This weekend, I learned the hard way that a successful Surface Pro boot requires minimum charge levels. How did I learn this, and what made it hard? My wife and son took our Surface Pro 3 with them to Germany, in case they needed a PC while there. Turns out they didn’t, so it never even left its protective neoprene case during the trip. When I got around to unpacking and installing it in the Surface Pro 3 dock this weekend, I expected to update it immediately. Wrong!
Despite the occasional quirk, my now 4-year-old Surface Pro 3, has been (mostly) a reliable, portable, and handy mobile PC.
What Surface Pro Boot Requires Minimum Charge Means…
Sure, I tried to fire up the device once I stuck into the charging cradle in the dock. But it stubbornly refused to boot, or stay booted. I was able to get past the spinning balls, and occasionally to the lock screen. But then, the device would power off. After three unsuccessful boots in a row, it even when into repair mode, just as it should have. But I couldn’t boot into the recovery partition, either. Over time, I was able to figure out that the Surface Pro 3 — and, from what I read online, other Surface devices with non-removable batteries — won’t boot successfully unless the battery has a 5% charge or better.
It seems that because the Surface Pro’s battery had completely discharged while sitting idle for 3-plus weeks, it wasn’t ready to return to work without a minimal level of charge. Even though the device was plugged into the dock and getting power that way, something about the Surface design keeps it from working (and booting) properly until the battery regains some basic level of charge. By watching the BatteryBar utility, I was able to correlate a successful boot with charge levels of 5% or greater. On my Surface Pro 3 model (i7 4650U CPU, 8GB DDR3 RAM, 256GB Samsung SSD) that took about 10 minutes.
Since encountering this, I’ve heard from other friends and colleagues that such behavior is not limited to surface devices. Other laptops (especially ultrabooks) and tablets with sealed/non-removable batteries seem subject to this kind of thing, including smartphones, certain HP models, and more. It never hurts to be patient, I guess, even when it comes to updating or inspecting mobile PCs and other devices with completely empty batteries.