Windows 10 stability is going downhill, and not even Surfaces are spared

Surface Book 3 Top Vent Buttons
Surface Book 3 Top Vent Buttons (Image credit: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

For years, the lead running joke about the Windows OS is instability, errors, crashes, and bugs. You do not need to look any further than the "BSoD" (Blue Screen of Death) meme. But to be fair to Microsoft, Windows 10 is certainly more stable and resilient than previous iterations. I cannot recall the number of times I had to reinstall Windows 95 (all 21 floppy disks!) as a teenager because a single file was corrupted.

But even to me, Windows 10's stability seems to be getting worse, not better over time. I hate resorting to anecdotal experience, but I also don't think I'm alone either, going by feedback from others. The entire Surface reddit is effectively one, long troubleshooting thread these days.

For me, the issue has been two-fold. A few weeks ago, the HP OMEN Obelisk I've been using suddenly got a "Green Screen of Death" (GSOD) on the Release Preview ring. From there, the computer went into a reboot loop. Only reinstalling Windows 10 solved the issue.

While I'm not privy to the exact error, it was a conflict between HP's software and Windows 10 not playing nice. Such a catastrophic loss is rare, and it's also the first I've experienced in years of using production Windows 10 or even testing Insider builds. It still sucked.

Gsod Prox

Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Rubino / Windows Central)

Another instance happened just this week. Surface Pro X (Release Preview) started to receive new firmware. However, the update, which requires a soft reset, never actually installs. Instead, the update stays there asking you to reset the PC. While that is annoying, the couple GSODs that our news editor, Dan Thorp-Lancaster, and I have started to experience since this bug is far worse.

Surface Book 3 still has had screen-disconnect errors and audio static during screen separation. And this is on Microsoft's own hardware. Lenovo, too, is having problems with Windows. What gives?

The Windows 10 May 2020 Update, itself seemingly delayed for quality control, doesn't seem to be much better either going by this collection.

As the head reviewer of PCs and laptops, a lot of hardware crosses my desk weekly. While I have my own personal systems that I use (see above), about half my time is spent with "new" Windows 10 experiences with brand new hardware. That biases me towards a rosier view of using a single build of Windows for years without a clean reinstall.

But features like the Night Light, which I adore, is completely unreliable on many of my PCs – new or old. I have to go back to f.lux to have something that works. And things like audio management and Bluetooth (which itself is already a mess), are still a confusing mess.

None of this is even touching the ongoing complaints about the lack of innovation around OS design, or slowly deteriorating experiences like the Microsoft Store. Apple's recent announcement around macOS Big Sur really does make Microsoft look old and slow.

As to the stability challenge, I won't begrudge the task of making an OS for a billion computers all running different hardware – Apple doesn't have that problem, especially with less than 10 percent of the PC market. But when even I start complaining about Windows, well, you know there is probably trouble somewhere. Windows 10X, with its more straightforward OS, may be a fresh start for Microsoft, but we're still way out before that is a reality.

Sure, all eyes are on Panos Panay, who now oversees the Windows client, and how he and his team will improve things. There is optimism there, and I think that team has an eye on detail that has been sorely missing, but I'm not sure it will be enough to right this ship. Time will tell.

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central. He is also the head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007, when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and watches. He has been reviewing laptops since 2015 and is particularly fond of 2-in-1 convertibles, ARM processors, new form factors, and thin-and-light PCs. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.