Surface Pen Problems & How to Fix Them

Surface Pens are digital styluses Microsoft makes just for Surface. As with real pen and paper, the strokes you make with your Surface Pen show up in OneNote, Microsoft Office 365 and other apps. The harder you press down on your screen, the bigger the lines become. Some have erasers to quickly delete what you’ve written. And pressing their top button gets you a blank canvas to draw or take notes on in seconds.

Surface Pen problems wreck all of that. If your device isn’t paired correctly, you can’t open OneNote quickly using the button on the top of your pen. You can’t write with a Surface Pen if the tiny battery inside your pen is dead. Those batteries are very hard to find. Pressure sensitivity and tilt detection only work if your Surface device has all the right drivers and software updates.

Here’s how to fix common Surface Pen problems as you write and draw on your Surface Pro, Surface Book, Surface Laptop or Surface Studio.

Read: 2017 Surface Pro Problems & How to Fix Them

Which Surface Pen Works with Which Surface?

You need to know what Surface Pen you have before you can address your Surface Pen problems. There are four models and each of them are very different from the others. Use the Surface Pen Compatibility Guide below to learn about the different pens and how they work with different devices.

 Surface Pen Surface DevicesBest Used With
 Original Surface Pen (Black with skinny Barrel and side magnet.)Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2
Surface Pen (2 barrel buttons with a plastic top button.)Surface 3, Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 4, 2017 Surface Pro, Surface Book, Surface Book 2, Surface StudioSurface 3 and Surface Pro 3
Surface Pen for Surface Pro 4 (Rubber eraser button with a pocket clip.)Surface 3, Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 4, 2017 Surface Pro, Surface Book, Surface Book 2, Surface StudioSurface Pro 4 and Surface Book, Surface Studio
New Surface Pen (Rubber eraser button without a pocket clip. Single side button.)Surface 3, Surface Pro 3, Surface Pro 4, 2017 Surface Pro, Surface Book, Surface Book 2, Surface Studio, Surface Laptop2017 Surface Pro, Surface Book 2, Surface Laptop

The Surface Pen, Surface Pen for Surface Pro 4 and the New Surface Pen all work on older and newer devices. So, you can buy a new Surface Pen and use it on a Surface Pro 3 without issue.

That being said, for the best results, you want the Surface Pen designed for your generation of Surface. That’s because all Surface models can’t detect the same amount of pressure. For example, The 2017 Surface Pro detects 4,096 levels of pressure as you write or draw with the New Surface Pen. That same stylus only gets you 1,092 levels of pressure sensitivity on Surface Pro 4. Also, the Surface Pro 4 doesn’t adjust lines as you tilt the new Surface Pen. Only the Surface Book 2 and 2017 Surface Pro do that.

Read: Best 2017 Surface Pro Accessories

If you experience a lot of Surface Pen problems and you’re using an older stylus, connect your Surface to the internet and check for updates in the Settings app. Firmware upgrades keep Surface accessories working well. On Windows 10, open the Settings app. Click on Update & Security.

How to Fix Surface Pen Not Working Problems

Your Surface Pen won’t work correctly if its battery is dead or it isn’t connected to your device through Bluetooth.

First, confirm that your Surface Pen isn’t just out of battery power. Open the Surface app on your device and draw a smiley face in the Pen area of the app. If your pen strokes show up in the app, your Surface Pen problems aren’t caused by a dead battery.

If you don’t see any lines, replace the battery in your Surface Pen. Twist the top cap on your Surface Pen and remove the AAAA battery inside.

Surface Pen problems caused by Bluetooth are easy to fix. Just pair your Surface Pen to your Surface again and restart your PC. Use Gotta Be Mobile’s How to Sync & Set Up Surface Pen guide if you’ve never paired your Surface Pen to your Surface device before.

How to Fix Surface Pen Not Unlocking Your PC Problems

Upgrading your Surface Pro 3 to Windows 10 breaks your option to open OneNote by pressing the top button on your Surface Pen. This isn’t a bug, unfortunately. Microsoft removed the feature.

Pressing the button on your Surface Pen now opens Windows Ink Workspace. This area has its own notes section, sketchbook and screenshot tool. To set this up, open the Settings on your device. Now, click on Devices. Click on Pen & Windows Ink in the menu on the left side of your screen. Go down the window until you see Pen Shortcuts.

Read: How to Use Ink Workspace and Sticky Notes in Windows 10

Click the checkbox beside When your device is locked click once can open your Windows Ink Workspace notes.

This won’t quickly open OneNote on a locked device. However, it will let you quickly write something down without searching for pen and paper.

How to Fix Surface Pen Inaccuracy Problems

If lines don’t look as straight as they should when you write or draw on your 2017 Surface Pro, you have Surface Pen inaccuracy problems. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to fix them.

Microsoft is investigating Surface Pen problems that lead to inaccurate lines, according to a post on the Microsoft Answers forum. Allegedly, there’s an electrical issue with the 2017 Surface Pro that causes the inaccuracy. If you’re having the same problems with your device, leave a comment in the Answers Forum and get notified when there’s a fix. Exchange your Surface Pro if you purchased it recently.

Read: Best Windows 10 Apps for Digital Pens

How to Adjust Surface Pen Sensitivity

To get your Surface Pen sensitivity just right, adjust it from the Surface app. Click on the Start button in the bottom-left corner of your screen. Open Surface in your list of installed apps.

Once in the app, click on the pen icon on the left side of your screen. Use the blue slider below the happy face to fine tune how pressure sensitive your Surface Pen is. Moving the slider further left makes it easier to get bigger lines.

How to Fix Surface Pen Eraser Problems

If you are having Surface Pen eraser problems, restart your Surface. To do that, click on the Surface button in the bottom-left corner of your screen. Click on the Power button and select Restart from the pop-up menu.

When that doesn’t work, try changing out the battery in your Surface Pen. Surface Pens use AAAA batteries.

Breaking the metal contacts inside your Surface Pen also cause Surface Pen problems. Carefully open your Surface Pen and confirm the metal contacts on the top aren’t damaged. If they are damaged, you must replace your Surface Pen.

Read: Best Windows 10 Apps in 2018

Where to Find Surface Pen Batteries

Your Surface Pen takes AAAA batteries that you can replace. Just don’t spend an entire day driving to different drug stores and electronics stores trying to find them.

Instead, order the Amazon Basics AAAA batteries for $4.49, Amazon offers next day delivery for these batteries and Prime Now subscribers can get them within 1 hour. Drop one of these batteries in your Surface Pen every few months and keep the others in a safe place. Depending on how often you use your pen, you won’t need to order more for years.

7 Best Surface Pens & Surface Pen Alternatives for Surface Pro

New Surface Pen

New Surface Pen
$99.99 from Microsoft Store

 Microsoft calls its latest stylus the new Surface Pen.

When used with the 2017 Surface Pro or Surface Book 2, the new Surface Pen detects 4,096 different levels of pressure as you write or draw. It has tilt detection when used with those devices too, so your writing changes depending on the angle you use. Tips included with the pen let you change your Surface Pen’s hardness and boldness when you want. The eraser cap lets you flip the pen over and delete what you’ve just written or launch your favorite pen-ready apps. This stylus clips to the side of a Surface Pro 4, Surface Pro 3, 2017 Surface Pro, Surface Book or Surface Book 2 using magnets.

Read: How to Sync & Setup a Surface Pen


The Microsoft Store sells the new Surface Pen in black, silver, cobalt, burgundy and aqua for $99.99.
  • 4,096 levels of pressure detection
  • Tilt support
  • Eraser & shortcut button
  • No pocket holder

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