Are you having a problem with your Surface touchscreen not working with touch but it still works with the pen or stylus? And the problem continues even after you already tried troubleshooting the issues with no success?
Then I might have an easy (but incredibly inconvenient) fix for you – go sit somewhere else.
It sounds weird but it turns out RF interference from things like fluorescent lights can mess up the touchscreen and no amount of patching, troubleshooting, or updates will fix it!
OK, now that you’re thinking “What the h..?” – let me explain….
Surface Touchscreen Not Working With Touch: Why does it happen?
In the simplest terms, this problem can arise because “leaky” or high voltage electrical systems can induce a current or charge in nearby objects through induction.
Since the Surface tablets use capacitive touch screen technology to detect touch but a different (more resistant to interference) technology to detect the pen, the induction induced electric energy – while harmless to you – can interfere with the Surface’s ability to detect a touch.
For you engineers out there: Yes, I know… You write a better short explanation without needing to explain Gauss or Faraday 🙂
Surface Touchscreen Not Working With Touch: What else can cause it?
But Tim, I don’t have any fluorescent lights where I am and the touch screen is still flaky….
OK, well, two things about that…..
First, If you have CFL light bulbs, you DO have florescent lights. Second, fluorescent lights aren’t the only thing that can cause such issues. Here are some other possibilities…
- Fans (particularly, it seems, ceiling fans – we had some problems with them)
- Air Conditioners
- Old (tube style) TV’s
- Appliances (washers, dryers, refrigerators, dehumidifiers, etc..)
- “Dirty” or fluctuating power (This will only affect you if you’re plugged in and should clear up if you run on battery or move to an outlet that isn’t fluctuating)
Surface Touchscreen Not Working With Touch: What can I do about it?
You could try something like a EMP shielding bag but it’s overkill and really makes it hard to use your Surface.
However, if you can find and turn off (or repair/replace) the device causing the interference, you will be much happier. Before you spend too much time trying to track down the problem, I suggest that you go somewhere away from any electrical appliances and see if the problem persists.
If the problem persists, it’s not an induction problem, you either have a hardware or software issue. In that case, try the steps in THIS POST for help troubleshooting and solving the problem.
Be aware that, while extremely unlikely, the source of the induction might not even be from inside you house. This is especially true if…
- You live near high tension wires
- You are close to an airport or military base where they use radar
- You live close to a TV or radio transmitter
Any of those could be the source of your Surface’s touchscreen problem (especially if your problems are intermittent) and, unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about it.
Tim Rolston 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.