Surface Pro 2 Works Fine After Some Vexing Windows Setup Glitches

REVIEW: The Microsoft Surface 2 tablet comes with Windows 8.1 and some hardware improvements, making for a nice tablet once you get past some setup glitches with Windows.

Late in the afternoon on Oct. 21, a brown UPS truck pulled into the parking area and delivered the latest from Microsoft—a brand new, shiny Microsoft Surface Pro 2.

A significant difference between this tablet and most devices that show up at the office is that this wasn't some review unit that I'd have for a few days before sending it back. This was a Surface Pro 2 that was about to become my wife's birthday present—as soon as I could get it set up.

Unfortunately, getting the Surface Pro 2 up and running proved to be more complex than I'd originally expected, but not because of problems with the hardware. It turns out that there are still a few glitches with the Windows 8.1 operating system that's delivered with the Pro 2. The Surface Pro 2 hardware seemed quite solid.

Unfortunately, I uncovered two issues that can bite users who are upgrading to a new machine with Windows 8.1, and they currently affect all versions that I've tested, not just the version on the Surface Pro. The first is a problem with the Microsoft Office 365 Website that you need to use to install a new copy of Office on your new computer. The second is an obscure bug that will only affect you if you already have Windows 8.1 and need to move to a new computer.

The Office problem shows up when you try to de-authorize your old computer and then authorize your new Surface Pro. Windows 8.1 wouldn't handle the authorization change. If you haven't used all five of your allowed installs on Office 365, this won't be a problem. But if you have, then a new install will be problematic. Microsoft's tech support acknowledged that they've seen this problem in other Windows 8.1 installs, but to date didn't have a fix.

I got around it by changing the name of the new Surface Pro 2 so that it was the same as the name on an original Surface Pro I have, then going to the alternative installation page and installing Office 365 Home Premium from there. Until Microsoft comes up with a real fix, there's not any other obvious easy workaround.

The other problem comes with you try to use the Windows Easy Transfer app. WET no longer supports network transfers, forcing you to revert to sneakernet to move files from one computer to another. Settings are no longer transferred. But what's worse than having to use a USB flash drive to handle the transfer is that WET with Windows 8.1 wasn't able to recognize that I was transferring data from an older computer.

If you've used this utility in the past, you may recall that it asks you early in the process whether the computer you're setting WET up on is the old or new computer.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...