Quick Fix for when your Surface won’t turn on

What to do when your Microsoft Surface won’t turn on

Surface Pro not turning on battery charger icon

Surface Pro battery charge icon

When your Surface won’t turn on, it is likely to be power problems. It’s happened several times that my wife’s or my Surface won’t turn on. I know from experience that when it first happens the feeling one has is FEAR! Fear that something is seriously wrong. I have found how to fix this so that doesn’t need to be the reaction. Keep calm and read on below to learn what to do.


Yes it’s happened to me that my Surface won’t turn on, but I know what to do now and I can help you too. I have several tips that others won’t think about unless they have genuine experience with this issue.

I am sure of a high success rate because it has happened to me once and to my wife’s Surface Pro on for I’d say more than three separate occasions. So we’ve encountered it quite a few times.

Due to the nature of the problem and some research, plus through personal experience I can say for 90% or more of the time there is a straight forward cause. The first solution below should fix it. Keep reading further below if the first method doesn’t work for you.

Symptoms of this problem

surface wont turn on or cant blank screen

My Surface Pro shown with a blank screen. Yes it is a worry when it still looks like this after pressing the power button.

You press the start button (and after waiting you try again) but it looks like it won’t start because you see/hear:

  • A Blank Screen (the Surface screen not turning on)
  • No sound from within or other sign of life when you press the power button in the normal way
  • The light comes on when you attach the power supply but your Surface won’t turn on immediately after
  • Your device does not seem to use power

The quick fix procedure below can work for the following cases of Microsoft Surface not turning on:

  • Surface Pro 3 not turning on
  • Surface Pro 4 not turning on
  • and, Surface Book will not turn on

Some aspects may also be relevant if you have a Surface Laptop or Surface studio, but my experience is mainly based on when my wife’s or my Surface Pro won’t turn on, and then further research from there.

Quick fix

You will not believe me. My wife did not believe me either. I understand why. Of course you will not believe it if you are certain your Surface Pro should be charged. However it works! (See why it works further below.)

I assure you the first thing to do is ASSUME the battery is too flat to start!

When you are ready to argue, stop there if you can, and continue…

If your Surface Pro 3 or 4 is not plugged in, then plug it in. Use the original Microsoft charger and cables only, if you can.

Check everything in the connections to and from the power supply.

Make sure the power supply charging light is ON (at the end of the Surface charger cable or docking station).

surface wont turn on charger on or off

If the light is not on then:

  • check all connections again.
  • then try wiggling the cable connections at each point. I had a cable that had an intermittent loose connection or broken wire within the cable near the power supply adjacent the connector.
  • TIP: Your power supply additionally has a USB charging connection. You can use this to help do this test. You should attach another device (such as a phone) that beeps when you turn on the power. This other device creates an audible signal when you remake the power. If you hear multiple beeps when you wiggle the cable at a point, then you know you have an intermittent connection.
    • This saves you some difficulty while bending down and wiggling cables. The advantage is you do not have to contort yourself to see the light at the Surface Pro not turning on at all (or only turning on momentarily). This will help provided the cable problem is closer to the power supply than the USB in the Surface Pro charger.

Leave your Surface Pro plugged in and charging for at least 5 minutes minimum. Preferably 20 minutes or more.

I read online someone suggested charging it to at least 40%.

However how do you know when it is charged to at least 40% when you can’t turn it on?! Nonetheless the idea is clear. You want to make sure it is well past a very low charged state.

Okay do it and come back when you have done that (this page will still be here).

Note: you might see a battery icon come up on the screen – that is a good sign! Do not worry if it does not though.

Now press the start button again to restart your Surface Pro. surface wont turn on start

  • If it works, you have done it and you can share this fix to your friends and colleagues with a Surface Pro!
  • If not then read on further below for other fixes.

Why it Works and Why your Surface Won’t Turn On

You can easily see when a Surface Pro is running low on battery power.

Look to the bottom right of screen (on the task bar).

At low charge, the icon looks like this (circled): surface pro not turning on battery charge warning

It is easy when you are using your machine, that is. To get this low while using your Surface, you will have seen a warning like the following.

surface pro wont turn on batterylow

So with these great indications thanks to Microsoft, you would think you have a good idea about when the battery will be running low well before it runs out of charge, am I right? WRONG!

Well, not that wrong most of the time. However the problem cause as described below could catch you out.

What you might not realize:

New owners of a Surface Pro 3 or Surface Pro 4 do not realize that when in sleep mode, your Surface continues to use WiFi and connect to the internet.

This allows it to perform various functions like downloading updates from Microsoft that Windows will install later when your Surface is running.  [Editor’s note: I am not sure this is still the case. We will cover other causes of continued battery usage in the next related article.]

Sleep mode is generally a very low power mode. However if your Surface Pro is still using a lot of power in sleep mode it can totally drain the battery.

There are times when the Surface Pro battery can go flat while the user is not watching the screen.

We think at first, since we have not touched it and last time we looked when there was still plenty of power indicated. Naturally we are surprised and think ‘my Surface won’t turn on’ when the start button is pressed.

However, your Surface won’t turn on when the battery is dead. It can’t!

Be wary of your charger and cables

Some people end up with non-Micosoft charger and/or cables. Be aware that there can be instances where these cause problems for your battery to charge properly. In this case, if you were using your Surface, you might observe it draining the battery even if plugged in.

Best thing you can do is turn and refit the cables, and check you have the right Microsoft charger for your particular Surface.

Notes and Tips:

Note: You might think that your surface pro should start the instant that you connect the power, even if the battery is flat. This is not the case. I believe there is a prioritized hierarchy and there must be a minimum battery charge before anything else will function.

TIP: Leave the surface charger connected for a few minutes before you make a judgement that your Surface has sufficient battery to start.

Okay, now onto some other solutions in case your Surface won’t turn on still.

Still can’t turn on Surface Pro 3 or Surface Pro 4?

If your Surface cannot turn on still, make sure you have tried all the suggestions in this article. I can understand you will be worried, but I suggest maybe take a break and then come back so you can think clearly. Then really you can work through all the ideas and things to try as set out above.

When you have rechecked, look for our next related article, which will cover more of the potential things that can go wrong and how to fix them in a longer and more detailed article.

Now onto Surface Book problems of a similar nature.

What to do when your Surface Book will not turn on

If you have a Microsoft Surface Book that won’t turn on, make sure you try all the above. If it still won’t turn on, disconnect and clean all the connectors.

To do this use an eraser or the eraser end of a pencil, then if you have alcohol for cleaning (AKA rubbing alcohol) you can dip a cotton bud and rub it along the pins.

Let it dry (this won’t take long).

Reattach everything and then return to the above steps. If your Surface Book won’t turn on immediately, then give it time to be charged before testing it again.

Summary of Fix for when your Surface won’t turn on

When a client’s or your Microsoft Surface is not turning on you can suspect power problems. You can use the above brief steps as an initial test to fix it. I will provide more detailed actions, photos and more tips in my next related article for you to follow in more detail or if these do not solve the problem. Please let me know of any experiences or further tips you have had in the comments below.

About The Author

Jeff

Jeff (Surname withheld for family privacy) BE. first learned to program in Fortran 77. Most of you will not have heard of that. "Ahh, correction; the very first time I wrote a program it was copied from a book from the school's library into the school's only computer at the time (an early Apple), to make a game using ASCII characters to make a little skier racing down the ski slope and you had to avoid hitting trees!" But it goes to show how old he is! An engineer for over 25 years, as he became more experienced, Jeff was required to review other engineers' work and naturally gravitated to teaching and mentoring others. Jeff grew up and went to college/university before social media could capture it all, he'd prefer to keep it that way now too, for his own and family's privacy. He consciously avoids 'sharenting' too (sharing one's kids photos and life before they determine what they want for themselves). "I don't feel the need to promote myself after a career of more than 26 years. I've done just fine without a Linkedin profile so far, I don't want to start one now...".

8 Comments

  • Praveen

    Reply Reply October 19, 2017

    Nice fix buddy.

  • Jeff

    Reply Reply October 19, 2017

    Thanks! I’m glad you like it! 🙂

  • Uday

    Reply Reply March 12, 2018

    Well Done!

    It worked for me after charging for more than one hour.

    Battery must have been completely flat.

    Good show, thanks for sharing!

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply March 12, 2018

      Very happy to have helped Uday.

      Yes sometimes it is as simple as the battery being completely flat and this method helps to make sure your charger is set up correctly so your battery can be sufficiently recharged.

      Well done to you for having the patience for charging the battery for an hour to make it start after!

      Please share with your friends/colleagues!

  • Oppfinnar Jocke

    Reply Reply March 17, 2018

    So if the battery is at 0%, the Surface wont start even when it is plugged in? This is so bad design it baffles me how this passed by any rudimentary kind of quality control. But then… why should I be surprised? Put in a USB 3 stick and the 2.4 GHz wifi gets wonky due to interference with the USB. Or hibernate you Surface in portrait tablet mode, then attach the keyboard cover and start it up again; you have to detach the keyboard cover to be able to get back to landscape mode. There’s so many bad design decisions with this device (at least my Surface Pro 3, 8/512) that every day I get exhausted dealing with it. I wish I had bought an Android tablet for a quarter of the price, instead.

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply April 1, 2018

      Yes I’m afraid that catches people out. Naturally you expect your device to be able to turn on the instant you have an external power supply connected. It doesn’t with a Surface Pro tablet though.

  • Johnie

    Reply Reply July 26, 2018

    So kind of you to try to help folks like this. I just found my husband’s Surface 2 in his office, which really needed organizing. He is technologically way behind the times, and only bought the Surface at the suggestion of our daughter, thinking it could help him when traveling, without access to a printer, so he could make fixes to his speeches. Unfortunately, he never used it, and it is now 4 years old. I plugged it in, and it said it needed to do updates (I bet), so I let it do that, and noticed when it was at 30% installing. When I came back to check on it, though, it was “dead.” The little battery black screen thing came up and showed an empty battery (still plugged in). So, I’m guessing it is not able to take a charge. I tried all the techniques you listed above (including the cleaning), but no change. I see online that the Surface 2’s had battery charging issues that were a known problem back in the day. Many had to have their Surface exchanged (sometimes multiple times). Is there ANYTHING I can do, or is this just a waste of $500 bucks? Thanks. Johnie

    • Jeff

      Reply Reply July 27, 2018

      Well, you might have found that the Surface 2 can just take quite a while to charge. If that is the case, then no problem.

      If you have left it plugged in but it still doesn’t charge, there is another trick you can do:

      If your Surface is not charging, you can reset the charger in a surprisingly simple way. Remove the charger plug at the power source, then turn it 180 degrees (i.e. swap it around) and then plug it in again. This solves many charger problems. Your Surface 2 might then charge properly so it can start up normally.

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