Earlier this year I opened a ticket with Microsoft to replace my Surface Pro 4 under warranty. There was an intermittent problem, and I was hoping to be able to get it fixed. Unfortunately the problem went away, and I continued to use my device as normal.
This week I turned on the device, and it would not boot. It turned on alright, but it spent hours in the ‘dots spinning in a circle’ pattern. When I say hours, what I should say is overnight. I hoped that the drive was self-repairing. I don’t know what in the world possessed me to think that – something akin to a doctor hoping that a sick liver just regrows. Yesterday I went to work troubleshooting.
The first place I went was Microsoft’s Surface Support. It was there that I discovered that, like so many companies out there, Microsoft doesn’t even want to talk to you once the warranty is over. I’m sure they would be happy to speak to me if I gave them my credit card… but I was not quite there yet.
The one thing I did get out of that experience (and a bit of surfing and fishing around) was a link to download a Recovery Image for the Surface Pro, as well as instructions on how to use it. More on that later.
From the research I did online, it looks like my hard drive is either (hopefully) corrupt or (nooo!) dead. I boot into my trusty Windows To Go key (see any of the articles I have written on it here). I open Disk Manager, and bring the internal drive online. So far, so good.
I try to navigate to it. Access Denied. Crap. That can mean a number of things went wrong, but I am not concerned with Ransomware; they haven’t asked me for anything, it is just not booting.
My big concern is that if the drive is not accessible, then there may be something wrong with the hardware… but all signs point away from that, and I expect that somehow something just went terribly wrong.
Fortunately, I have Easeus Data Recovery Pro on my Windows To Go key, so I am able to recover lost files. Hey, wait a minute! If I can do that, then chances are the drive is not dead, right?
Okay, great… I have recovered my files, and now it is time to try to restore the device to useable. I go back to Microsoft’s Support page to download the Recovery Image. You can only download the image once you have signed in with your Microsoft Account, and then only if you have a Surface Pro registered to your account.
Great… I have the Recovery Image. Now what I need is another computer to create the Recovery Drive with. Unless you actually have another Microsoft Surface Pro 4, you are going to have to have Windows create a Recovery Disk for itself, and then copy over the files with the ones I downloaded. That isn’t a problem for me – I have several computers at my disposal, and I know that my corporate Dell laptop recently received the latest build of Windows 10 Enterprise. It works just fine.
A word to the wise: You are going to need a 16 GB USB key for this to work. It will work with a USB 2.0 device, but it……..will……..be……..very……..slow. I don’t just mean rebuilding your computer either – it will be slow as molasses to create the device. Proof? I started building on a USB 2.0 device. I waited fifteen minutes, and then started the same process on a USB 3.0 device. The USB 3.0 device was done before the USB 2.0 was halfway done.
Okay, it is time. The moment of truth. I connect the USB device to my Surface Pro 4, and I boot (holding down the Volume Down button. The menus are a bit confusing, but I finally get to the button that says ‘Restore my PC to Factory Image.’ It goes through the motions, all the while keeping me appraised of just how many percent done it is (pretty useless, as long as there is forward progress), and when it gets to 100%, it reboots my device…
Hello Cortana! I never thought I would actually be happy to hear your voice!
So now, I have to re-install all of my software, but that is more time consuming than difficult, since most of my software and licenses are available from the cloud, and the rest are on one of my external USB drives.
…and for the fun of it, what are the first applications I re-installed (in order)?
- Microsoft Intune
- Microsoft Office 365
- Techsmith Snagit
- Techsmith Camtasia Studio
- Open Live Writer
- Google Chrome
Yes, it is entirely possible that I no longer have my installable source file for Windows Live Writer (see article), and it looks like my newly formatted Surface Pro 4 will no longer have that trusted blogging software that I have been using for a decade (or longer). In truth, I probably have it one one of my computer at home, but I don’t think it is worth the hassle to look, because Open Live Writer is just fine.