Surface Pro 4 problems: Windows Hello disappears, shaky screen

Surface Pro 4 camera refuses to log in with Windows Hello after an undocumented bad driver was installed. Meanwhile, the shaky screen problem continues.

Surface Pro 4 problems: Windows Hello disappears, shaky screen

In the past couple of days, your Surface Pro 4 likely installed a new set of driver updates known as “Surface - System - 7/21/2017 12:00:00 AM -” Many Surface Pro 4 owners now report that after installing that driver, their camera refuses to log in with Windows Hello. Microsoft hasn’t yet responded, but a user has come up with a fix that seems to work most of the time—manually uninstall the driver.

Meanwhile, SP4 screen flicker and shaking is an older problem, first reported early this year. It, too, has not been acknowledged by Microsoft and has not been fixed. There’s no known workaround, but overheating seems to be part of the cause.

Windows Hello goes bye-bye

That “Surface - System - 7/21/2017 12:00:00 AM -” driver is something of an enigma. It’s available in the Microsoft Update Catalog with a description “Surface System driver update released in July 2017” and a version date of 7/21/2017 (screenshot). Unfortunately, the driver isn’t listed on the Surface Pro 4 update history page. If you download the files and look at them, they were all signed on July 26—which doesn’t correspond to the published version date or with the apparent distribution date, July 29 or 30.

surface pro 4 bad sp4 camera driver IDG Worldwide

The Surface Pro 4 gets its driver and firmware updates through Windows Update, so unless you’ve blocked automatic updating, you probably got hit with this new, undocumented driver in the past few days.

The problem, as explained on the Microsoft Answers forum by SyedMohammed Ali Muddassir Quadri:

I've been using my SP4 from past 11 months and have never had an issue with Face recognition windows hello. I restarted my device today and ever since then whenever I turn it on, it says "Couldn't turn on the camera. Please sign in with your PIN." When I went into the settings to see whats going on, it says "Windows Hello isn't available on this device.”

I count more than a dozen posts on the Answers forum that echo Syed’s report, plus a Reddit thread that’s growing by the minute.

The problem, of course, is that Microsoft slipped a bad driver down the Automatic Update chute. As best I can tell, they haven’t pulled the driver, fixed the damage it has caused, or even acknowledged the problem.

Solving the Windows Hello problem

Sleuth Jeff Fuhr on the Answers Forum has come up with a solution that seems to work, at least in all the cases I’ve seen:

FIX TO ROLLBACK DRIVER: Start Device Manager. Expand System devices. Right-click on Surface Camera Windows Hello, select Properties. Click on Driver tab. Verify the driver date is July 2017. If so, you have the problem driver. Click Roll Back Driver button. Click OK. This worked for me. Best wishes and God Bless! Note: this fix is in response to the Surface - System - 7/21/2017 12:00:00 AM - driver update that caused Windows Hello using the Surface Pro cameras to stop working for some.

UPDATE: You must be logged in using an account with Admin privileges. Otherwise, the "Roll Back Driver" button may be greyed out, It may also be greyed out if there are no previous drivers installed to roll back to, but that's unlikely to be the case for this particular device unless you previously deleted it. See:

It isn’t clear to me if the same buggy driver is being fed to Surface Book and/or Surface Pro 2017 machines and, if so, whether they have the same problem. As noted, there’s no documentation.

If you contact Microsoft with the problem, you’re likely to get the old “re-install Windows” solution drivel, which does not, in fact, solve the problem.

Surface Pro gets the shakes

The blurring/shaky screen problem only seems to affect a small number of Surface Pro 4 machines. Surface Pro 4 owner AbbasHaroon described the problem on the Microsoft Answers forum way back on Jan. 19:

I purchased SP4 device a few months ago and it was working fine for a month. Then I noticed that when the CPU is at its max, the screen flickers a bit. Investigating further revealed that it flickers even if it is setting idle. It does not flicker if at least one of the following thing is done:

  1.  A video being played in browser
  2. If I keep the touch screen busy by either taping it or keeping a finger on it
  3. If I use the touchpad
  4. If keyboard is used for typing

This resulted in making the device completely unusable while reading articles or ebooks. I am a developer, most of the time I have to read the code and to do that, I have to constantly keep a finger on the touch pad or the screen. I contacted surface support in October and November and was told that the developers are working on the patch. Looking at the updates the developers are pushing since then, I don't think anyone is even aware of the problem there.

Just wondering if anyone else had the same problem (and the fix) and if not, what's the procedure for the refund? I will rather go for a mac then sacrificing $2000+ for a dancing screen. 

Current best guess (read the last five pages of the comments on the Answers forum) puts the blame on hardware — it looks like overheating is causing the problem, and using a portable fan to cool the machine helps, at least in some cases. Poster AliKhan_980 says:

I have been with support for 16+ hours for them to deduce its a hardware problem (even though they are very stubborn and persist its software). The service has been terrible and rejoin links painful. I have gone through 3-4 supervisors before finally getting a call from them. My pc has gone to previous build, reset, troubleshooting etc. The final resolution is because my warranty is expired is 450 Euros for replacement + shipping costs to send the laptop back. On top of that there is no kind of service center in GERMANY.

I have no idea what’s actually causing the problem—and Microsoft has yet to respond to the 461 complaints on the forum.

Kvetching continues on the AskWoody Lounge.

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