You can only upgrade the SSDs
On Wednesday, Microsoft announced a ton of new Surface devices, but one thing you might have missed is that a couple of them are upgradable. Most Surface devices haven’t been easy to upgrade or fix, scoring rather poorly on iFixit’s repairability scale. For example, the Surface Pro 6 got a one, and the Surface Laptop 2 got a zero. However, Microsoft is trying to make things better in the repairability department with the new Surface Pro X and Surface Laptop 3 by making their SSDs upgradable and easier to access — but that’s about as far as Microsoft’s effort goes.
On the Surface Pro X, the SSD is hidden behind the kickstand, where there’s a small plate you can pop off using a SIM ejector tool. Under that plate you’ll find an M.2 SSD, which, it seems, you can unscrew and take out yourself. Microsoft tells us it’s an M.2 2230 SSD, which is smaller than most M.2 SSDs, and not super easy to come by — we couldn’t find a single one on Amazon or Newegg, for example.
Watch my colleague Tom Warren quickly get to the SSD in the video below:
Microsoft says that the hard drive is “not user removable” and should be replaced by a trained Microsoft technician. But if you really want to try to make the swap yourself, it seems like you might be able to — just don’t forget to have the right Torx screwdriver handy and a way to load Windows onto your new SSD, once you’ve managed to actually buy one that’s compatible.
The Surface Laptop 3 also seems to have an easier way to get into the device — but it appears to be more complicated than the plate on the Surface Pro X. Onstage at Microsoft’s event, Surface boss Panos Panay demonstrated how, with the right tools, it’s possible to remove the entire top plate of the Surface Laptop 3 to get at all of the computer’s internals:
But like with the Surface Pro X, it turns out that only the SSD is replaceable and should only be fixed by trained Microsoft technicians. Microsoft told The Verge that the RAM is not replaceable or upgradable at all.
Even though the ability to upgrade the devices is limited, it’s still a big step forward, iFixit CEO Kyle Wiens tells The Verge. “It’s such a huge change for Microsoft’s product line across the board,” he says, calling the previous Surface Laptop “flat out the worst laptop we’ve ever disassembled.” (That was the one that got the repairability score of zero.) He says that Microsoft making the Surfaces more upgradable is “signaling a significant change in intent behind the product, and, I think, a really positive direction.”
By making its new devices even a little bit easier to upgrade, Microsoft also seems to be taking shots at Apple, which has never let you upgrade the memory chips of an iPad and been making it more and more difficult in its laptops, too, first by moving to what originally seemed like a proprietary SSD and later simply soldering the chips to the board. Nowadays, if you want more memory or storage in an Apple product, you have to pay a premium when you first buy the device, though SSD storage on Apple laptops is cheaper than it used to be.
Microsoft’s repairability options pale in comparison to some of its Windows competitors, where laptops like the Dell XPS 15 let you change out the RAM, SSD, battery, and more just by unscrewing the bottom panel. But we’ll take what we can get.