back to article Microsoft Surface users baffled after investing in kit that throttles itself to the point of passing out

An intermittent but longstanding issue where Microsoft Surface Pro 6 and Surface Book 2 devices run super slow continues to frustrate users. The problem is not new. A May 2018 thread on Microsoft's community forum discussed the issue, with devices reportedly slowing to a mere 0.4GHz. However, a recent Surface Pro 6 firmware …

  1. N2 Silver badge

    The problem is

    That nothing surprises me with Microsoft anymore.

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: The problem is

      Microsoft has said it is working on a further firmware update to address the issue,

      ©2019 Boeing, Inc.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The problem is

      But where are the class action lawsuits then?

      (Cr)Apple has been sued and sued for throttling their iTat so why haven't MS been afforded the same pleasure (sic)?

      Is there something in the T&C's that prevents users from taking legal action?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The problem is

        I think it's more a matter of being beaten into mute acceptance by years, no, decades of abuse.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: The problem is

          years, no, decades of abuse

          AKA Stockholm Syndrome.

      2. Timmy B Silver badge

        Re: The problem is

        "(Cr)Apple has been sued and sued for throttling their iTat so why haven't MS been afforded the same pleasure (sic)?"

        Because Apple did it on purpose. It looks like MS have done it by accident.

      3. rmason Silver badge

        Re: The problem is

        One is a failure of some sort that no doubt will be fixed.

        One was done on purpose to users, and lied about. That is why apple got sued.

  2. Shades

    Built-in GPU

    Looks like something is absolutely hammering the built-in GPU too. I wonder if the heat from that is causing something to send the signal to the CPU to slowdown? I've never seen an Intel GPU utilisation that high, especially when there is a discrete GPU there to do the real heavy lifting.

    1. s2bu

      Re: Built-in GPU

      Actually, the integrated GPU is much cooler than the power hungry discrete! You’d much rather max the integrated out as much as possible before engaging the power hog!

      1. Shades

        Re: Built-in GPU

        Yes, I know. But the discrete GPU is a separate chip while the built-in GPU is on the same die as the CPU, and, if you look at the task manager screenshot again, something has been pinning the built-in GPU at 100%.

        1. s2bu

          Re: Built-in GPU

          And if you RTFA again, you might realize that it's not necessarily the CPU that is overheating! That whole bi-directional thing. Some OTHER component can be telling it to slow down.

          So yes, the discrete GPU is a separate chip, but in that confined of a space, moving from a warm thing right next to you to a burning hot thing 5mm away isn't really going to help a whole lot.

          1. phuzz Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Built-in GPU

            And if you RTFC you'd realise that was exactly the point of the first comment:

            "I wonder if the heat from that is causing something to send the signal to the CPU to slowdown?"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Built-in GPU

      something is absolutely hammering the built-in GPU too

      Coin-mining malware?

    3. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: Built-in GPU

      Some utilities don't know how to account for variable clock speeds and power cycling when reporting usage.

    4. Trixr Bronze badge

      Re: Built-in GPU

      That aligns with the reports that the problem emerges while gaming with many users. (Probably the rest could indeed be ascribed to coin miners.)

    5. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

      Re: Built-in GPU

      The GPU is also able to throttle its clock in response to demand (IIRC it is based on a multiple of the CPU's speed). Really, the GPU could be operating at a much lower performance level than normal since that low level is enough to fulfill the meager demand of drawing Task Manager and the desktop and pushing the pixels out to the display.

      Really, in a well-engineered system utilizing performance throttling technologies, every component would report a usage of 90% or greater. IE, just enough performance to handle the workload without wasting watts to run their idle loops.

      In any case, the problem here is that Windows crashes at such low speeds even though load is almost nil. A properly-made OS should be able to run at any speed so long as there is enough performance to keep from exhausting queues (Well, also enough to prevent the CPU cache from decaying before the instruction is complete, but that's a silicon issue, not an OS issue).

  3. Howard Hanek Bronze badge
    Linux

    Isn't THAT Their Standard Development Model

    You know, pulling the rug s-l-o-w-l-y out from under projects until their final phaseout?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    400MHz = normal power saving?

    Isn't this normal power saving mode that happens when the CPU load is low? If it's working right, it should instantly clock up again when there is high CPU demand, having no noticable impact on system performance.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: 400MHz = normal power saving?

      Probably, but if the CPU isn't speeding up when needed it is the same thing. Slow performance either way.

      1. Peter X
        Joke

        Re: 400MHz = normal power saving?

        On the upside, they must be getting terrific battery life! ;-)

        1. DougS Silver badge

          Re: 400MHz = normal power saving?

          Nothing gets long battery life like a device you hardly ever use!

    2. Will Godfrey Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: 400MHz = normal power saving?

      It says a lot when you consider in the mid '90s the Acorn RiscPC 600 ran very happily at 30MHz.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: 400MHz = normal power saving?

        mid '90s the Acorn RiscPC 600 ran very happily at 30MHz

        And the old BBC Micro ran at (strains to remember) 4Mhz?

        It seems (entirely subjectively) that computers haven't really sped up at all. Yes, I know that there's lots more going on in the background and the applications are several orders of magnitude larger and more complex but still - some speedup would be nice.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Consumer tat

    We had one of our administrative assistants go out and buy 6 Surface Pros for the C-level suits, at WalMart, with no additional warranty, no licenses for enterprise use, etc.

    Naturally, since she is assistant to the Finance Manager, the purchase was let stand and we had to make the damn things work. It has been a cluster, with us getting blamed for all of the various issues these have in an enterprise environment and we had to purchase all network related licenses out of our miscellaneous budget. This is important because of two things: 1. We have a policy in place that IT buys IT stuff and 2. the miscellaneous budget is specifically forbidden by policy for purchasing infrastructure including licenses.

    She was recently promoted from administrative assistant to Finance Manager when the old one retired. Gotta love politics.

    And AC again because, well you know.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Consumer tat

      And the IT people who were preventing the C-Suite from getting the IT they wanted weren't promoted? What a crazy world this is where the proactive ones get promoted and the obstructive ones are left to rot ;)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Consumer tat

        Read again what AC1 (not me) wrote. Nothing about anyone preventing anything. Just one person ignoring the rules that apply to everyone and letting others fix up their mess.

  6. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    "sometimes I'll just be browsing the internet with only Edge open"

    Ahh. Aha.

    (As the doctor says when confident of the diagnosis in mind).

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: "sometimes I'll just be browsing the internet with only Edge open"

      followed by the sucking through the teeth sound just prior to a mechanic saying.....

      "It's gonna cost you!"

      1. TimMaher Bronze badge
        Happy

        Re: "sometimes I'll just be browsing the internet with only Edge open"

        Particularly when it’s a broom mechanic.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: "sometimes I'll just be browsing the internet with only Edge open"

      Ahh. Aha.

      Remember, correlation isn't always causation..

      (Except, probably, in this case..)

  7. Sandtitz Silver badge

    "400 MHz almost unusable"

    Almost.

    I usually run my home laptop (4th gen i7 ULV) at its slowest, 780 MHz. Usable for browsing, email, DOSBox games, music, videos. At 0,78 GHz the laptop is cool and the fan doesn't kick in. I'm sure I'd notice the difference @400MHz (starting the programs already lot slower) but if the battery life was extended even more - I could live with it.

    Of course MS should receive all the bollocking for their numerous Surface snafus. Their laptops look all right, have great specs, a few innovations even, and have had some part in the OEMs raising their standards. Still too bad many models have had big bugs like this. I wouldn't buy or recommend MS laptop. Way too many misses vs hits.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: "400 MHz almost unusable"

      I wouldn't buy or recommend MS laptop.

      OldestBrother recently wanted to buy a laptop to replace his (business) one that had died (some sort of 17" Dell that he bought about 6 years ago).

      His searches had got him down to two that he liked - a recent Dell (touchscreen, foldable to become a tablet-format, hi-res screen) or a Surface Pro 6.

      Once I'd finished telling him about the various issues with the Surface Pro (some of which we've had foisted on us at work) he bought the Dell. And is entirely happy with it.

      (I did comment that both the units would cost about the same as an equivalent Macbook Pro but he's never used MacOS and his CRM programme isn't available in MacOS).

  8. rsole

    Which is it?

    I see some people in Microsoft saying it is a hardware problem and others saying it is a software problem when really it is a Microsoft problem.

    1. Mephistro Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Which is it?

      Sure, but the minute the guarantee expires, this will become the device owner's problem.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Which is it?

        Well it's the device owner's problem right now as the most MS will do is replace it with another lemon.

    2. Gaius

      Re: Which is it?

      It’ll be a firmware problem. Apple had the same thing on the latest MBP.

      1. Benson's Cycle

        Re: Which is it?

        Are you sure?

        The article says a device "unnecessarily" sending a signal to the CPU to slow down. But what if it is a motherboard design fault causing said device to overheat under certain conditions? Until someone works out a way to run a thermal camera over the board under realistic operating conditions it's hard to be sure.

        I used to hate this kind of problem, with something that only goes wrong in the enclosure, till a colleague told me of his even worse experience debugging a certain military avionics system. The rack of boards had air flowing over at over 500fpm. To diagnose a board problem you were supposed to put in an extender board so that the offending board stuck out of the rack. Into still air. Whereupon the ECL promptly got hot, and even if you were able to work while a colleague aimed a hairdryer on cold at it, the temperature change promptly threw the timings off.

  9. Doug 3

    User: My Windows computer is running slow.

    Tech Support: Have you rebooted the computer recently?

    User: it's a Microsoft Slate

    Tech Support: Have you forced a shutdown and restart recently?

    User: yes, I've shutting down both applications and I have shut down and restart Windows and it slows down again after a few hours.

    Tech Support: You should reboot while holding down the ESC and F1 keys and when the menu pops up chose option 2, Restore Operating System

    User: but won't that replace everything on my computer.

    Tech Support: Yes, that's why it is there.

    Tech Support: Is there anything else I can help you with?

    User: Will this thing run Linux?

  10. Mage Silver badge
    Coat

    encouraging design innovation

    Really?

    Do you mean the iOS tablet with a keyboard and pen, or some of the Lenovo models that fold that would have been happening anyway?

  11. don't you hate it when you lose your account

    FTFY

    a race to the bottom by marrying crap software with premium hardware. ®

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: FTFY

      And by premium hardware you mean Intel's reference design glued between two layers of shiny.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: FTFY

        Intel's reference design glued *badly* between two layers of shiny

        FTFY.

        (I know Apple have had their design fails (latest being the butterfly keyboard) but, generally, their heat & CPU management is good. Although my wife does complain that my old MBP (rebuilt for her with just Windows 7) gets very hot underneath - and in a way that it never did with OSx)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: FTFY

          "...their heat & CPU management is good"

          Gotta disagree there I'm afraid . Two (out of two) borked iMacs with heat/MD problems would tell me otherwise.

          The Mac mini was fine though.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: FTFY

            *MD = MB = Motherboard

            Typo.

            Motherboard issues were related to heat.

        2. Shades

          Re: FTFY

          "their heat & CPU management is good"

          They are not without their issues: The Register: Core blimey! Apple macOS update lifts boot from MacBook Pro neck

  12. Howard Hanek Bronze badge
    Linux

    Data Streams

    It's that huge illegal emigrant data stream.....

    1. TimMaher Bronze badge

      Re: Data Streams

      Yup,

      The data is leaving illegally.

      Maybe we should be looking at Facebook?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. Data Streams

    That would be the one mining altcoin and then sending it to somewhere else.

    Either that or someone *really* screwed the pooch on that last firmware update.

    1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Re. Data Streams

      Either that or someone *really* screwed the pooch on that last firmware update

      It could equally well be both. This is Microsoft after all with a history of bad firmware updates for the Surface/Surface Pro lines.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Copycat

    When will Microsoft innovate instead of this relentless copying of Apple?

    1. a handle

      Re: Copycat

      Microsoft bought Apple shares to keep them afloat many years ago, this was so Microsoft wouldn't appear to be a monopoly, I believe Microsoft got them cross licensing deals With Apple.

      Is in some ways Microsoft effectively owns Apple. Apple will struggle to get far ahead.

      So as Apple innovate, Microsoft are allowed to copy, this is one reason Microsoft make gear.

      1. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        Re: Copycat

        "Is in some ways Microsoft effectively owns Apple. Apple will struggle to get far ahead."

        MS invested in Apple in 1997. They had sold their stake by 2003. Last I checked, they do not hold significant amounts of Apple stock. Assuming they had kept their holding rather than selling (~18 million shares @ $8) with the stock split (~36 million shares) the holding would be worth $7 billion plus change today.

        It is arguable that MS did save Apple with it's investment, or at least allowed the creation of the Job 2.0 Apple.

        "So as Apple innovate, Microsoft are allowed to copy, this is one reason Microsoft make gear."

        That is generally considered to be second rate to Apple kit? iPhone vs Windows phone, macbooks versus... dunno, iPad Pro vs Surface etc.

        MS does better when not trying to ape Apple, the only new hardware they've done successfully (Xbox) has very little Apple influence.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Copycat

      Oh, I didn't realise Apple had touchscreen, pen enabled laptops now. Or laptops that convert into studio devices and tablets. Surface hasn't copied Apple aside from the excelent magnetic connectors which Apple have since stopped using.

    3. Ian Emery Silver badge

      Re: Copycat

      But arent they already REALLY good at creating their own ballsups???

      No need to copy Apple.

      On the other hand though, are people holding it right???

  15. FlippingGerman

    I bought an SP4 some years ago. It's a lovely device, but I will never recommend any of the line to anyone I like - there have just been too many problems. Also, Microsoft seems to simply make up the battery life numbers - "8 hours of streaming video" my arse, half that.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      When you're streaming from dodgy porn sites the malware will halve battery life...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Also, Microsoft seems to simply make up the battery life numbers - "8 hours of streaming video" my arse, half that.

      Apparently that body part requires a lot of energy without lubrication - it ,ay last longer with some KY jelly on the screen.

      Yes, I'll be here all day :)

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have a surface go. Its replaced my Lenovo x230. It's a decent machine for web browsing and it ain't bad for typing and word processing either. Not quite the quality of a thinkpad keyboard but not far off. Does everything I need it for and its light and has decent resolution. I'm happy. Granted I'm on my second one as the first one fell out the far and the screen shattered. Thank God for Amazon's fantastic returns policy!

    1. Timmy B Silver badge

      Re surface go...

      Do you have the 4 or 8gb version? Toying with getting one.

      1. Lusty

        Get the 8GB as it comes with SSD rather than eMMC. I have the 8GB and it performs great for such a portable form factor, and as the post above says, the screen res is amazing (you'll need to set the scaling to use it, default is blind person mode). Alongside a Surface Dock at home it can function as primary system if you want it to, I use it with a 4k monitor and keyboard/mouse happily.

        1. Timmy B Silver badge

          Cheers for the info.

  17. Reg Reader 1

    I can barely believe that all of you who have previously commented missed the obvious fix. Remove the ability to check the CPU usage and speed. There! FIXED!

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

      Indeed

      Permanently, when it overheats and goes into meltdown.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Indeed

        At least you will have a nice coaster out of it. Which was probably the original design spec.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have this problem on a lenovo yoga 2 Pro ever since it was updated to Windows 10. Will do this when the power is pulled after its gone to sleep, waking up after it will be throttled and will not increase in speed. Putting it to sleep and plugging in the power starting up (or just rebooting) will get the speed back up and then the power can be pulled.

  19. Griffo

    C'mon Ed.

    If you're gonna explain that "The issue is most likely caused by a CPU feature called BD PROCHOT, which stands for bi-directional PROCHOT. " you might want to explain what PROCHOT is too.

    1. VonDutch

      It's a town in Slovakia.

    2. Stu J

      I'm just guessing here that - in context - it might be:

      PROCessor HOT

      ?

      1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

        That reminds me a bit of Psycho the rapist :)

      2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        PROCessor HOT

        Yes:

        https://www.quora.com/What-is-BD-PROCHOT-that-causes-the-CPU-to-throttle-What-can-I-do-to-permanently-disable-it

  20. 2+2=5 Silver badge
    Unhappy

    TITSUP

    Total Inability To Speed Up Processor

  21. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    and helping to prevent a race to the bottom by marrying Windows software with premium hardware. ®

    *cough* *splutter* *hysterical laughter*

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      AFAIK, using Microsoft hardware is pretty much choosing to reside at the bottom by default.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trolling for advertising revenue?

    From the article: "That said, the Surface range has played a positive role in encouraging design innovation in the PC market, and helping to prevent a race to the bottom by marrying Windows software with premium hardware."

    Really? Let's just agree to disagree then, and not regurgitate their marketing blather. The only hardware that Microsof has ever produced that was actually usable and robust was their natural keyboard, and .. er, that's it.

    1. Lusty

      Re: Trolling for advertising revenue?

      I have the modern keyboard, surface mouse (several types), Go, Laptop and Book along with the Dock and all are premium hardware which works as expected, is usable, comfortable and robust. Not sure what your issue is, but we seem to be having very different experiences. Do you hate aluminium, magnesium and Alcantara? Maybe you hate touchscreen and pen input on an exceptionally high res screen with a screen ratio people can use for real work as well as movies? Perhaps the industry leading keyboard feel annoys you, or the convenient and secure Windows Hello log in feature is just too efficient? Perhaps the choice of colours offends you and you'd prefer only having silver as an option? Perhaps you're a cable collector and the standardised magnetic dock connector is where your issue lies.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: Trolling for advertising revenue?

      was their natural keyboard, and .. er, that's it

      Way back when they made pretty good meeces too. I can't remember whether they were just rebadged Logitech mice though.

      1. Captain Obvious
        Thumb Up

        Re: Trolling for advertising revenue?

        The MS Intellimouse wired optical was the gold standard. I think you can still find knockoffs on EBAY but for a wired mouse, it was excellent.

  23. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

    Heat isn't the only reason to throttle

    The computer should also throttle the CPU when there is a tiny amount of load on the system. Why run the CPU at 1.9 GHz when you're only throwing a few hundred cycles of the chip's time? The CPU running idle instructions still wastes more power than just cranking the frequency down and running the CPU at 100% @ 200 MHz. A CPU running @ 2 GHz with a 10% load will use over double the energy as the same CPU clocked at 200 MHz and running at 100%. The difference might even be more extreme, especially if the workload is spending most of its time waiting on I/O anyway.

    I've been tinkering with this on one of my laptops, I have a modified Linux Kernel that instructs the CPU to throttle itself in response to the system's load. I've been able to get the system down to 25 MHz, which was more than enough to process hardware and software interrupts. The system was a fairly basic Kernel + Busybox system, though, so not much for the system to do. Doing this extended the battery life of the system to the range of several days. Entering the BIOS config utility and leaving it there burns more battery than my tests. Putting actual load on the system will have it spun up and running at the expected speeds. The amount of time I wait for the CPU to spin back up is nothing in comparison to the amount of battery life I am saving.

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