Surface Book, Surface Pro 4 firmware update breaks cameras, locks screens

The third firmware update in three weeks seems to have solved one freezing issue, but may have created others

Surface Book, Surface Pro 4 firmware update breaks cameras, locks screens

Yesterday Microsoft rolled out System Firmware Update -- 11/18/2015 firmware patches for both the Surface Book and the Surface Pro 4. Today the complaints are piling up.

This is the third firmware update for the systems since their release three weeks ago. As of very early Thursday morning, the update still isn't documented on the official Surface Pro 4 update history site, although it does appear on the official Surface Book update history site.

Here's what Microsoft says is included in the latest update:

  • Surface UEFI update (v88.870.770.0) improves system stability.
  • Surface Management Engine update (v1.0.0.1183) provides touch optimizations.
  • Precise Touch Device driver update (v1.1.0.217) provides touch optimizations.
  • Management Engine Interface driver update (v11.0.0.1172) provides touch optimizations.
  • Surface Touch Servicing ML driver update (v1.0.36.1) provides touch optimizations.
  • Microsoft Surface ACPI-Compliant Control Method Battery driver update (v1.2.0.2) ensures correct Surface driver is installed.

The situation reeks of déjà vu all over again. Microsoft's Surface Pro 3 went through a rapid-fire series of firmware updates shortly after its release, including unannounced and undocumented stealthy updates like the one released yesterday, a recalled bad firmware patch, and many more -- 20 firmware patches in 16 months, each followed by complaints from customers.

While it's too early to start compiling a comprehensive list of problems introduced in this firmware update, here's a smattering of the issues I've seen online.

SkeetHarris, posting on the Microsoft answers forum, says:

After installing today's update my Surface would not log me with the Hello camera was unresponsive.  Since I could not log in with my camera I switched over to a password login with no issue.  I then shut down apps and restarted my Surface Book.  In doing so problem solved and the Hello camera works fine now.

Ed1-US replied:

I just downloaded and installed (through Windows Update) the 11/18 software and firmware updates.  Upon restarting the system from the updates screen, Windows Hello came onto the screen but the camera did not come on.  I had to log in by entering my Microsoft password. After a full shutdown and reboot, same behavior.  The camera did not turn on.

On Windows Central, SpunkForRobots says:

Didn't fix the Intel Display Driver crashes. I can reproduce it instantly by using Edge and just browsing For Sale ads on Craigslist.

One long-standing complaint thread on the Windows answers forum about freezing in the Surface Book contains an explanation of one part of the patch from a Microsoft engineer identified as Joe.

It is a fix in CPU microcode that is put into the UEFI… Weeks and Weeks of finding a consistant repro and debugging in a lab to find the exact instruction that was causing it.. This will fix this issue for the majority of users… The microcode comes from Intel.  We integrate it into UEFI.  It is not a "workaround" it is a "fix". It is not a "CPU" issue and it is important that you understand that.  It is a CPU microcode issue and they are not the same.

At least one poster, MorganBH, identified continued lockups; jlauterb reported a repeating touchpad freeze; and AndyShare goes on to report a black screen.

It sounds like Microsoft nailed one of the big complaints about freezing, but other complaints are piling up again, and the broken camera has taken top priority. Let's see if the new openness -- evident in the Answers forum -- helps Microsoft get to the bottom of the problems much faster this time.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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