Microsoft Fixes Windows 8.1 RT Glitch That Bricked Surface Tablets

Microsoft has fixed the glitches with Windows 8.1 RT that caused problems for some users last week and said Monday that it's once again available for download from the Windows Store.

Microsoft, which released the Windows 8.1 RT update on Oct. 17 and pulled it from the Windows Store on Oct. 19, said "a very small number" of Surface RT customers were affected by the issue.

Some Surface RT users' devices were "bricked" after downloading the update, while others experienced the dreaded "blue screen of death."

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However, only about one out of every 1,000 Surface RT 8.1 installations rendered users' tablets unbootable, a Microsoft spokesperson said in an email statement.

"This was due to a rare situation where firmware updates had not completed at the time of the update to RT 8.1. In most cases, if a customer encountered this issue the result was simply an extra reboot," the Microsoft spokesperson said.

Microsoft, after pulling the Windows 8.1 RT update, moved quickly to give users a downloadable recovery image that could be loaded onto bricked Surface RT tablets from a USB drive.

Windows 8.1 RT hasn't been popular with users, even with the longer battery life afforded by its use of ARM processors. Microsoft took a $900 million charge in July on unsold Surface RT inventory, and it has begun giving the tablets away for free to schools that agree to use its Bing search engine.

Microsoft channel partners, meanwhile, are still on the sidelines, with the vast majority of them unable to sell Surface tablets because Microsoft won't let them.

Some partners believe Microsoft's late arrival to the tablet space, and not its distribution strategy, is the biggest obstacle.

"If the Surface had been on the market when the iPad came out and the users were confronted with a choice at the time they bought their first tablet, I think Microsoft had a good story to tell," David Powell, vice president of TekLinks, a Birmingham, Ala.-based Microsoft partner. "However, they are simply too late to the market and the iPad is too firmly entrenched in the lives of the user community."