How To Troubleshoot Surface Battery Drain Issues

How To: Diagnose Surface Battery Drain Issues

Here’s the scenario…

You got a new Surface a few months ago and it was awesome! The battery life was good and you were happy with it. However, lately, your Surface battery life seems to be shorter than it was and you have no idea why.

In this post, I’ll go over a series of steps you can take to try to troubleshoot your battery drain issues.

This isn’t the first time we’ve touched base on Surface battery issues, in the past Joanna and I have covered individual things you could do to figure out what’s going on with your battery but, now I’ll cover a more complete process for troubleshooting (and hopefully, correcting) battery issues with your Surface tablet.

Oh, and while I’m focusing on the Surface Pro 3 because of it’s popularity (this is Love My Surface, after all), these steps will work with any Surface model and any other Windows 8.1 device, for that matter.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN: Be aware that this process is a bit drawn out because you should do one thing and test it for a few days before proceeding to the next item on this list. That’s the best way to tell if what you just tried worked or not since battery life isn’t something you can gauge instantly.

OK, let’s get started…

Diagnose Surface Battery Drain Issues: Restart

Look, I know this is really simplistic but, if you haven’t done a full shutdown and restart, do one. It’s possible that you have a run away process that’s eating up memory or CPU and your power settings are just putting your Surface to sleep or hibernation when you hit the power button.

If so, that runaway process might simply wake up every time you wake your Surface and start chewing away on your battery some more.

To do a full shutdown and restart:

  • Tap the Power Icon from the start screen
  • Select Shut down
  • Let your Surface fully power down and leave it off for 30 seconds
  • Power it on normally

NOTE: If you happen to have a Windows RT device (Like a Surface RT or Surface 2), you’ll need to go under the Settings charm (swipe if from the right-side of the screen) to find the power icon.

Diagnose Surface Battery Drain Issues: Check for Updates

OK, this is another simple one but, please, please, please make sure you have all of the updates installed. Over time, Microsoft has actually (on occasion, at least) fixed problems. So, it’s possible that your power issue could be fixed by one of these updates.

This is especially true if you’re one of those people who turned off Windows Updates, so it wouldn’t bug you to update every Patch Tuesday.

To check for updates:

  • Make sure you’re connected to the Internet
  • Swipe in from the right of the screen to bring up the Charms Menu
  • Select Settings
  • Select Change PC Settings (at the bottom)
  • Select Update and Recovery
  • Select Check for Updates
  • If there are any available updates, select Install Now

Diagnose Surface Battery Drain Issues: Battery Report

Assuming updating your Surface didn’t improve your battery, run a battery report with this instructions from this post: Run a Battery Report on Surface Tablets

A battery report will give you a lot of information about your battery including the following:

  • A 72 hour graphic usage history including charges and drains
  • How much power (in mWH) your battery(s) is holding
  • Capacity history (good for seeing if your battery is failing)
  • Estimates on how long the battery should last

With this information, you may be able to determine if your battery hardware is failing. If it is, you’ll want to skip right to contacting Microsoft support.

What you’ll want to look for:

  • Make sure the Full Charge Capacity is close to the Design Capacity (within 10%). If it’s not, you probably have a battery issue

How To Diagnose Surface Battery Drain Issues-Design capacity

  • Look at the Battery Capacity History section. If you see a sudden drop, it’s indicative of a failing battery

How To Diagnose Surface Battery Drain Issues-Capacity History

  • Also look at the Battery Life Estimates section. Same as with the Battey Capacity History. If you see a sudden drop, there’s probably a problem with your Surface

How To Diagnose Surface Battery Drain Issues-Life Estimates

Diagnose Surface Battery Drain Issues: Energy Report

After that, you’ll want to run a Energy Report. This report will observe your computer and identify possible power efficiency issues then it will provide you a categorized list of everything it finds so you can make adjustments.

The list is broken down as follows:

  • Errors – It’s a problem
  • Warnings – It might be a problem
  • Information – It’s not a problem

You can run an Energy Report by following the instructions here: Run a Windows Energy Report on your Surface Tablet

Diagnose Surface Battery Drain Issues: Check/Uninstall Apps

It’s possible (if not likely) that one of your installed applications is responsible for the battery drain. To remedy this, the best thing is to update or uninstall the application causing the problem.

Of course, the trick is FINDING the application causing the problem. One of the best tools to use for doing so is the built-in Task Manager.

You can find instructions for using Task Manager here: Windows 8 Task Manager Part 1 and here Windows 8 Task Manager Part 2

How To TroubleshootSurface Battery Drain Issues-Task Manager

You will want to look for applications or processes (particularly background processes) that are running and using a lot of CPU, Disk, and/or Network. Also, look for things under the startup tab. Often a publisher will add some sort of agent to their software to check for updates or to add some functionality you might not need.

Once you find apps that might be eating the battery, check with the publisher and see if there’s an update. If there is, try installing it and see if the problem goes away. If there’s not, you might want to uninstall the application to see if it was the culprit.

If you don’t find any suspicious apps, you may still want to uninstall apps that you don’t use very often or at all. There’s always the off chance one of those applications are the cause of the problem and, if you’re not using them anyway, why waste the disk space on them?

Diagnose Surface Battery Drain Issues: Refresh your Account Profile

It’s also possible that your Windows account profile on the Surface is corrupt somehow (it happens) and that’s causing your battery drain.

You can reset your Windows Profile by following these instructions from Microsoft to delete your account profile from the Surface: Remove an Account. Make sure to backup your files and data first.

After you’ve removed your account from the Surface, restart it then re-add your account like you did when you first got your Surface. You may need to reinstall may of your apps.

When you reinstall your apps, take your time and don’t do them all at once. In addition, pay attention to the battery performance between app installs. This will help you avoid reinstalling the application causing your problem in the first place.

NOTE: Be aware that you will need a separate account with administrative rights to do this. If you don’t have one you can find instructions for setting up a local admin account in this post: Create a local Account on your Surface.

Diagnose Surface Battery Drain Issues: Refresh or Reset

It’s getting down to the bottom of the barrel for things you can do on your own to resolve your battery issues but, you can always refresh or reset your Surface using these instructions from Microsoft: Refresh or Reset your Surface.

I highly recommend that you make sure your data is all backed up then perform the Refresh first. In theory, it will leave your data intact and just reset all of the system files. If that doesn’t work, move on to the Reset operation.

The reset will definitely blow away your data and reset everything on your Surface to factory defaults. You will need to reinstall everything (including all of the updates) so make sure you are sure you want to do it before you start.

On the plus side, this will almost always resolve the problem unless it’s failing hardware.

Like with the account refresh, when you reinstall your apps, take your time and don’t do them all at once. In addition, pay attention to the battery performance between app installs. This will help you avoid reinstalling the application causing your problem in the first place.

Diagnose Surface Battery Drain Issues: Contact Microsoft Tech Support

Well, if you’re here, it looks like you’ve gone through everything you can realistically do on your own and you’re still not satisfied with the battery life on your Surface. As a result, it’s time to involve Microsoft support as you (probably) have failing hardware and will need a replacement.

In my experience, your best bet is to go to a Microsoft Store and get help. I’ve always found them polite and responsive. Besides, it’s really hard to ignore you if you’re standing right in front of them.

Of course, going to a Microsoft Store might not be an option for you because there isn’t one nearby. If that’s the case, you’ll want to contact Microsoft Tech Support for help and that can be a bit tricky.

Fortunately, we did a post a while back that can help you navigate your way through the support tree and get the help you need: Get Microsoft support for Surface tablet hardware.

I hope you don’t ever need to use the information in this post but, if you do, you’ll know where to find it.

As always, if you have questions, drop a comment and we or one of your fellow readers will get back to you as soon as we can.


Kent Beck

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