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.

  • chasles22

    excellent information, and frankly this points on the higher standard people hold ms to vs apple. the ms environment is so much more flexibile that you can actually make these changes but everyone goes max brightness and 1080p looping video, ya because that’s how i plan to use this. i think that test is basically an ipad test because watching videos is pretty much what the ipad is good for. thanks for the detail, this put me over the edge to order one.

  • steveo

    GREAT INFO!

  • http://www.allthatgamingstuff.com/ JasonGW

    Thanks, I’m glad it’s helpful for you! I’ve helped several Surface Pro owners with these simple adjustments and made a big difference in them all :). I really think it’s especially the “turbo” mode of the processor that kills you on the battery life, but once you set the maximum down by enough to prevent it and tweak a few other things, it makes a BIG difference :).

  • Swan Lee

    Is their any degradation in video or audio quality or wifi speed when using this profile ?

  • http://www.allthatgamingstuff.com/ JasonGW

    In my experience, no. I’ve watched 1080p MKV files on battery with the CPU maximum set as low as 40% with absolutely no stuttering or problems of any kind. Similarly, wifi speed is not slowed and will work great, depending on the speed of your connection.
    Today I netted my best time yet: 8:03!

  • http://www.allthatgamingstuff.com/ JasonGW

    Sorry I didn’t see your message sooner, but I’m glad that I could help. How has your Surface Pro experience been so far? Have you snagged the new driver for the touch screen, that enables pressure sensitivity in almost all applications?

  • Reed

    Dumb question – where do I get all the settings you are referring to? Creating a custom power plan only exposes a handful of options (dim display, turn off, etc) not all of the detailed ones here. Thanks!

  • Fiend

    To get to those settings right click the battery icon (bottom left corner of desktop screen) and select “power options.” Click “change plan settings” next to your custom plan then click “change advanced power setting” to access the settings in this article.

  • Zok-Star

    Very nice! Just got my surface pro. Have set these settings, will see how I go!!!

  • Rennie

    Hi, thanks for the tips, I’m planning to buy a Surface Pro since it finally arried here in Germany.

    Can you tell me how the battery is used when the Surface is in charging mode? Does it stop to charge the battery or does the power always get through the battery and so the battery gets worn down? Thanks.

    Greetings.

  • garak0410

    Is this still working for everyone? Does performance suffer any? I love my Surface Pro but battery life is driving me to look at another tablet for consumption and I don’t want more gadgets. :(

  • Mark Pearce

    Jason great article, I use this profile across our company, it’s applied via SCCM on all our Surface Pros before we send them out. Thanks

  • Van

    Jason, it sounds like you have pretty detailed stats on your battery life. Do you have a program that tracks how much time you’re getting? Or just doing it manually?

  • Richard

    Thanks for the suggestions. I used all but one. I have to take a trip soon and will put these settings to the test

  • Joe

    Hi, I’ve tried these settings have noticed no increase in battery life. I’ve even set the screen to the dimmest setting and turned airplane to check the battery life. The longest life I can get is 4 hours. The surface pro is only a month old so do you reckon its a faulty battery?

  • http://www.uglybabystudios.com/ JasonGW

    I’d suggest you go back through and double check. Odds are you missed the CPU Max setting, as the biggest issue that eats your battery is when the CPU gets kicked into overdrive (can’t happen if you throttle it to 80% or less). The other question to consider is what you’re doing. If all you’re doing is streaming HD video, that’s gonna eat battery more because you’re chugging through wireless and playing video (also, your screen brightness is a factor).

    Where you should see big gains in battery life is in normal usage: running desktop and metro apps for productivity, for example Office, email, photoshop, web browsing, etc.

    Hope that helps! :)

    Jason

  • kenny

    Old thread but i found battery savings on my sp3 by toning down the effects…its in control panel system settings advanced where it allows you to configure for performance vs appearance. I dont recall exactly where but it takes all the fancy shmancy away but i have always disabled those options since windows xp for my laptoos and desktops its a spartan look but id rather have the battery life. My fan barely kicks on now with web browsing and non video/audio use.