How To: Optimize Microsoft Surface Pro (or Pro 2!) Battery Life

Surface Pro Battery Doesn’t Have to End at 4 Hours

Updated 10/21/2013: I’ve been using Surface Pro as my primary PC for several months now, and have made these settings changes even more aggressive for my use case scenario. That is to say, most of what I do day to day is take notes and write, so I don’t need the full grunt of the i5 working at full bore. As a result, I’ve been able to get a consistent 6-7 hours out of Surface Pro, with an occasional 8 hours, depending on my workload and brightness (since some of my note taking is done in a darkened theater, I can use minimum brightness fairly often). If I can get this battery life on an Ivy Bridge Surface Pro, you should easily be able to get 8-10 hours, consistently, on a Surface Pro 2 with similar usage scenarios. Read on for the revised settings!

One of the chief complaints I’ve seen leveled at the device as I’ve perused other reviews is in the battery performance of the device. In most cases, reviewers, evidently unable to distinguish between an ARM based tablet and one running a full-blown laptop processor, have decried the battery life as horrible. While it’s fair to say that it’s not up to par with an ARM based SoC (what is?) in that area, it also doesn’t have to be as terrible as people claim. No, Microsoft’s Surface Pro has the ability to do a little better, and all it takes is a bit of tweaking on your part (tweaking, I’ll add, that Microsoft should have done at the factory). As I type this, I’ve been using it off the outlet for 6 hours, 24 minutes, and I have 15% battery life remaining. Below, find out what I did, and how I’m getting an average of 6 hours depending on how I’m working.
I won’t bore you with a lot of jibber-jabber, so let’s get started, shall we?

First, create a new power profile. Battery settings are all you care about. Plugged in settings can be whatever you want, as we’re not concerned with energy consumption from the outlet. Here are the settings I used:

Name: Battery Max

Hard Disk: Turn off after 10 minutes on battery.

Internet Explorer→JavaScript timer: Max power savings

Desktop background settings: paused

Wireless Adapter Settings→Power Saving Mode: Maximum power savings.

Sleep
Sleep after: 3 Minutes
Allow Hybrid Sleep: Off
Hibernate after: 10 minutes
Allow wake timers: Off

USB→USB Selective Suspend setting: Enabled

Intel Graphics Settings→Intel graphics plan: Maximum battery life

Power buttons and lid→lid close action: Hibernate
Power buttons and lid→power button action: Hibernate (entails a brief 5 second resume penalty, but I think it’s worth the tradeoff)

PCI Express→Link state management: Maximum power savings.

Processor Power Management→Minimum State: 5%
Processor Power Management→Maximum State: 50%. This prevents the CPU from going into Turbo mode, which saves a LOT of juice. If you need more horsepower on battery, experiment with raising the max cap, but be aware that it’ll entail a battery life penalty.

System Cooling Policy: passive

Display→Dim Display After: 1 Minute
Display→Turn off displaye: 3 minutes
Display→Display Brightness: 30%
Display→Dimmed display brightness: 20%
Display: Enable adaptive brightness: on

Multimedia→When sharing media: allow the computer to sleep
Multimedia→When playing video: optimize power savings

The battery actions below that, I just left alone. The defaults tend to be “if critical, hibernate,” which is what you want anyway. By making these minor adjustments I’ve been able to consistently get between 5.5 and 6.5 6 and 7.5 hours on a 128GB Surface Pro with a MicroSD card installed, while using the Type Cover. If I’m using it all in one straight productivity run (typically meaning Word/Excel and a little web browsing), I get over 6 hours. As an experiment, I put the Surface into Airplane mode while I wrote a story in Word, and wound up with 7:03 before Windows finally forced me into hibernation mode. Your mileage may vary, but at the very least I feel confident in saying you’ll get well over the 4 hours most reviewers are claiming–especially if you don’t disable all the power management features and loop 1080p videos the way some of them do.

27 Comments

  1. drewsblue2001 11/24/2015
  2. Dean 02/24/2015
  3. Zebulon Mikula 01/30/2015
  4. berysax 12/27/2014
  5. JasonGW 12/07/2014
  6. SP3Fan 12/06/2014
  7. JasonGW 12/06/2014
  8. SP3Fan 12/04/2014
  9. JasonGW 12/03/2014
  10. SP3Fan 12/03/2014
  11. kenny 08/21/2014
  12. JasonGW 05/01/2014
  13. Joe 04/09/2014
  14. Richard 03/28/2014
  15. Van 02/26/2014
  16. Mark Pearce 08/21/2013
  17. garak0410 08/14/2013
  18. Rennie 06/06/2013
  19. Zok-Star 05/30/2013
  20. Fiend 05/29/2013
  21. Reed 05/29/2013
  22. JasonGW 05/26/2013
  23. JasonGW 05/26/2013
  24. Swan Lee 05/26/2013
  25. JasonGW 04/12/2013
  26. steveo 04/12/2013
  27. chasles22 02/27/2013
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