Earlier this week, we were tipped to a page on Microsoft's Surface website claiming that the official Surface Ethernet adapter could finally work on the Surface and Surface 2 tablets if they used Windows RT 8.1. Unfortunately, Microsoft later told us the information on that page was incorrect and removed that statement from the site.
As it turns out, there is in fact a way to enable the Surface Ethernet adapter but it's a tad complicated and could lead to some issues down the road. It's described in a blog post from Paul Deane, who found that Windows RT 8.1 now supports the Realtek USB FE Family Controller driver and the Surface Ethernet adapter happens to have a Realtek chip inside.
If you really want to use this add-on with your Surface or Surface 2, again with Windows RT 8.1 installed, here is how you proceed, according to Deane:
- Plug in the Surface Ethernet Adapter, and then wait for the installation to fail.
- Open Device Manager, and then under Network Adapters right click on the Ethernet Adapter, which Deane says should have a yellow exclamation mark.
- Choose "update driver", then select "Browse my computer for driver software" and then click “Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer”.
- Deane says if that doesn’t take users directly to Network Adapters, they can choose it from the list.
- In the left pane Realtek should be visible; highlight it and there should only be one option in the right pane for the Realtek USB FE Family Controller. Deane says to click Select and next.
- Finally, Deane says if the OS warns users about compatibility they should just accept it.
While that procedure should work, Paul Thurrott at Winsupersite does offer a warning that enabling the Surface Ethernet adapter via this unofficial method could cause some problems with the Surface and Surface 2, possibly cutting down the battery life on the tablets. Hopefully, Microsoft is working on an official update for Windows RT 8.1 that will allow the adapter to work automatically with no problems.