**Please note, you can use this guide for any flavor of Windows 8 on your Surface Pro. Just replace Pro with Enterprise or Home or whatever and you are golden.**
I have now lived with my Surface Pro for over a month. In that time, there have been ups and downs to be sure. But for the most part, it has been an excellent machine and has performed marvelously in all aspects and in every scenario I have thrown at it. That was until recently…
In an effort to create guides for various issues others have been experiencing, I did a factory reset and went back to the stock image. After doing this, my problems began to get ugly. The wireless was not dependable, my onscreen keyboard would not pop up sometimes, rotation was wonky, the brightness would dim or brighten on its own despite turning off that feature and a litany of other bugs and issues that you can find here on the known issues post. I had really begun to be disgusted with how poorly the Surface Pro was QA’ed. Then it began to dawn on me that most of these issues are exclusive to the Surface Pro. When I used my Asus EP121, though much slower, I experienced none of these issues when using Windows 8. Nor did I experience them on my Acer W500, which was also incredibly slow. This got me thinking: what if these issues are ONLY with the Windows 8 Surface Pro build image?
With that in my mind, I will let you know the result after a week of testing it. The Surface Pro’s Windows 8 build image is crap. It is riddled with problems and you should just leave it behind and build your own. If you are having ANY issues with it, you can almost certainly blame it on the default factory image that ships with the Surface Pro. There is no other excuse. Since switching to my own build image, I have had zero issues and my Surface Pro is even more dependable (and faster) than prior to restoring to factory. Truly, this is how the Surface Pro should be and how fast it should perform.
So here’s a guide for you. May it lead you toward a problem free Surface Pro.
Please note, that though I fixed many of my issues, the pen pressure sensitivity issue CANNOT be fixed by this. That will require an actual driver update from Microsoft, sorry. And further, if you screw up your Surface Pro beyond repair, I cannot be held responsible. I can say ALL of my problems evaporated after this but as I have only one Surface Pro to test with, I cannot say that 100% of your problems will too. I feel very strongly they will. Proceed at your own risk. BUT feel free to sound off in the comments with any issues you experience. I will be glad to assist.
Furthermore, this will REMOVE EVERYTHING CURRENTLY on your Surface Pro. This is meant to remove all items in the MS build image that are causing issues and bugs. There will not be and should not be any backup restoration procedure in this scenario. Any files that you need to put back on the Surface Pro will have to be done manually with copy/paste and all programs will have to be re-installed.
I should also mention that if you do this, you will likely gain an additional 7-10GB of space on your Surface Pro as any Windows 8 Pro x64 image you download or pull from a disc is going to be smaller than the default, factory image. So that’s a plus!
- USB Key with at least 4GB. I recommend the Patriot Supersonic 64 GB Flash Drive
- USB Key with at least 8GB. Again, I recommend the Patriot Supersonic 64 GB Flash Drive
- A copy of Windows 8 Pro x64 from a DVD or downloaded from MSDN or another source, such as Amazon: Windows 8 Pro x64 (Full Price from Amazon)
- The complete drivers package for the Surface Pro
- The Windows utility DISM. Available here from us (this saves your from downloading the 1.5GB package from Microsoft)
- Optionally, if you have a 16GB or above USB key, you can use that instead of two keys. I will explain.
- You can do this from your currently working or half-working Surface Pro or another computer running Windows 7 or 8. With my guide, my assumption is that you are using your Surface Pro with a keyboard attached
**If you were in my shoes, then you did not have a legal copy of Windows 8 Pro x64 lying around and your Surface Pro did not ship with one. Unfortunately, you are on your own for this step. All I can say is that various sites have downloads available. Even if you download a copy from a less than legal source, it should not matter (though I am no copyright lawyer) as you are not cracking the software and will use a legal product key to activate it. I wish you luck in your hunt for a copy. If you are a MSDN subscriber, then you can easily download an evaluation copy. Or you can sign up for a Developer account and get a copy. Or there is always ebay.**
- First things first, make a backup of your Surface Pro’s factory image
- Insert your 8GB (or 16GB or larger) USB drive
- Search via the Charms menu for Create a recovery drive
- Follow the prompts and create the drive. This will likely take about 15 minutes
- Set that aside in a safe place. You can use this to go back to factory so DO NOT LOSE IT!!
- If you used a 16GB or larger drive, keep it handy. I will explain.
Second series of Steps. Create your bootable, Windows 8 Pro x64 boot disk:
- Get your product key using this utility and copy that product key to a Notepad file and save it somewhere, such as SkyDrive. You will need it upon re-installation of Windows 8 Pro x64
- Most likely, you downloaded an ISO or IMG of Windows 8 Pro x64 from wherever
- Use 7-zip to extract the contents of the ISO to your desktop or another spot
- To do this, install 7-zip, then right click the ISO as in the image below and choose 7-zip->Extract to “Whatever is in the quotes”
- The extract will take a couple minutes
- Once extracted, go to the Sources folder in what was extracted and move the file install.wim to the root of C (C:\)
- This just makes it easier to type in Command Prompt. You are welcome to leave it where it is as long as you know the path
- The file you downloaded above (DISM). Put it in the root of C (C:\) as well
- Create a new folder in the root C:\ named spdrivers
- Create a new folder in the root C:\ named mount
- Download the drivers for the Surface Pro and extract them to that folder: C:\spdrivers
- Now launch the Command Prompt (Admin) by pressing Windows key+X and choosing the Command Prompt (Admin) option
- Say Yes when prompted
- Type: cd c:\
- Type: dism /mount-wim /wimfile:c:\install.wim /index:1 /mountdir:c:\mount
- It will take a few minutes to extract the file
- Once it is done, type: dism /image:c:\mount /add-driver /driver:c:\spdrivers /recurse
- It will scan for drivers. You may receive Error 50 for the GPIO Button Driver. This can be ignored
- Now to close up shop
- Type: dism /unmount-wim /mountdir:c:\mount /commit
- Type: exit. The Command Prompt will close
- Let me explain what you just did. You just dumped all the necessary drivers into your installer for Windows 8 Pro x64. This alleviates the need to install the drivers later
- Now move the file install.wim BACK TO THE SOURCES folder from whence it was moved in Step 6
- Insert your 4GB USB drive (it will be erased). If you used a larger drive, that will be covered further down
- Right click that drive and choose Format
- Under File System, choose FAT32
- Give it a name if you like, such as Win8Prox64
- Now go into the folder that contains the files for your Windows 8 Pro x64 installation that was extracted using 7-zip
- Highlight all the files and select Send to->Win8Prox64 (or whatever name you gave your drive)
- It will take a few minutes to copy to the USB drive
- Once the copying is finished, power off your Surface Pro
- Insert the USB key
- Hold the volume down button and press the power button once
- When you see Surface, let go of the volume button
- Your Surface Pro will begin booting from the USB drive
- Once at the Setup screen, press Next and then Install Now
- Choose I accept the license terms and Next
- Choose Custom and then Drive options (advanced)
- Moment of truth and no going back. Everything will be deleted
- Highlight each partition and choose Delete and then Yes until all partitions are gone and there is only Unallocated Space
- Choose New and say OK/Yes and then Next
- Windows will install and once finished, you will boot into the normal setup routine
- Setup your login and colors and wireless
- Once logged in, you now need to enter your product key
- From the Charms search box, type: Slui.exe 0x3
- Enter your product key when prompted and press Next/Finish
- All done!
If you want to use a single USB key instead of two:
- Create your recovery drive as indicated above
- Now look at the recovery USB drive in Windows Explorer
- Rename the folder sources to sources_recovery
- Rename the file Reagent to Reagent_recovery
- Now follow the Steps 1-22 above
- Instead of copying all files from your Windows 8 Pro x64 folder, only copy: sources, support, the autorun and setup file in the root of that folder to the USB key
- The files shown in the image above: copy and then paste to the root of your Recovery drive
- This will allow the USB key to function as a Windows 8 Pro x64 bootable drive as well as the Recovery drive if you need to go back to factory settings
- Once the files copy, follow Steps 30-45 above
- That’s it!
In order to make the USB key bootable for recovery, you have to modify the renamed folder and files back to their original values:
- Rename the sources folder to sources_win8prox64
- Rename sources_recovery to sources
- Rename Reagent_recovery to Reagent
- Now the drive will boot as a recovery drive
- Just switch back and forth with those naming schemes indicated above and you can have a single key for both your Windows 8 installation and the Recovery
Now, what do you lose? You lose the ability to have a recovery partition. You can still do Refreshes and Resets using the Windows 8 Pro x64 USB key. When you launch the Reset, it will ask for that key and then proceed so as long as you have the USB key, you are cool.
The second thing lost is the Lifecam Dashboard. Your cameras will work fine but the app that plugs into the camera–Lifecam Dashboard–will not. This is due to some licensing crap and, to be honest, you are not missing anything. That’s it. Other than having to re-install your programs and apps and moving any files back to the Surface Pro, you are set. Enjoy your Surface Pro now in the bug free zone!
Do you need more Surface Pro info?
Surface Pro Drivers
Surface Pro Warranty Info
Surface Pro Issues, Bugs & Quick Fixes
Featured image used with care from Flickr’s Creative Commons page. Surface Pro. Best Windows 8 experience. Still Windows.