Now that my review of Surface 3 is complete, I can turn my attention to the future of this device and start using it for Windows 10 testing. First up: installing Windows 10 Technical Preview 2 and then upgrading to the latest build.
I could dual-boot Windows 10 on this system. But that could require some jumping through hoops, as was the case with Surface Pro 3. (See my article How to Dual-Boot Windows 10 on Surface Pro 3 for the gruesome details.) The issue is that Surface 3 has full-disk encryption enabled by default (not full BitLocker), and I’ve not tested this. For now I will simply upgrade to Windows 10 since that is (or at least will be) the normal consumer experience.
Expect it to take two hours on a clean system normally, though as you’ll see it took me about three hours since there was an additional Fast Ring build to install after the Windows 8.1 to Windows 10 upgrade was complete. And you will need to babysit some of it.
The first step is creating a recovery disk. Do not skip this step. And as always, I recommend using a USB flash drive big enough to contain the recovery partition as well. Which is what I did.
Next up, I de-authorized a handful of applications I had installed—iTunes, Photoshop—just in case things went south. And I ensured there was no crucial data on there that wasn’t backed up elsewhere, and installed any pending Windows Updates.
After that it was a simple matter of visiting preview.windows.com, signing in, and downloading the installer. (You need to sign up for the “Windows Insider” program to get pre-release builds, so if you’re not familiar with this process yet, you will need to do that first. Obviously, it’s free and easy.)
The Windows 10 Technical Preview 2 installer enables Windows Update to “see” the latest Slow Ring build (10041 as I write this) and make it available for install.
Click Get Started and you’re off. Windows Update will download the build and then kickstart the install process.
But don’t walk away just yet. There will be two things to deal with before Surface 3 is actually upgraded to Windows 10. First, you will be asked to accept an end user license agreement (EULA). And after a short check of your PC—I assume this is looking for incompatible applications and hardware devices; it didn’t find anything on my Surface 3—you will be asked to schedule the update or proceed immediately.
By this point, an hour had elapsed. This was caused, I suspect, a combination of factors: the download speed of my connection (I was away from home when I did this and working off a slower-than-usual connection) and the speed of Surface 3, which is constrained by a somewhat low-end processor and slower-than-SSD eMMC storage.
I chose to continue immediately. Windows immediately switched into the full screen update install experience you see when you install Windows Updates that require a reboot.
After a reboot, the Windows 10 install screen appears with a circular progress indicator. You’ll be staring at this one for a while, so don’t get distracted by the apparent lack of progress at times. Or, just take off for about an hour and come back and see if it’s done.
As this project crossed the two hour mark, Setup finally got past the progress screen and presented a “welcome back” screen. After logging in, it performed the color cycling silliness we all know and love from Windows 8—”You can get new apps from the Store!”—before finally displaying the Windows 10 desktop.
Since there is a newer build than the one I installed—the recently released build 10061 is on the Fast Ring—the next step was to visit Windows Update (Settings, Update & Recovery, Windows Update) and configure it to look for Fast Ring builds. You do this by clicking Advanced Options and then selecting “Fast” under “Choose how preview builds are installed.”
After checking for updates, Windows 10 started downloading build 10061. I won’t bore you with the details, since it’s all identical to what’s described above, and about 45 minutes later I was fully updated.
Total time from start to finish: Almost three hours. Gulp.
So. How does it work?
Obviously, the first place to look for problems is Device Manager, though one could reasonably expect an in-place upgrade to successfully pull forward working drivers. Unfortunately, Surface 3 coughed up two missing drivers: Bluetooth LE Device and Solo Sensor V2. Which is unfortunate, since, as of this writing, downloadable Surface 3 drivers are nowhere to be found. (I really prefer to be prepared for any reasonable eventuality.) Since Surface 3 is shipping publicly soon, I won’t sweat these omissions too much. But I will keep an eye on them.
From a performance perspective, things seem fine, but of course the incomplete nature of Windows 10 makes it a bit hard to really evaluate this system fully. As I noted in With Windows 10, Some Wins, Some … Worries, the Windows 10 user experience isn’t as well-adapted to tablets at the moment, though you can configure Tablet Mode to work a bit more elegantly with transforming devices like Surface 3.