back to article Microsoft pulls Win 8.1 RT code which upgraded Surface 'slabs into BRICKS

Microsoft has quickly backpedalled on its Windows 8.1 update, pulling it from the Windows Store after reports that it was bricking Surface tablets. In this post at its Answers site, Microsoft explained the withdrawal of the update: “Windows RT 8.1. Microsoft is investigating a situation affecting a limited number of users …

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  1. BobChip
    Coat

    Puzzled....

    I thought RT had been declared dead and buried. Why an RT 8.1 update? Am I missing a trick here?

    1. Rob K

      Re: Puzzled....

      Have you not heard of the Surface 2? Windows RT is very much alive. How long it will stay that way is anyone's guess.

      1. TheOtherHobbes

        Re: Puzzled....

        About as long as it takes to update to Win 8.1, apparently.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Puzzled....

        And the new Nokia tablet running Windows RT that has 15 hours battery life...

  2. Khaptain Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Bricked or somewhat confused.

    If it can be recovered it is definitely not bricked....

    Bricked = Irrecoverable = some of the ROMs avaialable on XDA were "bricking" galaxy notes for a short time, due to the ROM triggering memory problems that had been incorrectly addressed by Samsung. The devices were rendered completely useless and impossible to recover ( fully).....

    There is a HUGE difference between bricked and confused.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bricked or somewhat confused.

      There you go El Reg, the heading should have been:

      Microsft pulls Win 8.1 RT update as being somewhat confusing for Surface slabs.

      Might brick the device but only until the next update is available for testing.

      1. cortland

        Re: Bricked or somewhat confused.

        The heading should have been. "8.1 upgrade not what it appears on the Surface."

        IMO.

        Mine works.

    2. Tony Green

      Re: Bricked or somewhat confused.

      For the average user I don't think that's a particularly relevant distinction.

      For someone with enough (WIndows-specific) technical skills, recovering from something like this might be reasonably easy. But for the average person (ie someone un-technical enough to have been daft enough to buy one of these) it amounts to the same thing.

      1. Kunari

        Re: Bricked or somewhat confused.

        I got a Surface RT for free and had no problems upgrading it to 8.1 before the update as pulled.

        1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

          Re: Bricked or somewhat confused.

          I got a Surface RT for free and had no problems upgrading it to 8.1

          Ah, so it's actually a karma upgrade: as soon as any money has changed hands for the device, the upgrade will brick confuse it.

          1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
            Joke

            Re: Bricked or somewhat confused.

            Wouldn't the more appropriate phrase in this situation be "skateboarded" rather than bricked? Given that seems to be the preferred alternative lower-tech usage for the things...

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. sabroni Silver badge
            Stop

            Re: The defnition of bricked is unrecoverable

            Stop arguing with this! This is a technical site, not "Windows for users", and as such should use words like "bricked" correctly. Your mum might think it's bricked, but if you know it's fixable then you know it's not...

            1. Frankee Llonnygog

              Re: The defnition of bricked is unrecoverable

              Not bricked - just tiled.

            2. Fatman Silver badge
              FAIL

              Re: The defnition of bricked is unrecoverable

              Stop arguing with this! This is a technical site, not "Windows for (L)users",

              FTFY!

        3. Kunari

          Re: Bricked or somewhat confused.

          Two down votes just for saying I was able to upgrade my RT to 8.1 before the upgrade was pulled?! /sigh/

          The hardware is solid, I like the kickstand, the touch keyboard (got that for $30) and overall build quality is good, but I'm still not sold on RT as an OS. I wish Microsoft would allow alternate browsers, I'd prefer a Chrome browser (assuming Google would spend the time to make one for RT) or that I could run Android on it. We have a work app that like Chrome or Firefox better than IE.

          I wouldn't have bought one as I'm happy with my iPad and Android tablet, but the Surface RT was a "free" bonus with some training classes I needed to take. As I said, I like the hardware better than the OS.

        4. Someone Else Silver badge
          Facepalm

          @Kunari Re: Bricked or somewhat confused.

          Reminds me of a conversation I had with a tester I work with:

          Tester: Your program's broke...it doesn't work.

          Me: It works on my machine

          Tester: I don't care if it works on your machine. We're not shipping your machine!

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Bricked or somewhat confused.

          "I got a Surface RT for free and had no problems upgrading it to 8.1 before the update as pulled."

          Only 0.1% of users were affected apparently. Good on Microsoft for still pulling the update. Unlike Apple who continued to churn out IOS7 broken updates for ages....

      2. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: Bricked or somewhat confused.

        >For someone with enough (WIndows-specific) technical skills, recovering from something like this might be reasonably easy. But for the average person (ie someone un-technical enough to have been daft enough to buy one of these) it amounts to the same thing.

        It is not really very important who eventually recovers the device, be it the owner, a friend or a technicien . What is important is that the device can be recovered. A truly bricked device can't, it literaly becomes a brick, whilst this is not the case.

        There won't be many people stupid enough to simply throw away such an expensive device without doing at least a bit of research on how to get it repaired, which fortunately for them they will be able to do or at least have done for them..

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Bricked or somewhat confused.

        Very true - given that the first step is :

        Create a recovery disk....

        Well most non tech savvy people wont have done that when they got the machine and once its "bricked" they won't be able to create one...

        1. Khaptain Silver badge

          Re: Bricked or somewhat confused.

          >Create a recovery disk....

          >Well most non tech savvy people wont have done that when they got the machine and once its "bricked" they won't be able to create one

          One of two things here.

          1 : TLDR

          The problem is nothing more than a missing/corrupt file - not exactly the end of life for the tablet that now is it.

          2 : You don't actually understand what is required in order to "create a recovery disk". It can be done from almost any version of windows above XP.

          Quote from original blog.

          NOTE: You can create a USB recovery drive using ANY Windows computer running XP or above. You could probably even do it on a Linux machine. You just need to be able to format the USB drive as FAT32 and extract .zip files!

          As I mentioned above anyone with a "modicum" of tech savvy can repair this... It does not equate to a bricked device..

          Also I note that the original blogger did not call it a bricked device , only the "ITNews" website did that, followed by a poor El Reg hack that decided to copy the article and add a "sensational title"........

          1. ChrisB 2

            Re: Bricked or somewhat confused.

            "You can create a USB recovery drive using ANY Windows computer running XP or above. You could probably even do it on a Linux machine. You just need to be able to format the USB drive as FAT32 and extract .zip files"

            To the vast majority of "normal" users, that's gobbledegook right there.

            1. Robert E A Harvey

              Re: To the vast majority of "normal" users, that's gobbledegook right there.

              So why do they think they need a computer?

          2. Mort
            Boffin

            Re: Bricked or somewhat confused.

            Howdy,

            As the original blogger, I'd be more inclined to call it "stuffed" than bricked. For the "ordinary" user though I'd say there isn't a whole lot of difference, so just arguing semantics I'd say. There isn't really anything super magical about the fix, it's just knowing that there is even a step to fix it in the first place.

            The file I provide isn't anything other than an ARM copy of the WinPE recovery boot disk (only the boot files, not the full system recovery). That is probably the biggest challenge as you need access to a working RT device to create one from scratch if you don't know the trick of duplicating one.

            I was going to add a script that would take you straight to the command prompt and run the command, but I was concerned asking people to download and run stuff "blind" was a big enough risk without having someone accuse me of "tampering" and trying to run stuff on their tablet. The steps aren't that hard, and in the end I didn't really feel like doing any more of Microsoft's job for them.

            1. Khaptain Silver badge

              Re: Bricked or somewhat confused.

              >As the original blogger, I'd be more inclined to call it "stuffed" than bricked. For the "ordinary" user though I'd say there isn't a whole lot of difference,

              I would disagree, on the XDA forums there were many newbies, neophytes, non techies looking for solutions to their problems. They eventually learned that "bricked" meant irrefutably damaged....

              It is extremely important for the users to know/learn that their expensive toy is only slightly "confused" ( there I used by own technical term).

              Bricked has become/is becoming synonymous with "f***ed" and we know this is not the case. Using the correct terminlogy/analogy is highly important for all involved.

          3. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Bricked or somewhat confused.

            Apart from the fact that you can't do it from many devices and its another 4GB download.

            http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/10/21/surface_rt_recovery_image/

        2. Gav
          Boffin

          "Bricked" is not an end user expression

          I do not expect to read "the internet is broken" when the actual news story is about IE crashing. So why say something is "bricked" when it is simply corrupted?

          Calling this a file corruption does not minimize the problem. It's still a huge issue for Microsoft and the end user. But the end user's limited understanding of the issue is not the story I expect to read on a tech news-site. So arguing it's "bricked" as far as they are concerned is rather beside the point. Especially when "bricked" is not an expression they are likely to use.

    3. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Bricked or somewhat confused. @Khaptain

      OK, so if a device has no user recovery path, but the manufacturer can re-flash the internal memory using the initial manufacturing process, is that not bricked?

      Or how about they can rescue your data, and replace the main system board, but use the same case, serial number etc. Is that not bricked?

      I agree the sentiment of what you are saying, and in this case the term is not justified, but I don't believe that there is really any hard-and-fast definition of bricked, and whether a device is bricked or not depends on the device state and the available resources to the user.

      If you were on a desert island, with a satellite Internet feed and no other computing devices, unpacking a zip file onto a USB file to boot would not be possible, so this would effectively be a bricked device.

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: Bricked or somewhat confused. @Khaptain

        I would hazard to say that :

        If the only person that can get your device working again is the manufacturer then it should be classified as bricked.

        Otherwise it is just temporarily "confused". I really can't think of a suitable adjective to replace confused - incapacitated, out of order ....

        If you, a techie friend can get it back up running without the manufacturers help then it is not bricked. The original bloggers post will probably recieve a lot of traffic from NonTechnically minded people looking for a solution. No one wants to suffer the pain of sending back tot the manufacturer if they can avoid it.

        I initially used the word confused because during the boot routine the boot loader can't find a particular file and cannot proceed as expected, thereby leaving it in a "confused" state.... It had no viable alternative solution other than to panic or remain in an endless loop.

        1. Mort

          Re: Bricked or somewhat confused. @Khaptain

          Still arguing semantics here. Bricked depends entirely on the capabilities of the person recovering the device. If you don't know how to recover it yourself, it's bricked to you, hence if you find a fix, you can un-brick it. (pretty sure that's a valid term isn't it?)

          If a manufacturer can get the device working again, then would that mean it is "really confused" rather than just "slightly confused".

          I do understand your point about teaching people the *correct* usage for "bricked", but like "hacker" or "troll", I think it is a battle you can't win despite our best efforts.

          1. Khaptain Silver badge

            Re: Bricked or somewhat confused. @Khaptain

            @Mort

            Then in that case I would happily, for free, accept that "bricked" device that some people don't know how to un-brick, or doesn't know a friend or a techie to take care of it for them..

            1. Mort

              Re: Bricked or somewhat confused. @Khaptain

              Hence the reason *I* don't call these bricked, especially given the steps many non-techie users have been able to follow in this instance to recover it.

              I think we all agree on the intent of functional vs non-functional, it's just the words that are appropriate to describe them where there is lack of consensus.

              1. Danny 14 Silver badge

                Re: Bricked or somewhat confused. @Khaptain

                I think it is safe to assumed they have no technical knowledge if they have not only bought an RT but are still using it (without taking a brick to it).

        2. Mage Silver badge

          Re: Bricked or somewhat confused. @Khaptain

          I've recovered "Bricked" stuff using JTAG.

          I'd call it bricked if average user (actually more likely 9 out 10 users) has to bring it to service centre / shop to get it recovered. Can the guys at Carphone Warehouse or PC World do it? Would the average user know to go there?

          How many will get binned?

        3. Fatman Silver badge

          Re: Bricked or somewhat confused. @Khaptain

          Otherwise it is just temporarily "confused". I really can't think of a suitable adjective to replace confused - incapacitated, out of order ....

          How about FUCKED UP BEYOND ALL REPAIR!!!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Bricked or somewhat confused. @Fatman 17:37

            "How about FUCKED UP BEYOND ALL REPAIR!!!"

            If you're going to show your failure to understand, always best to do it in bold caps ...

          2. Mort

            Re: Bricked or somewhat confused. @Khaptain

            How about FUCKED UP BEYOND ALL REPAIR UNLESS YOU RUN THIS REPAIR OPTION THAT IS QUITE SIMPLE AND EASY TO FOLLOW TO REPAIR IT!!!

            Fixed it for ya.

      2. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Bricked or somewhat confused. @Khaptain

        "but I don't believe that there is really any hard-and-fast definition of bricked"

        If the end user can follow some moderately simple steps on a website to breathe life into their device, it got messed up, but not bricked.

        Bricked implies that the average end user CANNOT fix it themselves unless they have some specialist knowledge and/or tools ( JTAG for example), but then this would make them no longer "average".

        Or to put it another way, if you can kick it into recovery mode, it isn't bricked. If you have to open it up and start attaching stuff to it, it is.

    4. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: Bricked or somewhat confused.

      I like "borked". The Urban Dictionary describes it as "To have totally f**ked something up. Usually by doing something stupid. Specifically used to describe technology that is broken."

    5. Grogan

      Re: Bricked or somewhat confused.

      No, the term "bricked" doesn't necessarily mean there isn't a low level recovery procedure. Some manufacturers anticipate bricking.

      In this case though, it's just the embedded OS that's messed up (as is often the case, while low level firmware is still viable) but a user would consider it bricked because they can't recover it by normal means.

      For example most "bricked" routers can be recovered with built in routines that allow you a brief opportunity to put a firmware image using tftp. Barring that, they have special communications ports (JTAG) inside that you can solder on to and connect with software and erase buggered firmware and get it to the point where you can upload a new image.

    6. Stevie Silver badge

      Re: There is a HUGE difference between bricked and confused

      Pfft. Hacker/Cracker.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The - missing

    " Microsoft is investigating a situation affecting a limited number of users", should that not read

    " Microsoft is investigating a situation affecting the limited number of users"

    1. proto-robbie
      Linux

      Re: The - missing

      Or "numbers of limited users" even? Getting the coat...

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So they (Microsoft) controls the software and the hardware and they cannot even get an update out that doesn't brick units? What Microsoft should do, take some of those unsold units, put 8.1 on them and replace the units where a consumer has an issue with the update. For the amount of money that they spend on advertising and placing the product in TV shows, this would be a keep gesture and give the Surface some good press for a change.

    1. Barry Dingle

      Sometimes getting bricked IS an upgrade.

    2. Levente Szileszky

      This is what you get when the Ballmerian rot reaches into the roots - a company that's now unable to deliver ANY product, not even an update, for its own product, without delivering a BROKEN PRODUCT first...

      ...incompetency at its highest/management quality at its lowest, that's what you get.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      this would be a keep gesture and give the Surface some good press for a change.

      Hope springs eternal, I see

      /sarcasm

  5. Jamie Jones Silver badge

    "Oops"!

    Hmmm, MS aren't having much luck lately, are they?

    1. Mephistro Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: "Oops"! (@ Jamie Jones)

      It's either karma, or the results of cutting too many corners so executives can get their bonuses. Anyway, it's quite entertaining. :0)

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very odd. This is ms own baby, not many out there and not many apps to install that could

    Cause a problem. Hate to state the obvious, but ms REALLY needs to check into quality control.

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