Posted by: kurtsh | September 16, 2016

HOWTO: Really save battery power on your Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book

imageEveryone’s always looking for ways to squeeze more battery juice out of their Surfaces.  Because I use several “compute & network-heavy” solutions as background processes on my device, I sadly don’t get the battery life that many others do.

Yes, there’s all the typical tips like “minimize screen brightness”, “disable location, bluetooth, wireless”, “turn on airplane mode”, etc. Of course, these should be followed first & foremost as they’re the most obvious ways to save battery.

But here’s a few lesser known techniques I’ve used that have suited me very well to extend the battery life of my Surface Book, that should work for any Surface:

When your CPU hits 100% utilization, the chipset automatically overclocks the processor from 1.7Ghz to 2.2Ghz. This is called Intel SpeedBoost & has the effect of making your PC faster but also draining the battery significantly.

The solution is to set a cap on CPU utilization so that it never goes above 99%. The problem is that on Surface Pro 4 & Surface Book, the ability to set a maximum CPU usage threshold is is disabled.  So here are instructions on how to reenable it via the Registry & set it to 99% so your Surface never “overclocks” while on battery power.  I believe this technique has given me an extra hour of battery life on any given day.

Battery Saver in Windows 10 is a great feature that auto-tunes the OS so it doesn’t do certain background operations to minimize power consumption.  According to Ed Bott, Battery Saver disables:

  • Email notifications
  • Live tile updates
  • Background activity for some apps

Normally you have to manually turn it on but if you’re like me, you often forget and next thing you know, 50% of your battery was needlessly used up because you forgot to turn on Battery Saver.

So here’s how to automatically turn it on whenever you’re on battery:

  1. Go to Settings –> System –> Battery
  2. Ensure the box “Turn battery saver on automatically if my battery falls below:” is checked
  3. Set the slider to 100%

This will ensure that you maximize you battery life whenever you’re not plugged in by throttling background processes power consumption.

There are some apps you can’t avoid using.  Outlook… Excel… PowerPoint… Word… etc.

But there are some that consume an obnoxious amount of power because they were never designed with battery life in mind.  Chrome, Firefox, & Internet Explorer 11 are all power hogs.

But Edge is not.  When you’re on battery and you want to save power, use Edge as MUCH AS POSSIBLE whenever browsing.

This isn’t a joke: I’ve found that using Edge can reduce my power usage while browsing by 50% or more, especially when compared to Chrome, Firefox or Internet Explorer.  Verge has written an article on this as well.

If you want to know how much of your battery is being used by your browser choice, do the following:

  1. Go to Settings –> System –> Battery
  2. Click the words “Battery Usage by App”.  This will reveal the percentage of battery each app you’ve run in the past has consumed.
  3. Click on your browser.  It will breakdown how much power is used in the foreground vs the background.
          • imageSPECIAL: If you click on Microsoft Edge in your list (assuming you’ve used Edge in the past), you will see a special options menu that appears that allows you to tune Edge’s behavior when placed in the background vs the foreground.  You can also leave this behavior to Battery Saver to control. (i.e. “Managed by Windows”)

If your Surface is running really hot, it means it’s eating ton of power. There may be an application or system process that is running at high CPU. Some processes like Windows Update, Office sync, anti-virus scanning, and Edge may run high CPU at times. Over time these processes should subside.

However, I’ve been told that there is also a Windows 10 bug where the “System and Compressed Memory” task runs at high CPU and causes the system to heat up.

imageThe current workaround is to Disable “Fast Startup” in Control Panel:

  1. Right click the battery icon in SysTray, Choose “Power Options”
  2. In the left pane, Click “Choose what the power buttons do”
  3. Click “Change settings that are currently unavailable”
  4. Scroll to the bottom of the window & uncheck “Turn on Fast Start”
  5. Reboot

If you want to diminish the voltage allocated to the processors on your Surface Pro 4 or Surface Book to maximize your battery life, there are tools available to do this – one in particular is Throttlestop which is a free download.  This includes disabling Turbo which is similar to what is described above but it’s done in firmware.

Here’s two videos that highlight how to accomplish this using different tools:


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