How do I keep my Surface RT battery from draining when it's not in use?

Microsoft Surface RT users, I need your help. How can I stop the Surface RT battery from draining when the device isn't in use? Suggestions?
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Whenever anyone says I'm the only one having a particular computing issue, I'm usually 99 percent sure it's not just me.


The latest example comes by way of the Surface RT, Microsoft's ARM-based tablet/PC hybrid. I wrote earlier this week about my experiences (mostly positive) with the Surface RT and why I'm not going to dump it for a Surface Pro when that device starts shipping February 9.

But there's been one issue with my Surface RT that's been bugging me since almost the first day I bought it. Sometimes, my battery drains quickly when I am not using the device. So quickly, in fact, that I have to recharge my Surface RT almost daily, even if I actively use the device for only an hour or so.

I asked Microsoft officials for help with this late last year. I was told my battery-draining problem was "atypical," and that "Windows RT devices should get 320-409 hours of battery life on connected standby, slightly higher than 10 hours." If 10 hours is the total amount of time one should expect the Surface RT to hold a charge, regardless of whether it's being used, I guess my results are typical. But I see some of my colleagues claiming they are going three and four days without recharging their Surface RTs. How?


Last night, Tom Warren of The Verge tweeted that he was having the same issue as I am with his Surface RT -- reminding me that even after I've applied all the requisite patches and firmware updates, my Surface RT still requires recharging almost every day. Comparatively, with my first-generation iPad, I was going days and sometimes longer than a week without a recharge.

Warren's not the only one who has complained about this issue. I searched and found a number of references to users being frustrated by the Surface RT battery drain when their devices are not in use.

Microsoft supposedly built Windows RT to optimize for battery life. In a blog post from a year ago, officials said that ARM-based Windows devices with their Connected Standby power mode should allow the battery to last "for weeks." 

Happily, the Surface RT powers back up very quickly (once you get the magnetic charger to stick and stay in the correct position, that is). And I usually power it up right before I take it anywhere with me, so I can avoid carrying the power cord. 

But there's got to be a reason why some of us Surface RT users are getting great battery life and others just so-so. (And given how few apps I have running on my device, I'm doubtful it's some rogue app killing my battery.)

A Microsoft spokesperson pointed me to a list of battery-saving tricks on the Surface site, which includes all the usual suspects -- adjusting screen brightness, turning off notifications and turning off Wi-Fi "for a while" when possible. (I haven't tried the Wi-Fi one, as it seems to defeat the purpose of having a mobile, always-connected tablet, but I have tried the other tips with no success.)

One Microsoft Store employee suggested I close all my apps when not in use (which can be done by swiping downward from the top in a one-fell-swoop kind of motion). From all I've heard, this isn't necessary, and if it were, it would be a major pain.

Another colleague (thanks, Mary Branscombe) suggested that I check task manager history (available by using Task Manager in the Desktop) to check if any of my apps were consuming an inordinate amount of resources. Internet Explorer was the only one that is off-the-scale here. But as Branscombe reminded me, IE's Chakra JavaScript engine is handling some processing tasks on these devices, so this may not indicate anything amiss.

So, I'm at my wits' end. Maybe someone out there in reader-land has found a solution to this issue -- which is definitely not just my problem. Let's crowd-source this.

Meanwhile, speaking of tips and tricks, XNA Developers has a nice list of 50+ tips and tricks for Surface RT users. There are a couple battery-related tips there -- including shutting off Bluetooth when not needed (which I've now done), but nothing much beyond that.

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