Surface 3 Is Plugged In But Not Charging

Surface 3 Is Plugged In But Not Charging

Many Surface 3 owners have noticed times when their Surface 3 is plugged in but not charging even though the light is on. They most often discover that it didn’t charge in one of two ways:

  • The power icon in the system tray reports “Plugged In, Not Charging” or…
  • They plug it in at night and it has a dead battery in the morning.

Sigh. Really? The light is on, it even knows that it’s plugged in, so why isn’t it charging? Without any clear answers from Microsoft, we started testing to try and figure out what’s going on.

We started by plugging in the charging adapter then connected the Mini-USB cable to the Surface 3 to see if it would start charging properly or if it would give the “Plugged In, Not Charging” status from the power icon in the system tray.

This test was repeated 50 times over the course of two days. The Surface 3 started the tests fully patched as of 9/24/15 with 63% battery charge and was not used for anything else during the testing. Between each test, we shut down and restarted the computer to make sure it wasn’t a running process causing the problem.

We obtained the following results:

  • The Surface 3 started charging correctly: 21 times
  • The Surface 3 did not start charging: 29 times

This means that (during our test run) the Surface 3 only started charging correctly when connected to power 42% of the time!!

We hypothesize that the Surface 3’s charging system has a hard time accepting the power coming from the USB port when it’s first connected because of something weird going on with plug and play support. We suspect the underlying cause is a firmware or driver issue which gives us some hope that it will be corrected by Microsoft in the future.

Surface 3 Is Plugged In But Not Charging: Try This Simple Workaround

If you’re like most people, you leave your charger plugged into the wall and connect your Surface via the Mini-USB cable. Turns out, that may perpetuate the problem.

We discovered (after another series of 25 tests) that if you connect the Surface to the Mini-USB cable FIRST then plug the power adapter into the wall, the Surface 3 starts charging 100% of the time (per our testing). As a bonus, you kill an Energy Vampire at the same time.

We also discovered that if you forget and connect the Mini-USB cable while the power adapter is plugged in, simply unplugging the power adapter and plugging it back in will also cause your Surface to start charging normally.

Based on this, we suspect that having the Mini-USB cable plugged into the Surface 3 first gives plug and play a few moments to figure out that it’s the power adapter before the power starts flowing so it can be ready for it.

While we can’t guarantee this workaround will work in your case, it just might. If it does, your Surface will be charged when you need it. Besides, it’s easy so what are you out trying?




  1. Have had this occur on the wife’s S3 twice in the last month. Annoying problem. I have a fleet of them at work and have not experienced this issue before. My two cents and experience. Work machines are all 8.1 and home is 10.

  2. Well then, try this riddle… My SP3 i7 has given me the plugged in but not charging message many times, almost never any apparent reason, and obviously can’t be the USB plug thing…

  3. Surface 2 same thing. And one would think Microsoft would patch it already as surface 3 is out now. Originally when I went looking for answers, surface 1 had same issue.

  4. Hmmmm, glad it’s not just me, bugs me that something as basic as charging is still an issue. I often have ‘plugged in not charging’ even when connected to dock or side charger. Often after it has been charging for a while.
    Thank you Tim for following this up and your time testing.

  5. I’ve been having this problem for the last two days, which coincides with me forgetting my old (awesome) cord at the cabin and picking up a new one to replace it.

    It’s wiggly! After reading this, I unplugged it and plugged it in, to no avail. Tried again, and it didn’t even detect that it was plugged in at all. And then I touched it and pulled it downwards a little bit. Screen gets brighter, and it goes into full charge mode.

    This seems like a design flaw in the connector to me. A small amount of downward pressure on the wire seems to make it work.

  6. I started having this problem a month ago (Sep-2015) and it’s very annoying. Thanks so much, your solution worked out for me! I’m surprised that Microsoft is taking so long to fix this.

  7. i had my first one replaced because of this problem , and my replacement one is doing the same thing.
    yeh , wiggle it or jiggle it or pull the cord and it works occasionally but in 2016? you have to do this?
    i just laugh or i get angry

    • I am on my third replacement Surface,every single one has done exactly the same thing!! I have spoken to countless people at Microsoft and the only answer is a replacement, YET AGAIN! Actually, hilariously enough, one guy said it was a problem with the electric magnetic field in my house!!! So I had to try to charge it somewhere else. Guess what?? Yeh, still didn’t charge! Microsoft are the worst I have ever had to deal with, their customer service is awful! Talk about fobbing you off! I now have to write a letter(old school!) in order to complain and attempt to get a refund as I have a completely useless tablet/laptop,and for £500! What a waste of money!!!

  8. I tried this. It didn’t work. However, what DID help was this.
    1:plug it in WHILE IT IS ON
    2: with it still plugged in, turn it off.
    I left it plugged in overnight, and it was charged by the morning.

  9. when i unplug my surface block from the wall and plug it back in, USB still in my surface, it starts charging and then after i start using my computer it stops charging again and says “plugged in, not charging” 🙁

  10. Wow. This article is over a year old, and the problem still persists. I would think this would be addressed through a firmware update, but apparently not. This does not make a repeat purchase seem very likely on my part.

  11. I faced this issue too. I found that the main problem is on the microUSB header from the . The copper contactor inside the microUSB is flatten, causing the contact point loose and increase in resistance, hence Microsoft surface detect the current not enough for charging. One of the solution is use any small slice of paper sticker stick on behind of the microUSB metallic housing curve surface to improve the connection tightness between microUSB’s header and socket when charging. Another solution is just replace it with another high current carrying capability microusb wire (with good quality microUSB header), hope this solved your problem.

  12. So I just unplugged the USB from the black power block that came with my Surface and used the white block that came with my iPad and now it’s working. WTF.

  13. I love you! I bought a Surface 3 around August? October? 2016. It didn’t charge out the gate! I contact support and they sent me a replacement charging cable. It reacted the same way. Surface sits unused, due to to frustration, for a couple months. I attempt again about a month ago, mid to late Decemberish? 2016 and they sent me a while new replacement tablet! Same issues! I was furious!

    I finally found you. The new tablet had died in process of trying to figure out why it wouldn’t work. The upon reading, I simply unplugged the adapter from the wall and plugged it back in and Voila! The device immediately turned back on! Though it’s still saying plugged in not charging 🙁 one step at a time I guess!

  14. my surface 3 still will not charge, and it has been doing this for over a month. there are days where it wont turn on at all. Never again will I get one of these, the only reason I have one is because I purchased it through my school.

  15. Worked for me. Thankfully. God this is such an annoying problem. You’d think Microsoft could figure out something as simple as charging.

  16. my charger stopped working properly for over 2 months. sometimes it charges and then stops. tried straightening or twisting the cord and it would work or not work. tested charger on a brand new sp3, and it didn’t charge. the usb port also didn’t work to charge a phone. pretty sure it’s the charger problem. will microsoft replace the charger?

  17. I hate my Surface, it NEVER charges no matter how hard I try…. It has seriously, only charged like once since school started so now, I go to school with an uncharged laptop each day… Thanks a lot Microsoft

  18. I have had my Surface 3 for 5 months. The charging issue started a few weeks ago. The symptoms were typical, the light on the cable was lit, the icon on the tablet indicated it was connected but not charging. Tried several suggestions. Including using different chargers. Had limited success removing the driver for the Microsoft ACPI-Compliant Control Method Battery. After removing the battery driver noticed the issue no longer occurred when using the OEM charger at work, only when using the OEM charger at home. Also noted when using the charger at home it got warm where it connected to the tablet. Replaced the cable OEM cable with a new cable (Modal 4′) and the problem seems to have cleared up. I think it was a combination of removing the driver and replacing the cable.

  19. My 18 month old Surface 3 began having the same problem so many others have said. “Plugged in – not charging,” sometimes it would charge, most the time it would not. I tried all the suggestions I could find on-line, did the firmware download, plugged into the Surface first then the wall outlet, stood on one leg, etc. – all to no avail. I even took it into a PC repair shop and spoke with 2 others on the phone. No solution, unless I got lucky and it happened to charge. Out of last-chance desperation I ordered a Microsoft Docking Station for Surface 3 ($200 from Microsoft BUT ONLY $40 on Amazon). Problem solved. First time I set up in the docking station and plugged the station in… it is charging like it should. The station is charging through a different port(s) other than the problematic micro USB.
    Make sure you specifically order the docking station for the Surface 3.

  20. My S3 charged fine ’til the warranty ran out, then lots of “Plugged in, not charging” and, more often, it wouldn’t even recognize that there was a power source connected to the Micro-USB port. A Charge-only cable from Porta-Pow pretty much solved my problem (for a few weeks now.) Note to MS: contract with these guys, your charge-sync cable sux.

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