Microsoft Surface Pro X webcams quit working last week—flawed workaround issued

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surface pro x 2 760x380.jpg
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Surface Pro X
Enlarge / The Microsoft Surface Pro X.

Jeff Dunn

Microsoft has issued a workaround for broken Surface Pro X cameras following user reports that the integrated webcams stopped working on May 23. The tech giant says it’s working with OEM partners to fix the problem permanently.

Microsoft debuted the Surface Pro X in 2019. The tablet, focusing on battery life and mobility, opted for a Microsoft-branded SQ1 processor, based off Qualcomm’s first-generation Snapdragon 8cx. An SQ2 version succeeded. In October 2022, Microsoft announced the Surface Pro 9, which includes Arm options and, thus, essentially absorbs the Surface Pro X.

But there are still plenty of people with a Surface Pro X (Microsoft doesn’t disclose Surface sales numbers specifically, but the Surface business overall brought in $6.7 billion in revenue last fiscal year), and as of May 23, all of their built-in webcams stopped working.

The complaints are detailed on Microsoft support forums and on Reddit, with some saying the bug started after a recent update. The Verge also said it confirmed the issue on a unit.

The problem broke the cameras and showed an “0xA00F4271 (0x80004005)” error if people tried using the Camera app. According to Microsoft, affected devices use the Qualcomm 8cx Gen 1, Qualcomm 8cx Gen 2, Microsoft SQ1, or Microsoft SQ2.

“Spent hours on chat and on the phone with Microsoft technical support these past 3 days. Clueless. I did a factory reset. I wasted hours to find out it is not my new computer bought a couple of days ago but all of them. Relieved and upset at the same time for the complete waste of time,” a user wrote on Reddit.

Windows on Arm already has its challenges, like performance and a lack of native apps. Problems with a feature as basic and essential as a webcam risk damaging Windows on Arm’s reputation further. As The Verge noted, the cameras stopped working last week during Microsoft’s Build conference, where Microsoft encouraged Windows on Arm developers to build AI experiences.

“This whole incident, sadly, reinforces my belief that love for Windows on ARM is lacking at Microsoft. I look forward to being proven wrong in the future,” one user wrote on a 14-page thread discussing the problem on Microsoft’s support forum.

We asked Microsoft about the specific cause of the problem, but a spokesperson only referred us to the company’s support note.

However, Forbes last week reported that a Microsoft support agent told a Surface Pro X user that “the issue is due to an update, which our team are currently working on resolving.”

And some users reported getting their cameras functioning by pushing the system date back to May 22. However, that workaround came with its own problems, like logging in to online services.

“Qualcomm’s camera driver for these particular devices appears to be faulty, resulting in the camera refusing to work after the system date hits May 23rd, 2023,” The Verge reported today.

Microsoft’s support note detailing a temporary fix says that a final fix is dependent on Microsoft’s work with OEMs and “driver partners to resolve this issue with a driver update.”

Workaround issued

As spotted by The Verge today, Microsoft issued a support note and temporary fix for the Surface Pro X bug on May 26. It, too, has drawbacks, per Microsoft’s support note:

This workaround might disable some features of the camera or lower the image quality but should allow the camera to function until the issue is resolved by the device manufacturer with an updated camera driver. An updated driver should restore full camera functionality and the workaround should not need to be undone.

We asked Microsoft about how image quality may suffer specifically but was referred to its support note. One person on Microsoft’s support forum claims the update resulted in their camera working unless it’s being used outside of Teams or Zoom, in which case, it’s “in slow motion.” However, many have claimed the update worked sufficiently.

It’s unclear when Microsoft will issue a permanent fix for the Surface Pro X cameras. But with the problem starting a week ago, sooner is much better than later.

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