15 quick fixes for the Surface 3’s most common problems

15 microsoft surface 3 problems fix feature v2
Ivan McClellan/Digital Trends
Don’t worry, we know: You really, really need your Surface 3 to work properly again – especially if you have an upcoming presentation, project, or deadline. That’s why we’ve collected all the common and frustrating Surface 3 problems, and provided you with the solutions to get your Microsoft tablet working again. From corrupted files and lost sound to connection issues and slow apps, we’ve got your answers. Check out the list and see what problem sounds most like yours.

Please note: These solutions are for the Surface 3, not the Surface Pro 3.

Surface hardware issues

Surface won’t charge

First, check all your physical connections and accessories to make sure the problem isn’t something easy to fix. Disconnect all your peripherals and unplug the power cord to see if that helps. Take a close look at your charging port and charging cable to look for any signs of damage. If it looks like there’s a problem, it’s time to call up a computer specialist for a quick repair. If there is no sign of damage, wait for a few minutes, then plug in your charging cable and only your charging cable, using an electrical outlet that you know is channeling electricity. It is important to leave your USB ports empty when trying this.

If you notice that your battery just isn’t charging properly and want to prevent battery problems from happening in the future, you can change your settings. Search for “Device Manager” on Windows and select the program when it is found. You will see a Batteries category that you can select: Doing so will bring up options including Microsoft ACPI-Compliant Control Method Battery. Don’t let all the words worry you – select this option, and go to the Driver Here select Uninstall and okay the procedure. Then to the Start Menu and select Restart. This will automatically reinstall the battery driver for you, and will clear up any problems with your battery software in one go.

If problems continue, your battery is likely to need repair or replacement.

Surface’s touchscreen isn’t responding

Start by looking for physical problems with your Surface screen. Look for any hard-to-notice cracks or any sign of damage or displacement. This is a sign that you need screen repair. If there’s no damage, then get a clean, soft cloth and clean the screen. Sometimes a layer of grime or grease will prevent the touchscreen from working correctly, and it’s best to rule out the obvious causes first.

If software is the problem, you may be able to fix it by restarting your Surface. You can quickly restart by visit the Start Menu, selecting Power, and choosing Restart.

Windows allows you to adjust touchscreen calibration as well – if calibration has suddenly gone wonky, this could be causing your problems. Press the Windows Logo key and enter calibrate mode with the arrow keys – select “Calibrate the screen for pen or touch.” Using the arrow keys and the tab key, select Reset to restore to factory settings or Yes to re-calibrate. Try both if possible to see if they can solve your problem.

Surface’s screen is too dim

This can happen if the backlight to your Surface 3 stops working, in which case you will barely be able to see the screen at all. First, you need to find out if this is a software problem or a hardware problem. Begin by swiping back from the right edge of the Surface to bring up the option for Settings. Choose Screen, which will bring up a window that includes a Brightness setting with a slider. Make sure that this slider is not turned all the way down, and see if it changes the visibility of your screen.

If the slider does not work, the problem is likely related to hardware issues. You should get in touch with Microsoft’s tech support, or take your Surface into a Microsoft Store.

Surface isn’t producing sound

If you are using an accessory, begin by checking the ports for speakers or your microphone. Make sure the ports are firmly in place, undamaged, and not blocked by any debris. If you can get sound from your Surface 3 speakers but not from an accessory, this is a good sign the problem is either with the port, or with the accessory itself. You should try switching speakers or mics to see if this helps as well.

Check your volume! Sometimes your volume can get turned down or muted without you realizing it. Use the volume button to see if you can turn up the sound. If your keyboard has a mute key, press it to see if you can unmute the sound. On the Surface, you can go to the desktop taskbar and select the Speakers icon to adjust the volume inside Windows and check to see if anything has been muted.

If you have any audio apps open, close them, re-attach your speaker accessories, and try the app again.

Sometimes your sound drivers need an update to function correctly. Check for the latest updates by going to the Start Menu and selecting Settings. From there, choose Updates & Security, and choose Windows Update. This will give you the option to check for any new updates. You can either select specific updates to apply, or apply all prepared updates at once. Applying all updates is advised, especially if you aren’t sure what’s causing the problem.

Unfortunately, it’s sometimes a Surface update that can cause sound problems due to driver issues. If you downloaded an update and it killed your sound, then visit this webpage to download your sound driver again. This should restore functionality.

Surface can’t connect to Wi-Fi

If you can’t pick up any Wi-Fi at all, the problem may be your settings. Start by going to the Start Menu, heading over to Settings, choosing Network & Internet, and then selecting Wi-Fi. Make sure that your wireless Internet is turned on. Double check to make sure that you aren’t in Airplane mode. Make sure you have Wi-Fi service in your area currently.

If the basics are all accounted for, try a restart to see if this improves matters. You can quickly restart by visit the Start Menu, selecting Power, and choosing Restart.

Is your Wi-Fi still not working no matter what? It’s time to run the Windows Network Troubleshooter. Yes, there’s even a troubleshooter for your Wi-Fi, and this time you don’t even have to download anything from the Internet. Head over to your Search Box and search for “network troubleshooter.” Open the troubleshooter and choose the option to “Identify and repair network problems.” Follow any additional prompts to fix issues.

You can also try to disable Wi-Fi for a bit to see if it resets. Go to Device Manager, choose Network adapters, and look for an option that reads “Marvell AVASTAR Network Controller.” Select this, go to the Driver tab, and select Disable. After disabling, select Enable to turn the driver back on and see if this helps.

Surface won’t connect to external display

If you don’t see any video output from your Surface, then double check your input settings on the second screen. Make sure the proper ports are set to be recognized (i.e., VGA, HDMI, DVI, etc.).

Right-click on the desktop, open Display Settings. Make sure that two displays appear. Under the Multiple Displays drop-down menu, make sure that video is not set to display only on the Surface 3’s main display.

Are you using a video adapter? If so, unplug it, wait for a few seconds, and plug it back in. Sometimes the simple solutions work the best.

Corrupted files on Surface

This is scary, but fortunately Microsoft has a backup plan to help you out. Start by using the search box to look for “restore your files.” This should bring up an option to “Restore your files with File History.” File History is a Time Machine-ish tool on Surface that automatically backs up your files in a variety of programs.
It will open a new search box for you: Type in the file name that you are looking for, being as accurate as possible. Browse through the returned results, select the file, and choose Restore. You can choose where to restore the file if you want it in a new location. Please note – you need to have File History set up with a drive assigned to the backups for this to work.

Surface software issues

Surface is running very slowly

If your Surface 3 starts running slowly compared to past performance, there could be several different causes. One of the best solutions is to simply restart your Surface and see if this fixes the problem – a running app could be causing problems in the background. You can quickly restart by visit the Start Menu, selecting Power, and choosing Restart. If you don’t want to restart because you are afraid of losing data, then at least check through your open apps and shut down any apps that aren’t completely necessary. If performance suddenly starts to improve after you shut down an app, you’ve found the troublemaker.

Check for updates, too. If you don’t have automatic updates chosen, you can check for the latest updates by going to the Start Menu and selecting Settings. From there, choose Updates & Security, and choose Windows Update. This will give you the option to check for any new upgrades to your system. You can either select specific updates to apply, or apply all prepared updates at once. Applying all updates is advised, especially if you aren’t sure what’s causing the problem.

If you have narrowed the problem down to a single app that turns all of your Surface to molasses every time it runs, the app may be corrupted or experiencing other problems. The good news is that Windows has a troubleshooting tool that you can use to look for major flaws and see if they can be corrected. It’s called the app troubleshooter: You can find it by bringing up the browser on your Surface and heading to this website. Click the link to automatically start the troubleshooter.

Remember that this could also be a RAM or storage problem, especially if you have crammed a lot of data and programs onto your Surface 3. Closing a few apps can help your RAM, but for your hard drive you can run the Disk Cleanup Tool. Use the search box on the taskbar to search for “disk cleanup” and select the tool when it is found. Run the tool and delete any unnecessary files. You should also empty your Recycle Bin to see if this helps.

Surface turns on, but Windows won’t start

First, be patient. Sometimes when powering up your Surface it starts to helpfully install the latest updates. This can lead it to pause a blank screen or logo screen for some time, depending on the update. Do NOT try to shut off your computer, just plug it in and give it some time to get all the updates applied.

If waiting doesn’t seem to be working (give it at least 20 minutes, please) then try a forced restart. Hold down the power button on your Surface for a full 30 seconds, then release it. Then press the power button once, in the normal manner.

If Windows still gets frozen in the same spot, you may need to consider a full reset. You can visit this Microsoft site on downloading a recovery image on your USB drive and using it to reset your Surface based on the model that you have. Depending on the severity of the problem, you may or may not be able to retain your files.

Surface spits error messages when you try to update

If your Surface is giving you errors or freezing up entirely when you try to update, the problem is typically related either to power, or to some internal software snafu. Start by checking your battery. Microsoft recommends charging your battery to at least 40 percent before trying to install any updates, but we’ll go ahead and say that you should always, always just plug in your Surface tablet with your charging cable before installing updates. That way the computer will never turn off in the middle of an update and cause problems. Try to never restart in the middle of an update if possible, since this can cause even more complications.

If you notice that your battery just isn’t charging properly and want to prevent battery problems from happening in the future, you can change your settings. Search for “Device Manager” on Windows and select the program when it is found. You will see a Batteries category that you can select. Doing so will bring up options including Microsoft ACPI-Compliant Control Method Battery. Don’t let all the words worry you – select this option, and go to the Driver Here select Uninstall and okay the procedure. Then to the Start Menu and select Restart. This will automatically reinstall the battery driver for you, and will clear up any problems with your battery software in one go.

If the problem isn’t related to your battery power, Windows does have its own troubleshooter online for fixing update problems and making sure that everything happens smoothly. Visit this webpage and look for the header that says “Run the Windows Update Troubleshooter” That section will provide a link that automatically downloads the troubleshooter for you to run.

New Mail messages aren’t showing up

The Mail app may need an update to continue operating correctly. If you don’t have automatic updates chosen, you can check for the latest updates by going to the Start Menu and selecting Settings. From there, choose Updates & Security, and choose Windows Update. This will give you the option to check for any new updates. You can either select specific updates to apply, or apply all prepared updates at once. Applying all updates is advised, especially if you aren’t sure what’s causing the problem.

If this doesn’t work, when Mail is launched, look for an option next your account name for Syncing (it looks a little like a recycling logo). Select this: It will make sure that all your latest email updates are synced across your devices, and could help missing emails appear where they are supposed to be. You can also sync the account manually by go to the Mail app, selecting Settings, going to Accounts, and choosing your account. This allows you to use the Download email option and choosing a specific timeframe to look for new emails from this account.

The problem could also be related to your account settings. For example, your mail may not be able to find your IMAP server ports and names automatically. You can find your IMAP settings from your email or Internet provider. Reset or change your Mail IMAP settings by going to the Start Menu, selecting Mail, and then selecting Settings in the lower left corner. In Settings, choose Accounts, and Add Account. Choose Other Account, then IMAP, then Connect. Enter the email address you want to connect to Mail, and choose Connect. If Mail cannot find your settings, you will be able to enter your incoming and outgoing IMAP information yourself. Complete the fields manually and choose Connect again.

Gmail calendar, contacts or other data won’t sync with Surface 3

Gmail has increased security for its apps, which can lead to syncing issues with Surface. Fortunately, this is an easy fix. On your Surface, visit this website. Google provides a simple On/Off option for accessing less secure apps. Make sure that you select “Turn on.” This should solve your syncing issue.

New Mail messages aren’t showing up

The Mail app may need an update to continue operating correctly. If you don’t have automatic updates chosen, you can check for the latest updates by going to the Start Menu and selecting Settings. From there, choose Updates & Security, and choose Windows Update. This will give you the option to check for any new updates. You can either select specific updates to apply, or apply all prepared updates at once. Applying all updates is advised, especially if you aren’t sure what’s causing the problem.

If this doesn’t work, when Mail is launched, look for an option next your account name for Syncing (it looks a little like a recycling logo). Select this: It will make sure that all your latest email updates are synced across your devices, and could help missing emails appear where they are supposed to be. You can also sync the account manually by go to the Mail app, selecting Settings, going to Accounts, and choosing your account. This allows you to use the Download email option and choosing a specific timeframe to look for new emails from this account.

The problem could also be related to your account settings. For example, your mail may not be able to find your IMAP server ports and names automatically. You can find your IMAP settings from your email or Internet provider. Reset or change your Mail IMAP settings by going to the Start Menu, selecting Mail, and then selecting Settings in the lower left corner. In Settings, choose Accounts, and Add Account. Choose Other Account, then IMAP, then Connect. Enter the email address you want to connect to Mail, and choose Connect. If Mail cannot find your settings, you will be able to enter your incoming and outgoing IMAP information yourself. Complete the fields manually and choose Connect again.

OneDrive is no longer working with the Surface 3

If you depend on OneDrive for work or school, it can be a major headache when it stops working on your Surface. This can happen if your computer doesn’t have a working Internet connection, so check your connectivity first. If Wi-Fi doesn’t seem to be working properly, try switching to a cable connection to see if OneDrive responds to this.

OneDrive may be waiting on important updates from Microsoft. You can check for the latest updates by going to the Start Menu and selecting Settings. From there, choose Updates & Security, and choose Windows Update. This will give you the option to check for any new updates. You can either select specific updates to apply, or apply all prepared updates at once.

If a single file is giving you trouble, go to the OneDrive website and see if you can interact with the file from there. If you can’t, the file itself has probably been corrupted, and you will probably need to replace it entirely.

If you cannot find out what’s going wrong, then run the OneDrive troubleshooter provided by Microsoft. This troubleshooter can help you solve problems by giving you the option to Reset OneDrive. This will resync all your files, so it may take some time, but afterward functionality should be restored.

Surface crashes when opening apps

Apps may encounter a number of errors that cause them to freeze up or make your Surface crash. Knowing this, Microsoft has created a troubleshooter to scout problems with your apps and try to apply fixes. You can visit this web site to access the troubleshooter. Click the link to download and run the program, and follow any on-screen prompts accordingly.

If the troubleshooter didn’t work, try to delete the app entirely from your Surface 3 and download a new version. This can sometimes stop bugs and other problems.
If things don’t seem to be working, try looking up this particularly troubling app online. See if it is still receiving updates and if it works with Windows 10. The app could have been left behind by Microsoft’s software.

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