Tablets

Fix found for Windows 8.1 upgrade problems on Surface RT

Donovan Colbert couldn't find the Windows Update to 8.1 in the Microsoft Store on his Surface RT tablet, so he turned to Microsoft support for help.

Surface with Windows 8.1

Note: Microsoft temporarily halted and then resumed Windows update 8.1 for Surface RT since this article was written. The issues described here should eventually be resolved, but the commands I highlight are important troubleshooting steps that may be useful, in general, when encountering issues on Windows RT or 8.1 (especially Modern UI problems).

Microsoft released Windows 8.1 for Intel and RT on October 17th, but it didn't receive much buzz. Many people quietly upgraded without problems, while others upgraded and regretted it. One of the most frustrated groups may have been early adopters of Windows 8.1 Preview. In various forums, quite a few users complained that they couldn't find the Windows Upgrade in the Microsoft Store, and the information online didn't resolve the issue. After finding myself in the same situation, I turned to my last resort -- Microsoft support.

This is a knee-jerk reaction on my part, having worked for years in Microsoft technologies and knowing how difficult it is to get a live person who can actually help resolve an issue. But Microsoft has made great strides in supporting end-user consumers with Xbox, Zune, and other products and platforms.

Before trying to contact Microsoft, I took the following steps:

I brought up the charms bar and selected Settings | Change PC settings | Update and recovery, and then applied all the updates there until I was notified that none remained. When the 8.1 update still wasn’t available, I performed a system refresh from the Update and recovery menu. The reset looked promising. After rebooting, I checked updates and discovered that the patches either had to be reapplied or that more were waiting. 

When I went into the Classic desktop, I felt a surge of excitement when I saw that the Windows 8.1 Preview watermark was gone. Unfortunately, the This PC properties page revealed that the device was still on 8.1 Preview. To make This PC show on your Classic desktop on Windows 8, right-click anywhere on the desktop and select Personalize. In the Personalization control panel, select Change desktop icons, and in the Desktop Icons Settings view, add a check to the boxes next to the icons you want on your desktop. You can then right-click on This PC and select Properties to view the information on the System control panel.

Next, I tried Reinstall at the Update and recovery menu. The same issues persisted. More online research indicated that you can make a USB recovery disk with RT. This is a step that I had unfortunately neglected, because it would have allowed me to revert to Windows 8. 

I visited the Microsoft Surface Contact Us page, which was easy to find and navigate. I selected a live chat and was quickly connected to a support person named Conan. I explained my issue and the steps I had taken, and to my dismay, he said that he wanted to confirm that all the updates required for Windows 8.1 had been applied. Though dubious, I decided it couldn’t hurt to play along. The agent had me hit the [Windows]+[X] keyboard shortcut that brings up a menu with shortcuts to a variety of destinations, including the Control Panel, which he had me open. I was then directed to type “windows update” (no quotes) in the search box at the right top corner of the window (Figure A).

Figure A

Figure A

Type "windows update" in the search box. 

Next, he had me click Check for updates. To my surprise, this Windows Classic view found a firmware update that the Modern UI update from the Charms menu missed. Once the updates were applied and the RT had rebooted, he had me check again. An additional update was found and applied, and another reboot followed (Figure B).

Figure B

Figure B

Installing a firmware update.

This time, the Windows 8.1 Preview watermark was back, and no updates were available. I was then instructed to use the [Windows]+[R] keyboard shortcut and run the following command: "ms-windows-store:WindowsUpgrade” (no quotes). This launched the Microsoft Store and displayed the Windows 8.1 Update download screen. When I clicked the download button, it returned to the main Windows Store screen with no indication that the download was active. The Microsoft agent had me execute the same keyboard shortcut, but this time, he instructed me to enter the “ms-windows-store:installprogress” command. This brought up the install progress screen in the Windows Store, where I could see that it was going to be a long time before the upgrade was complete.

TechRepublic blogger Deb Shinder also experienced this issue with a Microsoft Surface Pro, and I provided her a copy of the chat transcript, which resolved her issue. Deb advised me that Microsoft has since published these instructions on the Windows 8.1 upgrade site. However, if you’re having problems finding the 8.1 upgrade in the Microsoft Store on an ARM- or Intel-based device, these instructions may help. 


About

Donovan Colbert has over 16 years of experience in the IT Industry. He's worked in help-desk, enterprise software support, systems administration and engineering, IT management, and is a regular contributor for TechRepublic. Currently, his profession...

7 comments
Obedessa
Obedessa

Hello, if anyone could send me feedback on this page about this question I have that would be fantastic.

Alright so, I have gotten my Surface RT a few days ago, but I have a pretty experienced on technology, and to find information as well. But my problem is when I installed all of the updates (or so I thought), and all of the things I wished to be on my tablet, I decided to give a try on a little download from the internet. (I purchased it on my computer and wanted to put it on my tablet.) So anyway, after downloading the file and saving it, I tried to run the program. But to a surprise, it said, and I quote. "This app can't run on your PC, to find apps for this PC, please open the windows store". So after trying to reload the file and download it again, thinking it would refresh itself and that was only a bug, it said the same thing. After trying to download a few other programs, it still said the same thing. Getting angry, I went to go find out the problem on how to download and install programs from a site and not the Microsoft store, but it seems as though after searching for 10 minuets, I couldn't find a solution. So then I thought to myself, maybe I'm missing an update, sure enough. After gong on the Microsoft support website and 15 minuets later, I found my solution and downloaded the updates it said to. When after downloading and installing the updates, I restarted my Surface and proceeded to the program that I downloaded. But when I tried to run the program, it said that it couldn't run on this PC just as I said in the beginning of this cry for help.

I don't know what the problem is, but if anyone could help me fix this issue, thank you.

PS: I'm sure I have the update, it is 8.1 and my tablet said that there are no more updates
 

Urgos2000
Urgos2000

My Asus transformer RT tablet, automatically updated, I think, and I say this because for the last 2 days it has only been telling me to "please wait" I have in the mean time hard reset it (keeping in the power button until its actually off) and whenm I switch it on again it just tells me to either "please wait", or "updating..." but it doesn't ever go beyond that. Does anyone know what I can do to fix it? Is there a way I can start it in safe mode or something?

dpbakeril
dpbakeril

Donovon, you're real problem was that you were attempting to update a copy of Windows 8.1 Preview installed on a Surface RT and not what the title of your article implies.  A simple search would have lead to the follow page, http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/update-from-preview, that I'd be willing to bet would have eased your upgrade greatly.  With your supposed years in the IT industry and with Microsoft products, I would have thought you'd have known better than to just jump right in without verifying the proper upgrade path from Preview to the Release version of Microsoft Windows.  Oh wait, you wouldn't have had this article to write which highlights the wrong way to go about upgrading a Surface RT, with or without the Preview loaded, to Windows 8.1.

daboochmeister
daboochmeister

Glad your problem was fixed (and honestly, I'm impressed at Conan's level of skill to know to do those things -- too used to the FIOS-type just-hired-last-job-was-flipping-burgers thing).

All I can say is, it's a really good thing you didn't have to do anything so crude as open a terminal window, or people might get the impression that the command line is still useful in Windows. Wouldn't want people accusing Win8 of not being ready for the average user, because occasionally you have to type a command. But since you only typed commands into a Run dialog, it's all good, makes all the difference.  http://youtu.be/zNCrMEOqHpc

dcolbert
dcolbert

An important thing to note here: Although I've been a huge advocate of Windows 8 and the fact that it has all the functionality of Windows 7, this is a case where the different presentation of Windows 8 caused me to approach troubleshooting the issue incorrectly. 

It just never crossed my mind to go into the traditional control panel and run the classic Windows Update on a Surface RT until the MS Tech advised me to do so. It never occurred to me that... well honestly it never even occurred to me that the traditional Windows Update control panel was there - but also that this might produce different results than running an update check through the Modern UI update menu. A big part of this was thinking of RT as a mobile tablet and forgetting that it really has almost all of the framework of actual Windows on Intel under the hood.  

But it did produce different results. This is part of the reason a lot of IT professionals get frustrated by Windows 8. Not only do they not know what is there or what exactly it does, in a lot of cases just figuring out how to GET somewhere familiar can be a challenge. 

Deb Shinder removes Modern UI completely and adds a traditional Start Menu using aftermarket solutions - a habit I don't agree with because I think it defeats the progress of Windows 8. Regardless of our different personal philosophies on this matter, she was surprised that I hadn't tried the Classic Windows Update control panel already - it was what she uses by default. Running the ms-windows-store:WindowsUpdate and "InstallProgress" commands were new to her too, though. 

The point is that there is a combination of remembering and finding or rediscovering OLD commands, utilities and techniques along with learning NEW ones that this blog starts to expose - and learning these things will be key to becoming a power user of Microsoft's new platform. The frustration many users have isn't that they can't do things they used to be able to do, it is that they don't yet know HOW to do those things. As you learn more and become more comfortable, Windows 8 becomes less frustrating and intimidating. It really is *just* Windows underneath, after all. 

dcolbert
dcolbert

@dpbakeril Wow. Arrogantly assume much? Of course I started at this exact page and followed the instructions there verbatim. They did not work.

Instead, I was an early adopter who uncovered an issue that affected numerous users, including other Microsoft professionals with MS VIP credentials, before Microsoft documented and released a fix - the fix that Conan walked me through that I describe in this article. There were probably 4 major outlets where hundreds of users were turning to on release day that were running various solutions to the issue encountered. Almost *all* of them were starting at the page you link to, and it wasn't working.

It is "Donovan", too... People who can't get the vowels in my name right always strike me as intellectually inferior. It isn't that tough. Trouble spelling Mississippi too? That one is confusing. I love the armchair QB readers - you're always so entertaining with your unwarranted hubris.