back to article Microsoft unveils swappable SSDs for Surface Pro 7+ but 'strongly discourages' users from upping their capacity

Microsoft has dashed fanboy hopes that the swappable SSD in its new Surface Pro 7+ might lead to an upgrade or two in the future. Unveiling the range of Surface Removal SSDs (rSSDs), Microsoft admitted that popping in something bigger to replace an existing storage device was "technically possible", but it "strongly …

  1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

    "Installing a non-Microsoft or a Microsoft SSD of different volume than the one provided originally may lead to reduced performance and unsupported configurations."

    It should be illegal to say that. That sentence is a fraud against the consumer.

    1. ComputerSays_noAbsolutelyNo

      It's not that the PC ecosystem supported modularity for decades ...

      F'ing mobes and tablets are pretty shitty incarnations of a computer.

      1. jason_derp Bronze badge

        I guess they're only technically computers because I find it far too frustrating to do any real "computing" on them in practice.

      2. FIA Silver badge

        F'ing mobes and tablets are pretty shitty incarnations of a computer.

        This.

        They're not computers, when a lot of IT folk realise that they'll be a lot happier. ;)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Presumably each SSD has a unique hardware ID

      and then Windows will detect a different ID and then refuse to run on the new SSD complaining about being not being Licensed.

      1. quxinot Silver badge

        Re: Presumably each SSD has a unique hardware ID

        It'd be a shame if there was a piracy tool that would solve that sort of issue.

        Huh.

      2. Geoff Campbell
        Boffin

        Re: Presumably each SSD has a unique hardware ID

        Nope.

        I have a Kioxia 512GB SSD made for a Dell machine in my Surface Pro X. Works beautifully.

        GJC

        1. jason_derp Bronze badge

          Re: Presumably each SSD has a unique hardware ID

          "lsblk -o MODEL,SERIAL" suggests otherwise.

    3. alain williams Silver badge

      MS taking lessons from HP ?

      This sounds very much like the blather that printer manufacturers come out with as they attempt to keep you buying over priced printer cartridges.

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: MS taking lessons from HP ?

        If the Surface Pro doesn't support 100Tb drives then I guess it will be impossible to upgrade to the next version of Windows and everyone will have to buy a new machine?

    4. FIA Silver badge

      It should be illegal to say that. That sentence is a fraud against the consumer.

      <sigh> why is it fraud?

      Messing about with your primary SSD can be a recipe for disaster, reinstalling can be a 'bit of a pain', all they're saying is 'good luck with that... we won't support you if you do'

      I once thought I'd been right clever migrating Windows 10 to a larger SSD, converting to UEFI boot from an old style bios boot. It worked great too. Then the bi-annual upgrade rolled around, the installer took one look at the partion layout and went 'what the jeff is THIS??'. Now, had I been an unscrupulous IT pro doing that as a paid upgrade for a customer the result is most definatly an 'unsuported configuration'.

      Misalign your partition accidentally on resize/move, or go to a device with a different logical block size and you'll get 'reduced performance'. Go to a bigger capacity but SATA bridged M.2 will give you 'reduced performance'. (Assuming here they have full speed M.2 in?)

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        I agree that it's not fraud, but most of your suggested reasons for the statement are invalid.

        "Messing about with your primary SSD can be a recipe for disaster, reinstalling can be a 'bit of a pain', all they're saying is 'good luck with that... we won't support you if you do'"

        This is a replacement, and the machine is designed for business customers who are almost certainly applying an image to any device. Reinstalling is what these people do all the time. What do they think people buying the disks are doing with them? They're reinstalling Windows onto the new disk to replace the one which failed or got destroyed. They support that, but they'll not support someone doing the same thing with one of different size?

        "I once thought I'd been right clever migrating Windows 10 to a larger SSD, converting to UEFI boot from an old style bios boot."

        Yes, that's dangerous and tricky on basically any OS. Just because you can make your software break isn't sufficient reason for them to change their support system. After all, I can break Windows in a variety of ways but none of that would cancel my warranty with the hardware manufacturer.

        "Misalign your partition accidentally on resize/move, or go to a device with a different logical block size and you'll get 'reduced performance'."

        Then reinstall and move the files over. It's what everyone is going to do anyway. They could even say "Don't migrate. You don't know what you're doing and you'll just make a mess".

        "Go to a bigger capacity but SATA bridged M.2 will give you 'reduced performance'. (Assuming here they have full speed M.2 in?)"

        I don't know, but whatever interface they're using for their 128 GB drive is the same one they're using for their 256 GB drive. They go in the same machines and have the same reported speeds. Thus that's not going to intrinsically change the speed. Only if they've built the firmware in such a way that it can't handle other sizes will speed change. If they've done it, it's either malicious tampering to break upgrades or really lazy.

        1. FIA Silver badge

          I agree that it's not fraud, but most of your suggested reasons for the statement are invalid.

          No, that's a fair comment, I'd overreacted at the hyperbole (which is what angered me), and hadn't adequatly considered the business use case as you pointed out.

          I must learn to be less triggered by cries of things like 'Fraud' (a serious crime, and one MS have been guilty of in the past), when it's 'A business decision I find baffeling and don't agree with' (which is something you change suppliers for).

          Yes, that's dangerous and tricky on basically any OS. Just because you can make your software break isn't sufficient reason for them to change their support system. After all, I can break Windows in a variety of ways but none of that would cancel my warranty with the hardware manufacturer.

          Surely in a business context the warrenty is defined by the manufacturer? MS aren't changing it here are they?? (I thought surfaces had never supported this kind of replacement?)

          I don't know, but whatever interface they're using for their 128 GB drive is the same one they're using for their 256 GB drive. They go in the same machines and have the same reported speeds. Thus that's not going to intrinsically change the speed. Only if they've built the firmware in such a way that it can't handle other sizes will speed change.

          I was meaning the cases where an entirely different brand is used. All the caveating in the guide suggests the connector is non proprietary.

          If they've done it, it's either malicious tampering to break upgrades or really lazy.

          If they've enforced it at a firmware level, then yes, I'd agree. That is much different from a policy change.

          Lazyness however, is often much cheaper. ;)

          1. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells

            I'm the original poster. It is a fraud against the consumer because Microsoft is stretching the truth to the point of lying to the consumer about whether they can buy third party SSD's.

            Microsoft is tricking users into thinking they have to pay a massive margin on Microsoft's own SSD's.

            Tricking consumers into a behaviour that is against their best interests is a fraud.

            Yes of course it's (relatively) difficult to replace an SSD. Explaining that would be fine. Pretending that you can only buy Microsoft SSD's is not.

    5. fidodogbreath Silver badge

      The only thing unsupported is their Q2 revenue

      "Installing a non-Microsoft or a Microsoft SSD of different volume than the one provided originally may lead to reduced performance and unsupported configurations upgrade revenue for Microsoft."

      FTFY

    6. TeeCee Gold badge

      It actually doesn't say it won't work and work well.

      What it says is:

      1) May lead to reduced performance: If you install a third party product which has slower access times it will. "May" is the key word here.

      2) May lead to unsupported configurations: Send it back under warranty afterwards and get told to sod off 'cos you fiddled with it.

      What they're desperately trying to prevent is Joe Bloggs fucking up his device by cocking up the following of some instructions on teh internets and then expecting them to fix it. I doubt they have any issues at all with someone who knows what they're doing and who is prepared to look after it themselves having a go.

      This has always been the Microsoft way. An official policy for the plebs and a tacit (and often actively helpful) attitude for the likes of us.

  2. Chris G Silver badge

    I was wondering, has the Pro 7+ got rounded corners?

  3. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Strongly discouraged

    Why ?

    What Byzantine hardware and software rules has Borkzilla implemented to make it difficult to swap a disk for a bigger one ?

    Since when has putting in a bigger disk ever been a problem in computing when using approved models ?

    Is Borkzilla trying to insinuate that Surface Pros are factory-limited to what was installed at build time ?

    So many questions, so many possible stupid answers, but no good ones.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Strongly discouraged

      "So many questions, so many possible stupid answers, but no good ones."

      I'm sure MS find the answer to be perfectly good: You want more storage? Buy a new machine.

      1. EricB123

        Re: Strongly discouraged

        That kind of thinking had worked just fine for Tim Cook (a.k.a. Tim Apple).

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Strongly discouraged

      My guess is one of these happened:

      Option 1:

      Manager: Let's prevent people upgrading their drives so they have to buy a new product when they run out.

      Engineer: That sounds fun. I can think of several ingenious ways to make them break weirdly by messing with the firmware.

      Option 2:

      Manager 1: Let's prevent people upgrading their drives so they have to buy a new product when they run out.

      Manager 2: Good idea, but having an engineer mess with the firmware would be expensive. Let's just say things that make it sound like we did.

      Manager 1: What if people try and it works fine?

      Manager 2: The paranoia of expecting that an engineer will have messed with the firmware so it will break later will get to them soon enough.

      I'd also like to know whether these are any different from normal hardware. The article notes that the ones for the Surface Pro X are a little different, but doesn't comment on these, perhaps because IFixit hasn't gotten any of them yet. I really hope they haven't taken a standard part and forced it into a slightly different package just to lock people in.

      1. Falmari Silver badge

        Re: Strongly discouraged

        I think they will probably have gone for option 2.

    3. MrReynolds2U Bronze badge

      Re: Strongly discouraged

      Let's take the PS5 as an example here. The entire bus is optimised for a particular SSD. If you change it then the optimised operations will be slightly off. It may still work but it won't work as well. I'm guessing that MS is implying the same thing. Why else would they discourage you buying their own up-rated SSDs?

      Perhaps I'm being naïve but these top-end systems often have very precise tailoring for the exact spec they are shipped with. Plus I was fascinated by the lengths that Sony went to in tailoring the new PS5 storage sub-system. I might buy one for Christmas, just don't tell my XBox-One.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        Re: Strongly discouraged

        They might discourage you from buying a larger one in the hopes that you instead buy a new Surface with a larger disk. Or to make you concerned about getting a third-party one when they eventually become available. They could be hoping that people think "You can't even replace the disk with one of a different size. No way this one from another manufacturer will work." and then you'd buy from them. I don't think it will really help much, but they could be thinking that.

        Your PlayStation comparison is possible, but I doubt it. Before I say too much and look stupid, I am not a gamer and know relatively little about the device, but I read this description of the SSD. Based on that, it looks like they've designed a drive for really fast reads so they can load large game data quickly. That's not the kind of drive you find in a tablet-laptop. Among other things, it looks like the fast speeds from Sony's drive come with a higher power requirement, which isn't ideal in a battery-powered device. Even if MS does have unusually fast drives, Windows can run on spinning drives today, so it clearly doesn't need it. They probably would be more successful at selling these replacement drives if they said "Other drives will work, but these ones are really fast so you'll like them better". I don't think that's the case.

    4. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Strongly discouraged

      "Is Borkzilla trying to insinuate that Surface Pros are factory-limited to what was installed at build time ?"

      I don't think so. If you read the actual wording, they're very careful not to say that it won't work or that anything bad will happen. It's all about how there "may" be issues, and you're "discouraged" from doing anything yourself. They're just trying to scare people off, because upgrading your drive means you're not paying for a new model, or might buy the cheaper model and then upgrade it yourself later.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Windows and Storage space

    I've seen some low-budget laptops that come with Windows installed with only 32 Gb of solid state drive space that can no longer receive security updates because the drive is full.

    1. david bates

      Re: Windows and Storage space

      Yup - after the second time of trying to fix it my response was "If you want my help with your computers do not buy them without reference to me. This PoS was on sale for a reason....."

    2. David Austin

      Re: Windows and Storage space

      One of my charity customers got duped into buying a set of HP Stream laptops, with eMMC 32GB Hard disks.

      None of them could install the next Windows 10 update natively. About half managed to with the Dual USB Stick method, but the others couldn't even do that: Any more than 3GB of user files made them unserviceable.

      It was reckless of HP to make them in the first place, and I would happily bump off the vendor that talked them into buying such crap.

      1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Windows and Storage space

        > It was reckless of HP to make them in the first place

        Yeah, it's funny* how when HP trick thousands of consumers into buying a lemon it's the consumer's fault. But when HP bought a lemon called Autonomy, suddenly it's a matter for the Feds

        * No it isn't, obviously.

      2. BenM 29
        Coat

        Re: Windows and Storage space

        >>One of my charity customers got duped into buying a set of HP Stream laptops, with eMMC 32GB Hard disks

        lubuntu works just fine on them; you get 22Gb free after installing it (including LibreOffice as well)

        Sauce: installed lubuntu on an HP Stream here just the other week, for a member of the user comminuty, becasue Windows borked owing to disk space issues.

        The child, for whom the notebook was intended, is, apparently, most happy that he can do whatever it is youth do on these things nowadays (said loin-fruit is male so probaly well.... you know.... given the laptop is small and easily concealable in a hurry!)

        /mine's the one with Easy2Boot on a USB pen in the pocket

        1. David Austin

          Re: Windows and Storage space

          Probably a nice little laptop for a modern Linux netbook (The true meaning of netbook before people tried to get Windows Vista running on single core atoms...), but not really a practical answer for this Charity's workflow; If nothing else, They need full fat Outlook.

        2. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Windows and Storage space

          I can't speak for the HP Stream, and you seem to have had success with it. The one I saw ran an old Atom part and really did not want to boot to external media. It had a micro SD card slot, but wouldn't see that in UEFI. It had a USB port connected via a dock, and wouldn't see that either. The only external port it would see was an OTG micro USB port. Even then, it wouldn't work well if you tried to boot off a drive connected to that. The internet told me it needed a custom 32-bit firmware patch, although the processor was supposedly X64-capable, but I tried repeatedly to put that patch on a Linux disk with no luck. I had some success deleting everything off the internal disk, performing a Windows reset, updating, reset again, and then it was updated again, but there's no way I was doing that multiple times.

      3. alain williams Silver badge

        Re: Windows and Storage space

        I have one of those ... I upgraded to Linux Mint and had some 12 GB left before adding my own stuff.

    3. Tom 38 Silver badge

      Re: Windows and Storage space

      Wifey bought herself a new laptop on a whim from PC World, an 11" HP Stream with a 32GB eMMC, the sales droid told her it would be perfect for travelling and working on office docs. Once she'd installed O365 on it, it no longer had enough space to install security updates. I made them take it back and refund us as it wasn't fit for purpose and bought her a Dell.

    4. MrReynolds2U Bronze badge

      Re: Windows and Storage space

      We unfortunately have a few of those from when the MD saw them late at night on Amazon and called me. So equally late at night (and possibly under the influence of whisky), I said OK.

      Updating them with new Win10 service packs has been somewhat tiresome but we've managed it. In some cases I've just slipstreamed and re-installed. Remember folks, there's a reason they are selling a full system for 150 quid.

      Might just replace the M2 drives next time as they perform well on a day-to-day basis.

  5. 45RPM Silver badge

    I don’t object to soldered in RAM* as much as I object to soldered in storage. Given that storage, of any kind, eventually wears out it should effectively be regarded as a ‘consumable’. Soldered in storage is not so very different from a printer which can’t have its ink cartridges replaced at all.

    Microsoft, you have gone part way to doing the right thing. Apple take note.

    * as a geek, I object to soldered in RAM. And CPU. And GPU if it comes to that - I want to be able to replace / upgrade as I choose. But it’s a matter of degree.

    1. jason_derp Bronze badge

      Soldered in storage is not so very different from a printer which can’t have its ink cartridges replaced at all.

      Watch what you say! If they hear that we're going to start having to pay the full price for printers and the ink will be unreplacable! No more workaround of throwing out the printer each time you don't have any more black.

      1. MrReynolds2U Bronze badge

        Pease tell me I'm not the only one who remembers when it was cheaper to buy a new Lexmark inkjet than replace the ink?

  6. mark l 2 Silver badge

    That sort of tactic used to be common on HP laptops in the mid to late 2000s where they would have bios locks which stopped you replacing the WIFI card with non HP approved ones. HP used to claim it was because the devices were FCC approved with only their wireless cards, but as other manufactures didn't have those restrictions and were still able to sell their laptops, that didn't wash with most people who just saw it as the attempted vendor lock in it was.

    1. John Sturdy
      FAIL

      HP did something similar with QIC tapes

      QIC tapes used a hole punched in the tape to mark the end of the tape, and most drives would stop when they reached the hole. Not HP's, though: they had a soft marker written onto the tape by a formatter program, and without that, the drive would wind the tape off the reel. And of course they sold preformatted tapes but didn't release the formatter program.

      I think this was soon after they started to go downhill; I remember them releasing moderately crappy printers around the same time (mid/late 80s). I had previously thought of them as a reputable company but they subsequently spun off what had been the good bit to form Agilent.

      1. EricB123

        Re: HP did something similar with QIC tapes

        I was working for HP at that time. That tape debacle was a perfect example of profit enhancement gone amuck. Unbelievable how management was so very dedicated to trash a perfectly good company.

    2. John Miles

      WIFI card with non HP approved

      I guess the non-approved ones would be the ones that actually worked - used to have to reboot a HP laptop several times a day as the wi-fi card/driver just died and only full reboot would recover it. (It got better after a firmware update) - The only reason I would consider another HP laptop is the works ones I have had since have been pretty reliable.

      1. MrReynolds2U Bronze badge

        Re: WIFI card with non HP approved

        Mine's the HP G62 running Q4OS... still has the original HDD (might put an SSD in at some point) but runs perfectly for my C dev work. I think I got it 2nd hand in 2011.

    3. Rob Daglish

      The buggers are still doing it. They’ve improved though, I had a request to put a 4g card in an 840G1, and it totally threw a hissy fit, big white screen telling me it was an unauthorised card and my computer wouldn’t work to prevent damage. The card I was trying to install? HP 840G1 4g modem, direct from HP... turns out there are a few variants of the card, and not all of them work in all SKUs.

  7. Geoff Campbell
    Go

    Yup

    I bought a Surface Pro X last year, and immediately upgraded the SSD to 512GB using a Dell unit bought from eBay. Worked perfectly, and is still working as my daily driver today (and is, by the way, a lovely machine, highly recommended).

    GJC

  8. djvrs

    What's the point

    We'll give you a slot to make upgrading easy, but don't use it... So what's the point?

    1. Geoff Campbell
      Boffin

      Re: What's the point

      Officially, for corporates and government departments, so they can keep their data secure when the machines get sent off for repair, or re-allocated to other departments.

      Unofficially, installing non-approved SSDs works just fine.

      GJC

      1. Lotaresco Silver badge

        Re: What's the point

        "Officially, for corporates and government departments, so they can keep their data secure when the machines get sent off for repair, or re-allocated to other departments."

        Officially according to whom? UK GOV does not trust third parties with their data and SSDs are regarded with great suspicion. Disk wiping is not approved for SSDs so the only permitted option is to remove the SSD and destroy it. The Surface Pro 7+ helps in that respect because it's now possible to remove the SSD and dispose of it securely, but it's not so much "keeping data secure" as "ensuring the data was destroyed".

        1. Geoff Campbell
          Boffin

          Re: What's the point

          Officially according to working procedures in every organisation I've worked with or in.

          It is exactly as you say. The SSD can be removed, so that the device can be sent off for repair without the danger of data leaking. Whether the SSD is then destroyed, or filed securely for re-fitting to another device for the same user, is largely irrelevant.

          That was, in fact, pretty much what I wrote, so why did you feel the need to argue, whilst re-stating the same position?

          It's instructive that the Surface Pro 7+ is only sold through the Surface for Business channel, don't you think?

          GJC

        2. Geoff Campbell
          Boffin

          Re: What's the point

          Oh, and also officially according to Microsoft, who make and sell the thing:

          "Removable SSD

          Maintain control of sensitive information with a removable solid-state drive for data retention."

          Ref: https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/p/surface-pro-7-for-business/8p43n3k93409

          GJC

  9. Blackjack Silver badge

    People are still going to do so anyway

    128 GB is what my laptop from 16 years ago had as a hard disk. It may not have been a fancy smancy faster Hard disk thing but it did work well.

    Plus is still Windows, a few edits and things will work more or less okay.

  10. FlamingDeath Silver badge

    Microsoft: “I like money”

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh...

    Well, who'd be stupid enough to buy a Surface machine in the first place, anyway?!!!

    Good luck to them with this festering pile of overheating, bug-ridden donkey poo.

  12. Potemkine! Silver badge

    We had too many problems with Surface 3 and Surface 4 to want to give a try to a Surface 7.

  13. aqk
    Windows

    The usual FUD.

    Microsoft learned well from IBM.

    The old mainframe days:

    We usually got this response when we decided to upgrade our huge (think washing-machine or refrigerator) IBM disk drives with a 3rd party clone,

    Which was always of course LESS-expensive, MORE reliable, and had EXCELLENT service.

    We just had to make sure that the Suits in senior management did not get wind of it. Mostly, they usually trusted our judgment. UNLESS- Unless a senior IBM guy asked one of OUR executives "out to lunch".

    Then we got 2nd guessed, and had to run with the inferior IBM product.

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