on the production line at Atari, like several others. His genius is to shift the production line elsewhere.

    6. Silverburn


      What's bizzare is that all electronic manufacturers are obliged to make their products more recyclable (though this varies country by country).

      So while I accept the "throwaway" economics, I simply can't understand why they're making recycling harder, not easier?

      Mine's the hemp one with the CND badge.

      1. mmeier

        Re: Recycling

        Recycling the parts is easier. You can accept some breakage. Say run a cutter through the shell and separate it or heat the stuff to temperatures where the solder comes appart (bet that the adhesive will also melt). After all the legal demand is "raw material" not "parts"

        Given the flak manufactures like Asus, Samsung and Lenovo caught for problems with their slate edges lifting (and dust getting in) Microsoft went the prudent way and made sure THAT will not happen. Even more important with the Surface/Pro that (unlike the older slates) will more often be used without a book cover.

        Aimed at the "company/commercial" market the 1000cyles/3 years typical lifespan of the batteries also fits well.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Are you oblivious to the pace of change in the consumer electronics field?

      Even a TV seems ancient when it is 3 years old now. Same goes for almost everything apart from laptops and desktop which seem to have a slightly slower development pace (probably due to Intel not having enough competition).

  4. EvanPyle

    The smaller these things get the harder they are going to be to service, but that's ok because they are designed to be replaced. When was the last time you were using your 6 year old tablet and though "This battery is getting a bit old, might be time for a new one", not a chance. at the two or three year mark you though "Shit this is slow, time for a new one".

    When you walk into an apple shop they don't crack open your iPad and have a look, they just give you a second hand one and send you on your way. Refurbishing can be done in bulk, not case by case.

    We are getting to the point of thinness and compactness that big trade offs have to be made. Take a look at cars, my old '73 Statesman de Ville had an engine bay so big you could stand in it and work on the car. Try that today with a late model Ford or Toyota, not a chance. Conspiracy nut jobs will say something like "It's the corporations man....." but really in the board room it's something like "Shit, we need to make it thinner, can we sacrifice anything else?".

    1. WatAWorld

      Computer and phone batteries don't last 6 years, they don't last 2 years -- so batteries are one thing that should be replaceable on computers. And this MS thing takes a memory card.

      But I fully agree with the rest of what you say. Lack of upgradability and repairability is an obviously necessary trade-off in miniaturizing products.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        I am wondering, what exactly is it that you do with your phone or laptop, looping videos endlessly, constantly plugging and unplugging the phone? My iPhone 3G is now over four years old, and it is still working (slowly). As another poster said, its the advances in software that require fasted hardware that will force people to upgrade.

        I also have a seven year old Dell d630 at home, and while that battery was never going to win any awards, it's still good enough to take with you if you need just a couple of hours...

        Personally, I think the dea of handing in your old device to the manufacturer so they can discard it in a safe and less damaging to the environment way is all good.

    2. mmeier

      Tablet-PC last a bit longer than the typical "couchy" tablets (Android, iOS). They are better compared to notebooks/ultrabooks so 3+ years is resonable. And user-replaceable components have some other benefits:

      + Hot/Quick swap batteries become possible (See the Q550 for an example or the T and X series convertibles)

      + Upgrading memory, SSD and network card(1)

      + Stronger batteries (See Dell Latitude 10)

      (1) I.e many 1st gen core-i systems could use WIDI if not for the lack of a Centrino based WLAN card. User replaceable cards could delay a "new system needed" by a year or so without voiding waranty. I voided it on my privat slate but companies (Surface main target IMHO) won't

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      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Der Herrengestrümpfen Grossenstreichen shall NEVERRR prevail!

        I gotta say though, it's pretty hilarious. It's like switching on the radio and getting a full-on nazi blast in pidgin german when you least expect it. Makes my day.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Der Herrengestrümpfen Grossenstreichen shall NEVERRR prevail!

          Every time I feel the urge to comment about what Microsoft are doing wrong, I find that obsessed twit has been here before me. If ever read the drivel from one we can only assume to be unemployed by the frequency and length of posting, somehow my heart warms a little to the guys at Redmond. Not surprising desktop Linux has gone nowhere with friends like that. On the basis of cause and effect, I'm getting to think he/she/it is a subtle Microsoft shill attack on theReg.

          1. frank ly Silver badge

            I'm starting to like him

            Really, I look forward to reading his posts. We should keep him as a pet. Outside in a kennel of course.


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