Looking at a 1TB Surface Pro 2017? Make sure you know what you’re getting

The new 1TB Surface Pro 2017 actually has two 512GB drives buried inside. That saves Microsoft money, but it drives some owners nuts.

Buying a 1TB Microsoft Surface Pro 2017? Make sure you know what you’re getting

If you buy a top-of-the-line, 1TB computer, you might expect to get 1TB of storage. Yes? But if you shell out $2,700 for a 1TB Microsoft Surface Pro 2017 (or a princely $2,960 if you want a keyboard and pen), you actually get two 512GB SSD drives. And therein lies a problem. Two of them, actually.

Microsoft’s ordering site offers a 1TB option for the Surface Pro 2017 with an i7 processor, but it doesn’t warn you that the “1TB” storage ships, in fact, as two separate 512GB SSDs, configured to appear as if they were one single 1TB SSD. In the normal course of events, that might be an inconsequential oversight, but several customers are finding it highly problematic.

Poster rinconmike on the Microsoft Answers forum asks:

I have a new Surface Pro with a 1TB drive. [The] drive is actually two 512GB in a 1TB storage space (like RAID 0). I see Drive Optimization is on to run weekly. I have read that defrag of SSD is not needed. Should this be turned off?

Microsoft engineer Mark Ole responds:

By default, Optimize Drives, previously called Disk Defragmenter, runs automatically on a weekly schedule at the time set in automatic maintenance. Windows 10 can identify the proper optimization for different types of storage devices. Once Windows 10 recognizes the SSD, it will perform TRIM. It's a command that informs a solid-state drive (SSD) which file space are no longer in use and can be wiped. This helps improve your SSD's performance. So, we suggest that you leave it on.

Except that isn’t true. As msintle points out:

I use the Defragment and Optimize Drives tool to TRIM my Surface SSD. Clearly, you don't want (or need) to defrag an SSD. Unfortunately, that's exactly what this built-in system tool does, instead of trimming. … Upon investigation, it appears that this may be due to the new Storage Spaces software RAID 0 on the system. … While I appreciate having a software RAID 0 on a tablet this size, its ridiculous that Microsoft's own software does *not* recognize underlying SSD hardware and cannot TRIM the storage, instead running a defrag operation when I try to optimize.

He goes on to conjecture that the older Surface Pro 4 had a single 1TB drive (instead of two 512GB drives), and the system optimizer worked fine on it, so this is some sort of software bug. The only problematic configuration seems to be a Surface Pro 2017 with “1TB” SSD.

Later in that thread, msintle offers a solution:

Disable any defrag schedule from the defrag app GUI because Microsoft will otherwise burn your SSD a little bit every week on schedule. Remember, perseverance always pays off!!!

Run defrag.exe from the command line with the /l parameter to force a trim. So, for example, defrag c: /l. This *seems* to work.

More troubling: What happens if you need to wipe out your hard drive (in this case, hard drives) and reinstall Windows? Ends up, the installer hiccups on the two-512GB configuration, and Windows 10 won’t combine the reformatted drives. Per syntaxerror0001 on the Microsoft Answers forum:

The Surface Pro (2017) with 1 TB configuration comes with two separate 512 GB hard drives. Microsoft uses Storage Spaces to combine them to 1 drive. During testing, I have wiped the hard drives and the Storage Spaces configuration is lost. After re-installing Windows 10, I now have 2 separate 512 GB hard drives. I need to combine the two to be shown as a single 1 TB drive again like how it was out of the box. I am unable to create a Storage Space drive within Windows to include the boot drive.  It appears it needs to be done before Windows is installed.

Several people have tried to solve that problem, and so far they’ve come up empty.

Could somebody reconcile this apparent abortive attempt to save money — two 512GB SSDs cost Microsoft less than one 1TB — with Surface honcho Panos Panay’s assertion last week?

We’re forever seeking innovation, encouraging positive change. It’s what we do, and what our customers do, but I can promise you one thing that will never change is our commitment to our customers and our dedication to ensuring your Surface experience only gets better.

Did you get stuck with a $3,000 Siamese twin? Join us on the AskWoody Lounge.

Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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