In this corner we have a Microsoft Surface Pro that needs to have a full client restore. In that corner we have Microsoft’s own Windows Server 2012 Essentials that contains said full client backup. Let’s get ready to rumble! ™ (I hope I don’t owe Michael Buffer money for using his trademark. He’s made over $400 million from it!) For what would seem like a simple task of restoring a full back up to a new Surface Pro nearly put me down for the count. Given the body blows I went through I wanted to save someone else the pain and show you how I got it to work. I happened to be restoring a Surface Pro here but these steps will apply to anyone trying to restore any modern computer that does not have an Ethernet port.

When I read through the Server 2012 Essentials documentation for performing a full client restore, a big note in the middle of the page gave me reason to bob:

“Windows PE does not support wireless connections. Because of this, the computer being restored must be physically connected to the small business network.”

That’s a solid upper cut to the jaw because a Surface Pro is a wireless only machine. The recovery software is Windows PE, a very limited version of Windows that’s designed for setup and recovery. There’s no support in Windows PE for joining networks and entering passwords so if there’s not a wired connection you are not restoring that Surface Pro and your corner is throwing in the towel.

My thought was all I needed was get a USB Ethernet NIC. That way I’d have the wired access and I’d be good to go. This step turned out to be harder than I expected. I had an Apple USB Ethernet unit but no amount of messing around with this tomato can got it to work. My neighbor happened to have a no-name USB Ethernet unit, which I could see was an ASIX under the hood, but I couldn’t get that glass jaw working either. I suspect the vendor had changed the names or versions in the driver .CAT files I downloaded directly from ASIX. What I needed was a model of USB Ethernet where the manufacturer supplied the drivers so there was an exact match. That led me to the USB 3.0 to Gigabit Ethernet NIC Network Adapter on Amazon; my Brown Bomber. Looking at the StarTech site, I found the driver .ZIP and the .SYS, .INF, and .CAT files were loose and not packaged in a SETUP.EXE or .MSI. That is super important because Windows PE cannot run setups, only the .CAT/.INF driver installs. (Here’s the direct download link to the drivers I used). I looked at several other USB Ethernet vendors, but they had full installers.

Here’s the hardware equipment you are going to need:

· Your Surface Pro to restore

· The USB 3.0 to Gigabit Ethernet NIC

· A network cable to your router

· A bootable USB drive

· A POWERED USB hub (It’s got to be powered to boot from. I used an old Staples hub I had in sitting in a closet.)

On your Windows Server 2012 Essentials computer, create the bootable USB drive following the instructions on this page. Open the downloaded driver .ZIP file in Windows Explorer and navigate to the “WindowsWindows 8 32bit & 64bitprogram filesASIX Electronics Corporation” folder. Copy the “AX88179_AX88178A Windows 8 Drivers” folder to the root directory on the USB drive. If your USB drive is G: you should have “G:AX88179_AX88178A Windows 8 Drivers” on it at this point.

Plug both the USB drive and the USB Ethernet into your powered USB hub and plug the hub into the Surface Pro. With the Surface Pro turned completely off, hold down the volume down button before pressing the power button. You’ll see the “Loading files…” text indicating you are booting off the USB drive. If you don’t see the Initializing Restore Media dialog a minute or two later, the machine did not boot off the USB drive. Try this step again.

In the Full System Restore Wizard, select your language and keyboard of choice and click the Continue button. The next dialog is the important one so click the Load drivers button on the bottom. In the Detect Hardware dialog, click the Install drivers… button and in the next dialog, click Scan. When finished scanning, click the Close button. Verify that you see in the Network drivers list box “ASIX AX88179 USB 3.0 to Gigabit Ethernet Adapter”. Before touching any button look at the end of the USB Ethernet and make sure the network lights are turned on. If they are not on, the driver didn’t load.

If everything’s good, click the Continue button on the Detect Hardware dialog. The Full System Restore Wizard starts so click the Next button to get to the step where it searches for your Windows Essential 2012 Server. You should see your server in the drop down. From this point forward it’s just like normal restore as discussed in the documentation.

There we have a knock out and a restored Surface Pro. Thanks for letting work in all those boxing terms. I needed something to do as I rope a doped sitting around waiting for this restore to complete.