Microsoft re-releases Windows RT 8.1 after updates crippled tablets

Restores update to Windows Store four days after it yanked the code when users reported bricked Surface RTs

Microsoft today re-released the Windows RT 8.1 update on its Windows Store.

The re-launch of the update followed an unusual move by Microsoft on Friday, when it yanked Windows RT 8.1 from its official distribution mart after some Surface RT owners reported that their tablets had been crippled.

"The update to Windows RT 8.1 is once again available as a free download in the Windows Store for users with Windows RT devices," a Microsoft spokeswoman confirmed in an email Tuesday.

The company also provided some information about the cause of the borked update.

"A very small number of Surface RT customers ... had experienced an issue that left the update incomplete and their devices unbootable," Microsoft said in the statement. "This was due to a rare situation where firmware updates had not completed at the time of the update to RT 8.1."

Microsoft today repeated its assertion of Monday that the flaw had "bricked" only a small fraction of those who tried to update to Windows RT 8.1, saying that just 0.1% of all updates -- or 1 out of every 1,000 -- ended with a useless device.

On Sunday, Microsoft published instructions and a disk recovery image necessary to restore customers' tablets. Others who had not updated before Microsoft pulled the listing from the Windows Store can now tackle the process. "We now encourage customers to update their Surface RT devices," Microsoft said Tuesday.

The snafu was an embarrassment for Microsoft, as it was limited to the company's own Surface RT tablet, and did not affect any of the few other tablets powered by Windows RT that were sold in the last 12 months by OEM (original equipment manufacturer) partners.

Microsoft did express contrition, but did not describe what it would do to make sure there would not be a repeat down the road. "We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused," said Microsoft.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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