Fix the slow performance problem on Surface Pro 4

Right after I installed the new Microsoft Anniversary Update, I started to notice performance issues with my Surface Pro 4. Switching between apps became a nightmare and the mouse started to move painfully slow. Nothing helped besides performing a complete restart. This happened to me during a meeting with one of my clients, causing me to apologize and stall untill the reboot was completed. I started my presentation again, only for the same problem to happen.

My desktop however was acting all fine, weird right?

Doing some detective work, I figured out that my CPU is stuck at the same frequency of 1.5 GHz. No matter what the Surface is doing, I get the same frequency all the time.

CPU Stuck Frequency

The Problem

I started to wonder why this is happening on the laptop but not the desktop? And why after the anniversary update of Windows 10? Google linked me to more people who are suffering from the same problem on Reddit and on the Microsoft Feedback Hub, oops!

Reading through the pages, I found out that the reason behind the slow performance was a new feature that Microsoft enabled on the Surface line, called “Enhanced Intel SpeedStep® Technology“, which does the following:

Enhanced Intel SpeedStep® Technology is an advanced means of enabling very high performance while also meeting the power-conservation needs of mobile systems.

  • Separation of voltage and frequency changes. By stepping voltage up and down in small increments, the processor is able to reduce periods of system unavailability that occur frequency change. The system is then able to transition between voltage and frequency states more often, improving balance between power and performance.
  • Clock partitioning and recovery. The bus clock continues running during state transition, even when the core clock and phase-locked loop are stopped, which allows logic to remain active. The core clock is also able to restart far more quickly under Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology than under previous architectures.

The tl;dr version of that goes along the lines of: In a computer, the OS tells the processor to speed up or slow down depending on current needs. Intel Speed Shift turns control of that over to the processor, and as a result everything is quicker (and theoretically can save a small amount of battery life).

The Solution

At first, people were hacking their way through the registry to enable extra power settings that doesn’t usually appear for users and are locked away. Changing those settings fixed the problem but on the account of causing more problems. Thanks to Microsoft, this was fixed by a firmware update that was released just recently which you can get by running Windows Update.

Surface Speed Fix

After applying the update and rebooting, the CPU started to change its frequency according to the OS needs. I haven’t tested if there is any improvement in the battery life, but that is yet to come in a future blog post.

CPU Stuck Frequency Fix

It’s worth mentioning that you need to remove the registry hack and revert to the original settings if you ever applied it BEFORE you install the update, and to also reboot the Surface machine at least twice for the update to be completely applied.

6 Things that are making Windows 10 great

Microsoft has finally managed to get their ship on track. By the time of writing this post, Windows is now being used on over 110 million machine all over the world, mind you that this number counts only the activated machines that is currently being used by people, it does not include machines that has Windows 10 preinstalled and ready to be sold. This is a very impressive number to think about, considering that Windows 10 was released in the 29th July, 2015, two and a half months ago.

Windows 10

So what are the things that made Windows 10 this successful and managed to grab the attention of 110 customer? here is my personal take on this matter:

  1. The return of the Start Menu: they say “you never know what you’ve got till it’s gone”, the start menu was spot on example for this, as the well missed feature was horribly removed from Windows 8/8.1 and replaced with what is known by the Modern UI, the Modern UI was Microsoft’s failed mission to bring the tablet/phone experience to the desktop, This created panic and fear for those who are genetically programmed to know that all your computer files and programs are right under this little icon on the bottom left side of the desktop. With Windows 10, someone thought that it would be a good idea to bring the start menu back to its original roots with a twist from the Modern UI formula, and you know what? it worked perfectly.
  2. The 1 year upgrade offer: the keyword here is “free”, who doesn’t like free? it was one of the smartest moves Microsoft did by offering Windows 10 free for those who have a valid license for Windows 7, 8 and 8.1 Professional and Home edition, they managed to create a hype for the upgrade by asking users to reserve their right to get and install Windows 10 before it was released, they even coated this great offer with a time limit of a full year, giving the people the freedom of deciding when to upgrade.
  3. The easy upgrade experience: speaking from experience, upgrading Windows from older version was never a successful task, installing a new OS always meant a fresh clean format for the entire data on my hard disk, but with Windows 10, I have managed to upgrade over 80 different machines from Windows 8.1 that have different hardware/software, and it worked perfectly after the first boot, all the data and settings are preserved, it was never that easy before.
  4. Compatibility and Drivers: building on top of the previous point, installing a new OS always meant waiting for the companies that sell hardware to release drivers for their hardware that would allow you to run and use the hardware you have.  Guess what, Windows 10 is compatible with Windows 8.1 drivers, meaning that your hardware is most likely ready to rock on with Windows 10, not only the drivers are compatible, but almost all programs and software you use are ready to be used on Windows 10 too.
  5. Performance and stability: for a relatively new OS, Windows 10 is blazing fast, and stable too, not that Windows 8.1 had any trouble in that department, but the idea that you get to upgrade to a new OS that does everything better without trade off in performance is a great bonus, especially for those who like to delay their upgrade cycle for some time until all the problems in the OS are ironed out.
  6. Windows as a Service: Windows 10 will be the last iteration of Windows to be released, but don’t panic, Microsoft created three different branches of Windows 10 that meets the needs of customers and enterprises. Beside the security batches and fixes, Microsoft will be always updating the OS with new features at no cost on regular intervals as long as your hardware support it. This might cause problems to enterprise customers who would like to take control of their features update cycle, for those Microsoft has created a special edition of Windows 10 called Current branch for Business (CBB) that give administrators the option to delay the updates up to 90 days until the updates are verified compatible with the existing business, if 90 days are not enough, Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB) provides long term support for mission critical systems and allows administrators to opt out of the new features but keep receiving only security updates up to 5 years.