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?




  • 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.

  • 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…

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!!!

      • Same issue….but only on my second….so disappointed as otherwise a lovely machine plagued by problems. Am going to try the docking station option as recommended by Ken below…desperate times!! If it works we need to spread the word!!!

      • Hey Carlos,
        I have had the same issue, i had to replace it 3 times and it always happens again. When i try to ask them if there is anything i can do to prevent it from happening again they cant tell me anything.
        You think its possible to get a refund ?

  • 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.

  • Why no definitive fix from Micorsoft? this has basically turned a product I like into a doorstop, I always seem to buy lemons when it comes to electronics……

  • 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” 🙁

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

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

  • 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?

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Hi, thank you so much! I unplugged the adapter from the wall, removed the mini-usb from the surface, then placed the usb on the surface and plugged in the adapter and it didnt work at first. All I did after that was remove the adapter from the wall and plugged it in and it recognized the charger and started charging. Thanks again!

  • Tim, it worked!! You saved my life, or at least my precious time, $$, and sanity!!! Thank you so, so much! I am not a techy, obviously, and when something simple like this stops working as it should, I get panicky. I thank GOD for people like you, who are willing to share your experty with the rest of the world 🙂

  • This might be a solution to some people. Try putting a layer (or two) of paper sticker on the back of the tip of the micro USB cable. Yes, the smooth side of the sliver bit. At least it has worked for me, after years of frustration with multiple replacement surfaces and chargers. The basic idea is that the sticker will make the connection tighter. Do this at your own risk, as the micro USB port is ridiculously fragile. No damage so far for me, but you cannot be too careful. Good luck!

  • The ‘plugged in not charging’ message only goes away when the power adapter is plugged directly into the outlet.

  • Amazingly this problem also exists in my Surface 4. Leaving the charging cable connect to the Surface then unplugging at the wall then replugging has fixed it for me.

    In my experience, anything with a battery that needs charging automatically starts charging when you connect it to the mains. Astonishing that this really expensive computer doesn’t!

  • Replaced USB cable and it works now – Wanted to share a solution that I found as I myself have been very frustrated. I had to replace my USB/Micro USB cable.

    Once I replaced the cable my S3 is charging properly.

  • Thank you ! I got a new surface 3today and left it charging for 4 hours and it had no power at all. I tried a lot of other things — your solutions at least got it to begin charge, and enough to turn it on…..

  • I’ve had this problem since just after buying the Surface 3 in August 2016. I was on holiday in Florida in July and took it to the Microsoft shop (before the warranty expired) but they couldn’t solve it, as it worked fine in the shop! They just tried to sell me the latest Surface laptop, which they said had solved this problem! So I’ve battled on with it working sometimes, but more often not. I tried the method of plugging into the tablet first and then into the wall and it worked for a few minutes, then stopped again. I’ve tried several times since and it seems to work for a few moments and then stops. I’ve only managed to get it up to 61%, which soon runs down when using it. I’ve also tried sticking a very small piece of selotape onto the connector. Not sure what to do next. I’m an elderly lady and not technically minded. I’m thinking of getting a docking station but Amazon won’t deliver to Greece. The other idea is to get a new cable but I’m unsure which I need. Thanks for all your time and effort Tim. I will continue to watch this space in case someone comes up with any other fixes. I can’t believe Microsoft haven’t sorted it after all this time!

  • I’m about to lose all power to my S3 and it looks as if its never going to come back on. I tried everything on this thread but to no avail….goodbye

  • Genius Tim! Just started to have this problem. Used USB plug from my Note 5 and my surface charges beautifully. Microsoft quoted me $417.00 to repair the issue. Prior to the quote, there was an expectation that I would just upgrade and they would give me $16.00 trade in value as the Surface 3 “was not working.” I really love my surface but not sure if I would purchase again based on this experience. I cannot believe the person I was speaking to at Microsoft was not aware of this problem.

    • With Surface 3 and then Win 10 I became a “official” Microsoft customer with legit OS and Office package. So, when some problems arise I contacted MS a couple of times, and I must say those “techie” supporters seem to be something MS scrape up from the bottom of the barrel. Scant knowledge and longwinded, do MS pay them by time?
      Now guarantee for the Surface is gone and I gone back to relay on myself and the internet to get “techie” support.

      The techie support maybe wasn’t aware, but I’m sure MS are with their extensive surveying of customer satisfaction. I got my S3 to replace a faulty iPad3. Despite all the shortcomings of the S3 and less good touch than iPad I’m really satisfied with the ability to use “any” program and real Office and not some anorectic iOs/Android App thing. Of course, the hardware has it’s known limitations. But if it can’t be charged it’s useless. Then the price-tag are even more outrageous, if not a robbery.

      I made another longwinded post what the charging issue is about.

  • I have been having this issue off and on for the past 2 years and have had a replacement cable which worked fine for a while but lately it works off and on. After reading all the comments I decided to try the charging cables for both my iPad and Android phone and they both work, hope it stays that way!!

  • Was ready to throw out my S3 due to the ‘plugged in not charging’ issue.
    Called Microsoft and got onto a tech guy with the same S3.
    He said, get a Quick Charge 3 charger and it will be ok.
    For the tech guys, the Quick Charge 3 provides 5V at 3A, whereas the Microsoft provided charger provides 5V at 2.4A.
    The better wattage output of the Quick Charge 3 has fixed everything (still using the Surface Microsoft Cord).
    So the tech guy solved my problem. A Quick Charge 3 charger is about USD20, compared to the USD400 for a repair/replace.
    Easy solution. Get a Quick Charge 3 charger to fix this!!!
    I wish I had read this elsewhere, but haven’t seen it anywhere… so will say it a few times:
    Plugged in not charging – Quick Charge 3 charger.
    Plugged in not charging – Quick Charge 3 charger.
    Plugged in not charging – Quick Charge 3 charger.

  • Hi guys, I have the the charging problem with my Surface 3 plugged in not charging or discharging after a lot of search on the internet and even no any satisfied answer from Microsoft I just fix my problem my self.
    you guys don’t need to worry about anything just do this method and everything will be fine
    just press the little micro usb with pliers I did with teeth and plugged in back and check if it is working or not. Mine start working perfectly. hope it fix the problem.

  • This is ridiculous that an issue that has been known for years is still unresolved. The issue makes my Surface Tablet the most unreliable I have ever know – I would never purchase a Microsoft product again and could not recommend to anyone – in fact I would actively warn anyone thinking of purchasing a Microsoft product to think twice. I have never had a more unreliable piece of junk and I am not the only one – do a search for “surface3 plugged in discharging” there are 36,300,000 results – just in Google. Search for “surface3 plugged in not charging” and there are 34,600,000 results. There is not support. My Surface is a piece of unreliable junk – and the worst investment I ever made. Microsoft your service or lack of is appalling.

  • Thanks for the tips.
    Here are some things I have found helpful.

    Sometimes the angle, or pressure on the cord seems to have an affect on whether it charges or not. We ha two s3 and one cord gives us significantly more trouble than the other cord. So I concluded it was a problem with the cord.

    I used the plug into computer first, and then power source and this worked pretty well, but lately it doesn’t seem to matter which way around I do it, it starts charging for about 1 minute, and then goes to plugged in not charging. Occasionally it says plugged in and discharging!

    However, I came to a further conclusion that it might actually be something to do with the hardware of the computer, perhaps the receiving port is somehow very sensitive.

    I have tried a few things myself and here is what I have found.

    I generally don’t have any issues if my s3 is closed and lying flat when I put in the plug. Seems to charge overnight no problems. so I always close (not necessarily turn off, but physically close the keyboard, and lay it flat when charging s3) The really disconcerting thing with this is besides the little light on the plug (which we know is no guarantee that it’s charging) there is no way to know if it’s actually charging. So try this when you have some time.
    Take note of the percentage of the charge on your s3. Close it, or lay it flat if you don’t have a keyboard attached. Plug it in and leave it for 10-30 minutes. Open it, and have a look if the percentage increased. If it did, then do this experiment a few times over the next few days/weeks until you have confidence that this method actually works.

    Because this seems to work so well I have now come to the conclusion that it is neither the power cord, nor the receiving port, but something perhaps software related.

    My ‘good’ cord is working less and less often when I am actually using the computer, which is really annoying if I want to use the computer over a long period of time.

    Wish Microsoft would do some research and fix this problem.
    Charing is a fundamental of portable devices, and I don’t know of any other device except s3 that has this kind of a problem.

  • I know it’s an old thread, but I have almost from the beginning struggled with this problem. Even got one replaced under guarantee for not charging.
    After some investigation I found the cause of the problem. It’s a peace of crappy engineering (just like the flimsy Wifi hardware in Surface 3, or what else of the hardware that makes it suddenly freeze) . The micro USB port are faulty designed. The small metallic rods are way to deep down in the plastic “groves”, to work the male(?) connector on the cable have to have fresh springy metal blades in the connector. Other wise they would not come in contact with the metal blades in on the Surface.
    It’s the out two outer blades on the edges that are the electric/charring connection, one are current the other ground.
    If one have good magnification these could be bent up with needle point on the cable connector and it works for a while. But the spring hardness on these tiny blades (substandard metal quality) do not last very long. Especially when used on Surface 3 that needs need optimum spring hardness. On phones the metal blades are usually not digged down that deep as on the Surface.
    New good quality cable (hard to get) are regular replacement item. A brand-named Anker makes pretty good stuff, and are 20 AWG on the conductor wire, the lower number the thicker. Important for the charging speed. Thickness and length of cable do matter for charging speed.

    The Surface connector part looks like this: |_||_||_||_||_|. In the bottom are the metal blades.

    The cause for me to see this side was that now the plastic/nylon stuff that surrounds the tiny metal blades did broke off. So, the Surface are now useless, and “they” say it’s almost impossible to open it without breaking the screen.

    Another thing that are bad engineering on the connector is that there is nothing that enclose and encircle the cable connector, so the fit is very flimsy and loose. Probably the reason the plastic part broke. I suppose one should be able to use the device with cable plugged in and not only place it on a soft silk pillow while charging.

    Have they made these kind of product engineering mistakes in the car industry there had been a huge costly replacement programe.

    A couple of photos of the micro USB connectors.

  • I found the solution to my problem after 2 years of trying everything else. It turned out to be the USB cable that came with the charger. I’ve bought a standard USB cable and it works every time.

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