Sync Google Mail/Calendar/Contacts to Surface RT

sync google

If you use Google services, you may have noticed that it is no longer easy to sync Google mail, calendar, or contacts to your Surface RT.

So, I’m writing this up in hopes of helping you traverse the murky waters of setting up Google online services on your Windows tablet.
Update: If you’ve upgraded to Windows 8.1 see our post on how Win 8.1 Breaks Google Sync and instructions on how to set up Google Mail-Calendar in Outlook.

The following instructions will work for setting up both personal Google accounts as well as Google Apps for business/education on Win 8.0. They will work on both Surface RT and Surface Pro as long as have not upgraded the built-in Mail/People/Calendar apps.

In this post I will cover:

  1. What changed
  2. How it will affect your Windows 8/RT device
  3. How to sync Google services to your Surface RT
  4. Personal note/opinion

What Changed:

As of end of January 2013, Google announced the end of life for Google Sync and with it end of support for Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) protocol. EAS is what most of us used to sync our email, calendar, and contacts across different Windows devices (like desktop, laptop, and tablets) with Google’s online services.

This withdrawal of Google sync support applied to only new account setups and only on personal accounts. So, Google Apps for Business and Google Apps for Education were not affected – though, the setup instructions are the same. Google also pointed out that it was offering similar sync protocols: IMAP, CalDAV, and CardDAV. However, those protocols were not supported by Microsoft’s platforms.

And so, Windows Google users were clearly going to be effected and none of them were too happy.

What this essentially meant is that things changed in which services from Google can be synced and how they are set up on your Windows RT/8 tablets.

How it will affect your Windows 8/RT device:

  • If you’re using a personal Google account, you will no longer be able to sync your Google calendar to the Calendar app – that’s right, you read that right. Without EAS, you cannot sync your Google Calendar to the MS Calendar app – at least for now. But don’t freak out, you can still access it via the web.
  • You will have to remove your existing Google accounts and reconnect them – this is because you may still be using EAC to sync up. This is also true if you’ve gotten the latest version of the Mail, Calendar, and People apps from Microsoft. So, it’s a good idea anyway.
  • Only one Google account will be able to sync contacts – if you have multiple Google accounts, as I do, only one of the contacts can be synced on your Surface RT.

How to sync Google services to your Surface RT:

To sync your Google mail:

  1. If you’ve previously had it working, go in the Mail app and look for any Gmail account that has “Needs attention” notification. Tap and then follow the on-screen instructions to fix it.
  2. If you’re starting from scratch:
  • Open Mail App
  • Swipe from right edge and tap Settings

sync google mail

  • Tap Accounts
  • Tab or click Add an account

sync google

  • Tab or click Google (or the type of account you want to add)
  • Follow on-screen instructions for setup.

To sync Google Contacts:

From the Mail app:
If you’re reconnecting your email in the Mail app using the method described above, you might also see a message indicating that you can add your Google contacts. If you do, enter the email address and password for the Google account you want to sync contacts from (remember, you can only sync contacts for one account) and follow on-screen instructions.

From the People app:
You can also reconnect your Google account from the People app, but first you need to remove all accounts that have a “Needs attention” notification. Here is how:

  • In the People app, swipe in from the right edge of the screen, and then tap Settings.
  • Tap Accounts, look for the Gmail account that has a “Needs attention” notification, and then tap it.
  • Tap “Remove account”.

Now you are ready to reconnect your Google account to sync your contacts. First, check to see if there are any other Google accounts listed in the People app. If you see one, and it’s the one you want to sync your contacts from, you’re done. If it’s not the one you want, here’s how to remove it and add a different Google account:

  1. Tap the Gmail account and then tap “Manage this account online”.
  2. Sign in with your Microsoft Account , and then tap or click “Remove this connection completely“.
  3. Now, you can connect the Google account you want to the People app.

To sync Google Calendar:

You won’t be able to do this if you’re starting new with a personal Google account. However, if you’ve had it working in the past, you can try to click on the Google account that “Needs Attention” and let it repair. I found that when I did this, it preserved my calendar settings and is still working. I use Google Apps for work but I don’t know why exactly it works because I’m pretty sure I have the latest update (which supposedly broke everything). It is working though, so I’m not going to mess with it.

Otherwise, you cannot sync your Calendar – for now. However, much speculation and rumor has it that Microsoft will include CardDavCalDav functionality in Windows 8.1 update. In the meantime, Microsoft recommends that you move your Google Calendar events to Outlook. Here is how: Import Google Calendar to Outlook

Personal note:

I know that this can be a huge pain in the @#$ to configure. In general, Google and other platforms do not play nice together. If you’re one of the unfortunate ones (as myself) that has to use Google apps for work, I recommend that you check and update your calendar via the web interface – and even that can be a pain. I have 5 email accounts: 3 personal and 2 business and Google is the only one I have trouble with on the Surface RT – sigh.

Future posts coming soon: MS Surface Carrying Case Reviews and how to set up Google Apps Sync on the Surface Pro. If you have a topic you’d like us to address, feel free to leave in a comment below.

You may also like our posts on Surface Accessories and MS Surface Books.



  1. […] Sync Google to Surface RT: This post was one of the first ones we wrote on the schism between Microsoft and Google about the discontinuance of Gmail’s support for ActiveSync. That decision effectively broke the Surface’s (and Windows 8.x, in general) ability to sync anything but simple IMAP mail with Gmail. These instructions still work if you’ve not upgraded to Win 8.1. […]

    • Hi Ed,
      I make a statement like this because I work in IT and my company uses Google Apps. And that is definitely been my experience. It’s difficult to get Google to work with Windows, Apple, and even its own Android devices. It also lacks some of the basic features, so if one uses it for basic stuff, it’s great. But to do anything at enterprise level, in my opinion. It sucks.

    • I agree with the OP. I don’t know if you had to deal with Google App sync when Office 2013 click to run was pushed out… It was a mess. And the resolutions from Google was “Its microsofts fault” and Microsofts response was “Its googles fault.

  2. Thanks for this and your website in general! I bought my wife a Surface RT on Black Friday as her aging (and HEAVY) laptop finally bit the dust. She’s an office user and I figured for 250 bucks (including a Touch Cover!) it was a good investment. She loves it and I fell head over heels and bought one for myself after the holidays, attached it to my 24″ external screen, and now use it for just about everything. My one and ONLY problem is the Google Calendar app, as my wife and I share events between them so we always know our schedules. Can you perhaps recommend a good app that connects to Google Calendar that might be a nice fix until the Microsoft calendar works properly? Thanks in advance!

    Oh, and if you ever need reviews of surface accessories, I can provide a few from the cool add-ons I’ve bought. The Bluetooth keyboard adapter is an absolute MUST HAVE.

    • Ian,

      Funny enough, we’re just typing up a quick review on a sync service to do just that. The service is called Nuevasync and seems to do exactly what you need. We haven’t used it a lot yet so we’re not going to fully endorse it (yet) and make a full set of how-to instructions but, we thought others might like to try it while we’re still playing with it.

      That post should be up a little later today.


  3. Hi, J

    I’m having an issue removing my gmail accounts from the mail app. Following the onscreen instructions to fix ‘needs attention’ doesn’t work, so i’ve read that removing them and starting from scratch works. however, i am not seeing a “remove account” link anywhere, even if I tap on it in the account list.

    Any suggestions appreciated. 🙂

    • Paula,

      If you swipe in from the right of the screen then bring up settings/accounts you should get a list of your configured mail accounts. You should be able to select on the account and scroll all the way to the bottom to find the Remove Account button.

      However, if you happened to use your gmail email address for your Microsoft account that button will be greyed out. Is that what’s happening?


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