How To: Reset a Microsoft Surface RT back to Windows 8.0 after installing Windows 8.1 Preview

This post is an elaboration on the Microsoft Support Article Remove Windows 8.1 Preview from Surface.  I felt that this post was needed because of some confusing, missing and incorrect entries in the Microsoft article.

Like many folks, I decided to update my Surface RT to Windows 8.1 Preview the day it came out. The Surface is a new animal, so I wanted the ability to roll back to Windows 8.0 if it became necessary. To be honest, I generally run all Beta and RC versions of Microsoft Operating Systems on my day-to-day devices (laptop, tablet and Windows Phone) and put up with the hiccups so I didn’t expect to need to rollback.   

The Preview documentation says that you can RECOVER your device (wipe it back to 8.0 losing all data) if you create a Recovery USB Drive. I followed these direction to create my USB drive. 

Really, Really Important Stuff

NOTE: If you don’t have a Recovery USB drive prior to upgrading to Windows 8.1 Preview, you cannot reset back to Windows 8.0.  The Surface on-device recovery partition gets updated to Windows 8.1 Preview along with the main partition. Only the USB drive lets you go back.

NOTE 2: If you didn’t create a Recovery USB drive for your Surface you may still be able to get one after the fact.  You will need to create a Recovery drive on a friend, family member or co-worker’s device. Since the Recovery is a “wipe and reset” then any recovery drive should work.  Disclaimer: I haven’t had to do this, but I believe that it will work. Please take this into account if you decide to go this route.  The worst case scenario is that you brick your Surface. You have been warned.

NOTE 3: If you have upgraded your Surface RT device to Windows 8.1 Preview, you will be able to roll-forward to Windows 8.1 Release Candidate or full release when it becomes available. This action will preserve all of your settings and apps, it is non-destructive.

Why I Rolled-back

I had problems with some of the apps that I use regularly so I decided to wipe my device back to Windows 8.0.

Some of my problems included:

  • Scrolling in Rowi’s tweet list stuttered
  • I had 6 Windows Store Updates that would fail to install. when I marked them to be skipped they reappeared as updates when I rebooted.
  • The Kindle app would no longer keep track of the farthest page read , but would return to page 1 when opening a book.
  • The Mail app would randomly stop connecting to my Office365 email account after adding the account to Outlook RT.

With that said, I will probably reinstall the 8.1 Preview once I hear that the scrolling issues are fixed. I can deal with the rest or work around them fairly easily.

What I Did

I performed searches all over Google, Bing and the Microsoft Support Forums looking for the steps to reset my Surface. I was unsuccessful until this evening when I came across a Microsoft Support Article (linked at top).

As I was going through the steps I noticed some discrepancies, so I figured I’d document my steps in case anyone else comes across this.  I’m copying in the steps from the Microsoft article and adding my own comments as sub-bullet points.

Reset Surface from a USB recovery drive

  1. Open the Settings charm, tap or click Power, and then tap or click Shut down. (Or, tap or click the Power icon in the lower-right corner of the sign-in screen.)
  2. Attach the USB recovery drive to Surface.
  3. Hold the volume-down (-) rocker.
  4. Press and release the power button.
  5. When the Surface logo appears, release the volume rocker.
  6. Choose your language options.
  7. Choose your keyboard layout.
  8. From the BitLocker screen, tap or click Skip This Drive.
    • The keyboard might appear so tap the non-text area of the screen to dismiss it so you can see the Skip This Drive link.
  9. Tap or click Troubleshoot.
  10. Tap or click Reset your PC.
  11. Tap or click Next.
    • This is actually a button that says “Windows 8.1 Preview”. This kinda threw me. Select this button, it will give you Windows 8.0. You will have to wait a bit for the next screen to appear.
  12. Surface Pro only: Tap or click No, keep the existing partitions.
    • I saw this on my Surface RT. I selected “No” like this says.
  13. Tap or click Just remove my files.
  14. When Surface displays All ready to go, tap or click Reset.
    • This message never displayed. After Step 13, it went ahead and started the restore.

Surface will reset back to factory settings.


If this is helpful, if I’ve messed any steps up or if you see something different, please leave a comment below.