Turn off the Screen on Surface Tablets

surface laptop

Turn off the Screen on Surface Pro 3 Tablets

Have you ever needed to be able to turn off the screen on your Surface Pro 3 but not have it sleep or hibernate?

It could be the case that you’re trying to Chromecast Netflix to your big screen in a dark room and don’t want the glare from the Surface screen distracting you. Another possibility is that you just want to be able to quickly turn off the screen when someone is nosy and looking at your screen over your shoulder.

Well, whatever the reason, in this article I’m going to show you how to add an option to turn off the screen without causing your Surface Pro 3 (or Pro/Pro2 – sorry, it won’t work with RT) to go to sleep or hibernate. This has the advantage of not interrupting any running jobs such as audio/video playback or data processing.

Unfortunately, Windows 8.1 doesn’t have this option built-in it by default but there is some software that you can download to do it and, with a simple change, you can even add an option to the right-click menu (or as a shortcut on your desktop) to quickly and easily turn off the screen on your Surface.

Turn off the Screen on Surface Pro 3 Tablets: How to Do It

First, you’ll need a program called Nircmd. It’s a piece of software I used occasionally years ago to help manage computers on the University of Michigan network.

To install it, follow these instructions…

  • Download the 64-bit version from HERE and copy it to your desktop
  • Open the zip file and move (drag and drop) the nircmd.exe file to your desktop
  • Tap and hold (right-click) on it and select Run As Administrator from the menu
  • Click through the security warning
  • When you see the screen below, select Copy to Windows Directory

Turn off the Screen on Surface Pro 3 Tablets 1

  • There will be a couple of security warnings, click through them

Turn off the Screen on Surface Pro 3 Tablets 2

  • If you get the error below, you didn’t run the application with administrator rights. Go back and try again

Turn off the Screen on Surface Pro 3 Tablets 3

OK, now that you have the nircmd file in place (it’s in your system32 directory – if you’re curious) it’s time to make a registry change to add the option to your desktop’s right-click menu.

  • Download this other zip file HERE and put it on your desktop (you may get a security warning, that’s OK).
  • Extract the file to your desktop and tap and hold (right click on it) on it
  • Select Open With, and choose Notepad (you may need to go under more options)
  • Verify the file contains the same text as listed in the Registry File Information section. If it does not then don’t use it. Either I made a mistake or someone slipped a bad file in there.
  • Once you’ve verified the file is correct, tap on it
  • You’ll get another couple of security warnings then a screen like the one below, when it appears tap Yes

Turn off the Screen on Surface Pro 3 Tablets 4

  • When this screen appears, just tap OK to finish up

Turn off the Screen on Surface Pro 3 Tablets 5


NOTE: If using the provided registry file makes you nervous, you can skip the download and generate your own with the information in the Registry File Information section below.


Turn off the Screen on Surface Pro 3 Tablets
After you have the registry key installed, you can tap and hold (right-click) anywhere on your desktop to bring up the menu to the right.

Note that the top item is called Display Off. Before, this item was not there if you brought up this menu. To use it, just select the Display Off option and your display will turn off after a half-second delay.

If you want the display to come back on, all you have to do is touch your screen or, if you have a keyboard and/or mouse attached) tap a key or wiggle the mouse.

Turn off the Screen on Surface Pro 3 Tablets: Add a Desktop Icon

If you want to add a desktop icon to make it even quicker, just create a new shortcut and use “nircmd.exe cmdwait 500 monitor off” (no quotes) as the command line and you will get a desktop icon that will do the exact same thing as the right-click menu.

In fact, just adding the shortcut is a good option if you aren’t very tech-savvy and don’t feel comfortable editing your registry to add the right-click option.

Turn off the Screen on Surface Pro 3 Tablets: Registry File Information

If you are curious about the registry file I provided or you’re a bit paranoid about downloading something like this from the internet (good security awareness, by the way) here is the text it contains…

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\DesktopBackground\Shell\Display Off] “icon”=”shell32.dll,-284”
“Position”=”Top”

[HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\DesktopBackground\Shell\Display Off\command] @=”nircmd.exe cmdwait 500 monitor off”

If you want, you can generate your own registry file (instead of downloading mine) by copying and pasting the text above into a text file with Notepad. Once you do that, you just have to change the file extension from .txt to .reg and use the instructions already provided to install it.

So, as usual, I hope you found my post interesting and useful. The addition of this little bit of functionality might turn out to be quite handy for you once you start using it. If nothing else, habitually turning off your screen when you’re not looking at it can really help extend the battery life of your Surface.

Tim

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