Firmware is the semi-permanent specialized software that is embedded in hardware. It is typically stored on the flash read-only memory within the hardware itself.
In computers, it is used as the basic communication bridge between the operating system software and the hardware (your computer BIOS is an example of firmware).
Since it's designed to be persistent and non-volatile, firmware doesn't get updated as much as software. Typically, new firmware updates for hardware are only released to push out fixes or for the occasional new feature.
Microsoft released one such firmware update for Surface Pro 3 tablets on Monday to address batteries that are reported to not hold a charge.
We wrote about this issue last month when complaints of defective batteries started appearing in Microsoft's user forums and support channels.
Owners with this issue were complaining that once their Surface Pro 3 tablets were unplugged, their charged batteries depleted rapidly.
The problem appears to be only affecting Surface Pro 3 tablets that use batteries from Simplo, a third-party supplier. Some tried replacing and recalibrating their batteries but the issue persisted even after the hardware change. The only other choice to make the tablet usable was to keep the tablets plugged in.
Microsoft acknowledged the problem last month and the company claimed that the battery issues were due to software/firmware rather than defects on the battery hardware itself.
Now, the new firmware fix is finally being rolled out to supposedly rectify the software glitch.
Microsoft said in their official blog post that the update fixes the logic in the firmware that acts as the "fuel gauge" for the Surface Pro 3 battery.
This "fuel gauge" error in the firmware is causing the full capacity of the battery to be misreported. Essentially, the Surface Pro 3's operating system thinks the battery is fully charged when in reality, it is not.
Once the firmware update is applied, Microsoft states that the condition will "self-correct itself over the next several charge and discharge cycles." So it looks like updating the firmware is not enough, owners of the affected Surface Pro 3 tablets will have to wait and see if the fix actually works.
So it looks like updating the firmware is not enough; owners of the affected Surface Pro 3 tablets will have to wait and see if the fix actually works.
How to get the new Surface Pro 3 firmware
If you are one of the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 owners with the affected Simplo batteries, here's how you can get the update now:
- Microsoft recommends that your Surface Pro 3 is plugged directly into AC power with its AC power adapter. Disconnect all peripherals and make sure that it has 40 percent or greater battery charge.
- On Windows 10, go to the Start Menu, choose Settings >> Update & security >> Windows Update.
- Select "Check for updates."
- Choose and install System Firmware Update - 8/29/2016.
- Select Restart now.
- After the restart, the Surface logo should appear with a message that a system firmware update is being applied. Wait for the process to complete (do not force shut down nor disconnect from AC power during the update).
- After the update process, your Surface should boot back to Windows. Microsoft states that another restart is needed for the new battery logic to take effect.
To read more about this firmware fix, check out this Microsoft FAQ page.