Fixing Surface Pro stylus issues

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Surface Pro Stylus

Update: This article is for the Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2. If you need Stylus help with a Surface Pro 3 pen, check out this post.

Lately we’ve been getting some questions about the Surface Pro stylus. Specifically some folks have been asking how to troubleshoot issues because they’ve encountered problems. So, we thought it might be good to share some troubleshooting advice for getting the Surface pro stylus working if it’s not.

This post focuses on what to do if your Surface Pro stylus isn’t working and not if it just needs to be calibrated (i.e. if where the stylus is touching the screen and where the screen thinks it’s being touched are two different places).

If you have a calibration issue, see this post for help: Calibrate the Touchscreen.

If you’re here because your stylus isn’t working then read on. We’re going to go over some possible solutions in the order of quickest to longest for implementation.

Surface Pro Stylus Fix 1: Restart your Surface

I know it’s cliche but……. did you try rebooting it?

It seems like there is occasionally a power management issue that switches off the digitizer and it will only come back when you fully power cycle your Surface. To do so, just follow these steps:

  • Make sure you saved any documents you may have been working on
  • Hold both the Volume Up and the Power button for 10 seconds
  • Release both buttons
  • Wait 5-10 seconds then power on your Surface normally

This fix seems to work a high percentage of the time for folks. If it did, great!!! If not, let’s try fix #2….

Surface Pro Stylus Fix 2: Check for Windows Updates

OK, it’s another potentially cliche answer but, to be fair, there’s a reason these are cliche answers. It’s because it works (at least) some of the time. To check for Windows updates, follow these steps:

  • Bring up the Search charm and look for “Updates”.

keyboard problems with surface

  • Choose Check for Updates from the options shown.

keyboard problems with surface

  • Tap the Check Now button.
  • If there are any updates, go ahead and install them.

After the updates install, you’ll want to restart your Surface (the normal way, not the hard shutdown from Fix #1).

If that fixes your problem then awesome! If not, let’s channel our inner Monty Hall and move on to door #3 (link provided for people who are too young to know what the hell I’m talking about).

Surface Pro Stylus Fix 3: Install New Wacomm Drivers

Now we’re getting into something a bit more involved. We’re going to try installing the Feeldriver from Wacom (the company who developed the touchscreen technology the Surface uses).

Now, if it so happens that you’re upgrading from a previous Wacom driver version then you’ll need to uninstall that driver first before installing the new version. In addition, you’ll probably want to restart the system prior to installing the new driver.

If you’ve never installed the Wacom driver then it’s a pretty straight forward process:

  1. Download the driver (link) and save the file to your computer. I reccomend putting it right on your desktop to make it easy to find
  2. Make sure you have a USB/Bluetooth mouse attached just in case you lose touch screen function during the driver installation process. You might also want to have a keyboard handy too for the same reason
  3. Double-click on the installer and follow the prompts
  4. At the end restart the system by clicking or tapping the OK button

Wacom’s page on the subject can be found here: http://us.wacom.com/en/feeldriver

Surface Pro Stylus Fix 4: Replace the Stylus Pen

Crap. You’re still reading? OK, while it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility that you’re having a weird software or driver issue, it’s becoming much more likely that what you’re suffering is a hardware issue.

This sucks because, it might involve buying something. However before we go that far, let’s cheat a bit and test both your Surface Pro and the stylus. The best way to do this (for free) is to borrow a friend’s working Surface Pro and swap the stylus pens.

  • If the problem moves to your friends Surface tablet and yours starts working then your stylus is very likely bad and needs replaced. The best fix in this case is to probably buy a new stylus from Microsoft. It’s Going to run you about $30 USD but it’s probably your only option.

(Of course you could try to just swap stylus pens with your friend but it probably won’t go over very well.)

  • If the problem stays with your Surface when using the new stylus pen then it’s likely that the digitizer in your tablet has gone bad. This is really unfortunate because it’s not really something that can be fixed and you’ll probably have to get your Surface Replaced. See Fix #5 for help on that.

Surface Pro Stylus Fix 5: Contact Microsoft for Support

If you’re all the way to this fix then, I’m sorry but something has gone horribly wrong and I can’t help you any more. Your next step is to get support from Microsoft to see what they can do. Before you go ahead with getting help from Microsoft, you might want to look-up your warranty information at the Microsoft Online Service Center so you know if you’re covered under warranty.

Getting support from Microsoft:

  • Go to your nearest Microsoft Store. While this lets you talk to a real person to show them the problem, not everyone has one nearby. However, if you’re luck enough to have one, go see them.
  • Contact Microsoft Support. They’re pretty helpful but, it is phone/email support and I know a lot of people hate that.

I hope you don’t ever need it but, if you do then I hope this post helps you get your Surface Pro stylus issued sorted out.

Hopefully, before Fix #4…..

Tim


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is a professional geek with over 23 years of experience working in Information Technology and dealing with everything from large-scale storage to remote systems management and automation for organizations such as Texas Instruments, Mobil Oil, and the University of Michigan (where he was an Academic IT Director). He co-founded JTRTech along with Joanna to realize his long-time dream of working for himself.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Just bought a “back-up” second stylus (rationale: keep 1 in my purse, keep 1 at home) for use with my Pro 2. The stylus that came with the Pro 2 originally has always and continues to work like a charm. The new (literally, less than an hour old) stylus won’t even calibrate! That is not to say the Surface doesn’t “read” it — it just reads it quite a distance (approx 1/4 inch) from where I tap the screen. As I say, I can’t calibrate because when the first cross-hair comes up and I tap on it, NOTHING happens. If I tap somewhere off the corner of the screen a new cross-hair finally pops up in the opposite corner. Testing with the original stylus, no problems. Do I need to take the new stylus back to BestBuy?

  2. I kind of get the impression that the Surface 3 has LOTS of problems, and I wondered if these are just typical problems for any machine, or Is the Surface problem-ridden? I have a Surface RT (2) and have had no problems and want to get a Surface 3. Should I fear doing that and put it off?

    • Ann,

      It looks like there were a few duds early on but, we’ve been much happier with our replacement Surface.

      If you’re happy with your Surface 2 then I wouldn’t be in any hurry to replace it.

      Tim

  3. Thank you soooooo much for your help! I downloaded the driver from Wacom and got things going again. Sure was a good end to a horrid day of being unable to get a new stylus for my SP2 – even Microsoft don’t have any now the SP3 is all the go.

  4. I have a refurbished surface pro. When I check the drivers I don’t find Wacom. I find an HID compliant pen & HID compliant touchscreen with drivers provided by Microsoft. Should I uninstall these and install the Wacom drivers?

  5. INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT INFORMATION IS NOT OBVIOUS.

    There are TWO BATTERIES IN THE STYLUS. One for the purpble button on top and one for the rest of the pen. The purple button battery is an itty bitty button battery and lasts a long time. The stylus battery is a bigger AAA battery and is easily replaceable…

    BUT NOT EASILY DEMONSTRATED TO BE LOW OR OUT OF ENERGY!!!

    This is a CRITICAL FAILURE of the design of this stylus, regardless of the problems connecting the stylus to the surface pro.

    Tying the top button to one note means that when the bigger batteries are dead, the most obvious (AND RECCOMMENDED) button to press does NOTHING TO FIX ANYTHING.

    Even if I wanted to use one note, a dead AAA means the pen does nothing when one note comes up.

    The top pen button is what everyone assumes one must use to detect if the big pen battery is working in general or not… and that’s just wrong. You can DETATCH THE PURPLE BUTTON AND THE PURPLE BUTTON WILL STILL ACTIVATE ONE NOTE.

    Useless, pointless, unwanted one-note.

  6. Hi, I have new problem.
    When I disconnect the power keyboard the Pen stops working. I tried to do Hardware reset/remove drivers and reinstall etc…
    Even if I connect my other keyboard (type2) the pen is not responding. The moment I connect the power keyboard everything seems to be working fine.
    Please help as the power keyboard does not have backlit I will face problem without pen as I correct online student work.
    Regards
    sudipta

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