Master your Microsoft Surface Power Settings (Windows 8.x)


A lot of people have asked us how they should configure the Windows 8.x power settings on their Surface tablet. So I thought I would put together this post to help those folks get a better handle on those Surface’s power settings.

Even if you have a good grasp on your power settings, there might be one or two things in this article you didn’t know.

Microsoft Surface Power Settings: Access the Power Options

Let’s start with how to access your power settings in Windows 8.x; to get to your Surface tablet’s power options, just follow these steps:

  • Swipe in from the right of the screen to bring up the Charms Bar
  • Use the Search charm and look for Power Options
  • Choose Power Options from the search results

You’ll find yourself looking at the following window in desktop mode:

Microsoft Surface Power Settings

From here, you can create or choose different power plans, adjust the screen brightness, and set what you want to happen when you hit the power button or close the lid. As you might imagine, these settings can have quite an effect on how your computer performs and how long your battery lasts.

Microsoft Surface Power Settings: Choose a Power Plan

The first thing you’ll want to do is choose a power plan. Essentially, power plans tell your Surface to turn off the screen and/or go to sleep after some period of inactivity.

Choosing a power plan is pretty simple. Once you’re in the power settings, simply check the radio button next to the plan you want to choose. In Windows 8.0/8.1 There are 3 default plans from Microsoft as described below:

  • Balanced: The balanced power plan is the recommended power plan and is intended to strike a good balance between performance and battery life. This is the Microsoft recommended (and default) power plan.
  • Power Saver: This power plan is intended to squeeze more battery life from your Surface at the cost of lower performance. I use this plan when I’m on the go and don’t know when I’ll have the next opportunity to charge up my Surface.
  • High Performance: This one throws battery life to the wind and cranks up the performance all the way. If you choose this plan, don’t go too far from a power outlet but it is really good for playing games or running high-performance applications.

Microsoft Surface Power Settings - System Tray
Just so you know, you can also pick a power plan by tapping on the power icon in the system tray which will give you a popup like the one to the right.

As you can see, this popup displays the current battery charge level (I have 2 batteries because I have a power cover attached to my SP2).

In addition, the available power plans are easily selectable via a radio button.

This is also a convenient way to get to the power options screen or adjusting the screen brightness.

Microsoft Surface Power Settings: Why Do I Only Have a Balanced Power Plan?

If you have a Surface Pro 3 running Windows 8.x, you might be a little surprised to find that only the Balanced power plan is listed. This is because the InstantGo feature hides several options (and has been suspected of some of the reported WiFi issues with the Surface Pro 3). Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to expose those options by turning on the Hyper-V feature in Windows:

  • Search for Add or Remove Programs
  • Select Turn Windows Features On or Off
  • Select Hyper-V
  • After the feature installation finishes, select Restart Now

However, before you turn on Hyper-V, you need to be aware that it will alter how your Surface behaves. For example, you will no longer be able to wake your SP3 from sleep with a pen-click. You can find a more in-depth analysis of the changes in this WinSupersite article.

You can avoid this change of functionality by turning on Hyper-V, making your own custom power plans (below) based on the Power Saver and High Performance plans, then turning Hyper-V back off. The custom power plans will remain available even though the built-in ones will disappear.

Microsoft Surface Power Settings: Modify a Power Plan

If you want to modify the settings on these power plans, simply tap on Change Plan Settings for the appropriate plan. When you do, you’ll get a window similar to the one below:

Microsoft Surface Power Settings - Modify Plan

In addition to the basic settings that set things like when to turn off the display on battery or put the computer to sleep when plugged in,

Microsoft Surface Power Settings - Advanced
you can also adjust some more advanced settings like when to turn off the hard drive or the power savings mode for the wireless adapter.

To do this, just tap on the Change Advanced Power Settings link from the Change power plan screen. You’ll get a window that looks like the one to the right (you can tap on it for a larger version).

Simply set the advanced options the way you want and tap OK. Don’t worry about screwing anything up, if you try something and it doesn’t work well, you can just tap the Restore Plan Defaults button to reset everything back to where it started.

Microsoft Surface Power Settings: Create a Power Plan

If so inclined, you can can also tap Create a Power Plan (on the left side of the window) to create your own power plan. It will ask you which existing plan to base your new plan on:

Microsoft Surface Power Settings - Create a Plan 1

After you name your new plan and tap Next, you’ll get the opportunity to customize the basic settings:

Microsoft Surface Power Settings - Create a Plan 2

Once you create a plan, it will appear in the power plan list and you can choose it like the others.

Microsoft Surface Power Settings: Other Options

By now, you may have noticed a few options I haven’t touched on along the left of the Power Option window. So, let’s touch on those now.

Even though they look like separate options (require a password on wakeup, choose what the power button does, and choose what closing the keyboard cover does) they all take you to the same screen (below).

Microsoft Surface Power Settings - Buttons

As you might expect, from this screen, you can modify what the power button and closing the keyboard cover does (if attached), whether or not you need a password to wake your Surface up from sleep and even what power down options you get.

I hope you found this post helpful in figuring out how to configure the power settings on your Surface. As usual, if you have questions please let me know.


Kent Beck

Kent Beck link to his wiki

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