If you are one of those who have waited to upgrade to Windows 8.1 on your Surface RT device, thank your lucky stars.
During the opening hours of the Windows 8.1 release on Thursday and Friday of last week, there were a multitude of reports coming in that the upgrade was bricking Windows Surface RT units. I know I spent several hours trying to help folks rectify the situation to no avail. In fact, after hearing the reports of issues and digging in to help, I had to wonder if there were pieces to the story that simply weren't being brought to light since I had already upgraded 4 computers with no issues. And, one of those computers was a Surface RT. Once I clicked the "upgrade me" link in the Windows Store, to the completion of the upgrade, I had no issues at all.
It became clear that the issue seemed to be centered on those people who were running the very latest version of the Windows 8.1 Preview release. Those individuals who had never installed a Windows 8.1 Preview release on their Surface RT devices had no problems upgrading. I warned about installing a Preview version of software back in June. It seems Microsoft's intent to the use the word "Preview" instead of "beta" (which it actually is) causes more people to feel less intimidated to stick unfinished software on their PCs. And, in doing so this time has caused the issues I warned about.
So, Microsoft has pulled the failing update and given an apology:
Microsoft is investigating a situation affecting a limited number of users updating their Windows RT devices to Windows RT 8.1. As a result, we have temporarily removed the Windows RT 8.1 update from the Windows Store. We are working to resolve the situation as quickly as possible and apologize for any inconvenience. We will provide updates as they become available.
And, today they are now also offering a Surface RT 8.0 Recovery Image which will, per the downloadable instructions, help those with bricked Surface RT devices gathering dust to complete the Windows 8.1 upgrade. The Recovery Image installation involves using another computer to create the image on a formatted USB stick, running through some Surface-specific button sequences, and then executing the rebuild process using a command prompt. Not quite what normal users will be comfortable doing.
Microsoft says that the issue is affecting a limited number of users, but really, how many Surface RT owners are out there? From what I've seen and heard, communication of the issue is spreading like wildfire across the communities. And, from what I perceive, the issue is large enough for Microsoft to remove the update from public access. Once has to wonder how this issue could have been missed during Microsoft's testing. Could their new accelerated product cycles actually be causing the problems? Microsoft's quality issues for their Windows Updates have kept me in writing material for months. If anything has been accelerated through the new product cycles, it's the number of issues that are being reported.
If you've not attempted to install the update on a Surface RT unit yet, just wait. Microsoft will get it right, eventually.