The Surface Pro 3 can be a troublesome beast, but these tips can tame it

Tyler Lacoma
The Surface Pro 3 can be a troublesome beast, but these tips can tame it
Having some problems with your Surface Pro 3? Suffering the dreaded blue screen of death? This guide will help you solve the most common problems, with the most reliable solutions.

The Surface Pro 3 remains a popular choice for many professionals who need a basic laptop-tablet hybrid that can handle all the necessary Windows/Office software. It’s easy to tote around, less expensive than the Pro 4, and has specs powerful enough to handle most business tasks. However, the Pro 3 still has its issues, especially if it’s been a while since you downloaded all the latest firmware updates.

If your Pro 3 suddenly stopped working, developed battery issues, or had another problem, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve collected all the most common Surface Pro 3 issues here, and offered the solutions that get the best results. Take a look and troubleshoot your Pro 3 until it’s better again!

Note: Where applicable, we’re assuming you have upgraded to Windows 10 with these solutions. Updating your Surface Pro 3 is always a good idea, including the full upgrade to 10—updates often include fixes for previous bugs.

Read: Microsoft Surface Pro 3 review

Next problem: My battery is dying and refusing to recharge properly

Problem: My battery is dying and refusing to recharge properly

Is your battery life getting shorter and shorter all the time? Does it suddenly force your Pro 3 to shut down—or maybe it’s stopped charging at all? This has been a very common problem for the Surface Pro 3. It’s disruptive to your work, but there are some effective solutions out there.

Potential solutions:

  • Update your firmware. In 2015, Pro 3s began to develop a bug where the battery’s power level was no longer accurately measured and the laptop couldn’t tell when the battery reached full capacity. As a result, battery levels kept getting lower and lower and eventually useless – customers were understandably irate. In early 2016 Microsoft released a firmware update to take care of this problem. If it has been a while since you updated your computer, this firmware update should fix the problem. In fact, it’s a good idea to download any firmware updates you find available, since they usually contain important fixes.

Next problem: I’m getting the blue screen of death!

Problem: I’m getting the blue screen of death!

No one wants the blue screen of death. This infamous name typically describes a total shutdown of the operating system, with the very real danger that some of your data has been lost. This is another problem that Surface Pro 3 laptops have had, especially in the past year. Fortunately, the situation may not be that dire.

Potential solutions:

  • Roll back updates. Sometimes a firmware update comes with problems. An infamous example of this was a firmware update that installed the wrong Surface Pen settings onto Pro 3s, which caused a system failure. Fortunately, such firmware bugs can usually be fixed. First restart your Pro 3 (you may have to go into Safe Mode if the problem is serious). Use the search box to search for and open Update & Security. When this window opens, go to the Recovery tab and choose Get Started under “Go back to an earlier build.” This allows you to pick a build before your damaging update. It’s a good idea to keep your automatic updates turned on, however. The next automatic update is likely to be a fix pushed forward by Microsoft to deal with the problem.

Next problem: My update won’t install

Problem: My update won’t install

This occurs when you try to download an update or when your computer automatically begins an update, but then something goes wrong. Your Pro 3 may shut down, give you an error message, or freeze up. Whatever the symptom, your update has messed up your laptop.

Potential solutions:

  • Run the Windows Update Troubleshooter. This is a tool that scans your Pro 3 for update problems and tries to fix them: It’s always a good first step. Simply go to this web page and click on “Download and run the Windows Update Troubleshooter.” The rest should be mostly automatic.
  • Check your date and time. If an update creates errors, a common source of the problem is the wrong date/time settings. Go to the Start menu and access your Settings. From here, go to Time & language. Make sure that the Set time automatically option is set to Off for the time being, then go to Change date and time. Select the right date and time for your time zone. Then reboot and see if the update works.
  • Make sure your Surface battery is fully charged. If your Pro 3 battery loses a charge quickly or is below 40 percent, it may shut off and disrupt your update. Plug your Surface in before updating, or at least make sure you have a full charge.

Next problem: The Pro 3 feels like it’s overheating and sometimes shuts down

Problem: The Pro 3 feels like it’s overheating and sometimes shuts down

If your Surface Pro 3 seems to get increasingly hot before suddenly shutting down, you need to find a solution before it permanently damages your laptop! Surface Pro 3 laptops have been known to suffer from this problem, but there is something you can do.

Potential solutions:

  • Update your firmware. This overheating is a known issue with Surface Pro 3 models, but making sure all the firmware is updated can often help out. Firmware updates can change how software runs and make take some of the stress of your system, allowing it to cool down – literally.
  • Test your browsers. Some browsers may cause worse overheating than others. If switching from Edge to Chrome stops overheating, you may want to consider it.
  • Make sure the Windows Module Installer Worker is set to automatic. Basically, the Windows Module tools are there to help install updates, but they hog an incredible amount of processing power and can easily overheat your laptop—and they don’t always turn off when they should. Type in “Run” in the search box to open the Run command window. Type “msc” and press the Enter key. Right click on the Windows Modules Install service to view your options, and select Properties from the drop-down. Make sure that the startup type is set to Automatic in the next drop-down. Apply the changes, click Ok, and restart your Pro 3. Some people like turning off the Module Installer altogether, but this prevents you from installing future updates.

Next problem: My Wi-Fi isn’t connecting or drops its connection all the time

Problem: My Wi-Fi isn’t connecting or drops its connection all the time

This is annoying no matter what device it happens on. However, if you’re experiencing Wi-Fi problems much more often with your Pro 3, there may be something wrong with your laptop. It’s time to do some troubleshooting.

Potential solutions:

  • Use a wired connection for updates. The Pro 3 has been known to develop bugs that prevent a stable Wi-Fi connection—or any wireless connection, for that matter. An effective solution is to hook your computer up to the internet via Ethernet cable and download any available updates. Firmware updates can often fix Wi-Fi issues that may be present.
  • Check your date and time. We know it sounds odd, but the wrong date and time can also mess with your Pro 3 Wi-Fi. Go to the Start menu and access your Settings. From here, go to Time & language. Make sure that the Set time automatically option is set to Off for the time being, then go to Change date and time. Select the right date and time for your time zone. Then reboot and see if the update works.
  • Try a Command Prompt. This fix is a bit uncertain, but it’s worth a try if you currently have a version of Windows 10 with a Wi-Fi bug. Search for or open the Command Prompt. Then, type in (without quotes) “reg delete HKCRCLSID{988248f3-a1ad-49bf-9170-676cbbc36ba3} /va /f” and then hit the enter key. If an error pops up, this won’t work. If the command works, it removes a faulty registery key and should help you connect to Wi-Fi again.

Next problem: My Pro 3 is having trouble waking up from sleep mode

Problem: My Pro 3 is having trouble waking up from sleep mode

Another problem that plagues Pro 3 laptops is weird sleep mode behavior. Is your Pro 3 taking an extra long time to wake up from sleep mode? Does it sometimes flip into sleep mode for no good reason? Did this happen soon after you downloaded an update? It’s time make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Potential solutions:

  • Do a full reboot. Unfortunately, this is another problem that occasionally plagues the Pro 3 in particular after poor updates or other problems. You can usually get your laptop to wake up by performing a full shutdown and reboot, manually. First, press and hold the power button for a full 30 seconds – yes, it has to be for the whole time. Then simultaneously press and hold the volume up key and the power button for a full 15 seconds. Wait at least 10 seconds. Then press and release the power button once. This should turn your Pro 3 back on normally. Make sure you have all updates installed to help prevent this problem.

Next problem: My Pro 3 won’t turn on at all

Problem: My Pro 3 won’t turn on at all

If your Pro 3 is stuck in limbo, you may have a problem with either your battery life, your sleep mode, or your power. A few simple troubleshooting steps can usually narrow down the problem and show what needs to be done.

Potential solutions:

  • Make sure there’s no connection damage. Sometimes the problem is that your battery won’t charge. Check your battery cable, power port, and connectors to make sure there is no damage and that the charge cable can be fully inserted.
  • Try the two-button shutdown. This is the same fix that works to help wake up the Pro 3 from sleep mode. First, press and hold the power button for a full 30 seconds – yes, it has to be for the whole time. Then simultaneously press and hold the volume up key and the power button for a full 15 seconds. Wait at least 10 seconds. Then press and release the power button once. This should turn your Pro 3 back on normally.

Next problem: My Surface Pen stops working all the time

Problem: My Surface Pen stops working all the time

If you’re a fan of the Surface Pen and regularly use it on the Pro 3, you may run into periods where it stops working entirely or doesn’t really function as it used to. Don’t go out and buy a new one yet! First, try these repair steps to see if you can get it working again.

Potential solutions:

  • Reconnect your Pen. Sometimes the Bluetooth pairing on your pen can get messed up. Fix the problem by resetting the connection. Go to Settings, choose Change PC Settings, and head over to PC and devices. Choose Bluetooth (make sure that it’s turned on), and then under the list of connected devices, look for your Surface Pen. It should not be there – if it is, select the Pen and tell your Pro 3 to Remove the device. Then hold down the top button (purple) on your Pen for several seconds until you see a green light flashing. This is your Pen trying to reconnect. If it does, it will pop back up on the Bluetooth list. Select it, tell your Pro 3 to Pair with the Pen, and this should help fix your problems.
  • Replace your battery. Yes, your Surface Pen has a battery – an AAAA battery, to be precise. If you’ve been using the Pen for a while, the battery may have died. Unscrew the top of the pen, take out the old battery, and take it into an electronics store. Buy the same type of replacement battery and see if your Pen has a new lease on life.

Next problem: The touchscreen is non-responsive or glitchy

Problem: The touchscreen is non-responsive or glitchy

For this problem, the touchscreen either stops responding entirely, or registers your fingers all over the screen so that you can’t put in a proper command. It’s annoying, but there are a few fixes you can try to make it better.

Potential solutions:

  • Clean your screen. Yes, a dirty screen can hinder touch capabilities. Start with the basics and clean the screen first!
  • Reset calibrations. Press the Windows logo key, and type Calibrate. Select the calibrate option with the arrow keys or a mouse, and hit enter. Using the tab key, shift the highlight until you reach Reset. Choose it, then choose Yes, and then follow the instructions. When finished, see if the touchscreen works properly.
  • Reinstall the driver. Search for and enter the Device Manager using your search box (plus the arrow and tab keys). Head to Human Interface Devices, choose HID-compliant touch screen, and uninstall the driver for that device (along with any other drivers associated with the touchscreen in this section). Restart your Pro 3, and wait for it to automatically re-download the drivers.

Next problem: My audio stopped working

Problem: My audio stopped working

Has your audio given up the ghost entirely? Are your speakers unresponsive? This problem may be related to your drivers or settings.

Potential solutions:

  • Check connections and speakers: Look for obvious signs of blockage or damage first. Try a different pair of speakers, to rule out the possibility that it’s the speakers, not the Surface Pro 3.
  • Install any updates. Audio drivers can be pretty sensitive to updates. They may stop working if updates fall behind, so make sure you download any remaining updates and set your updates to automatic to avoid future problems.
  • Set everything to default. Type “Control Panel” into the search box and select the control panel option to open the window. Go to Hardware and Sound, and select Sound. Visit the Playback tab, select the sound option that you are using (the built in speakers work fine for a test run), and then select Set Default and confirm. If your settings went a little screwy, this should fix the problem.
  • Run a troubleshooter. Head to this web page and look for the option, a couple links down the list, that says, “Find and fix problems playing sounds.” Clicking this link will launch a troubleshooter that will check your audio drivers and other possible issues, and offer potential fixes.

Next problem: My type cover isn’t working anymore

Problem: My type cover isn’t working anymore

The Pro 3 type covers tend to be durable little keyboards. If yours has stopped working, you may be able to get it back into shape.

Potential solutions:

  • Check for updates. Yes, the type cover is susceptible to updates as well. Make sure all your updates have been installed.
  • The cover connection to the Surface laptop should have several small circular contacts in the middle. Wash and dry these carefully, and see if this helps fix the problem. Make sure the contacts are completely dry before re-connecting.
  • Use the two-button shutdown. Sometimes the type cover needs a kick to get started. First, press and hold the power button for a full 30 seconds – yes, it has to be for the whole time. Then simultaneously press and hold the volume up key and the power button for a full 15 seconds. Wait at least 10 seconds. Then press and release the power button once. This should turn your Pro 3 back on normally.