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Windows 10 on Surface Pro 3: Impressions & Problems



Microsoft says that the features set and design of its free Windows 10 upgrade was inspired by users themselves. According to the company, it was paramount that Microsoft take the innovations of Windows 8 and give them to users in a way that they could appreciate. Two of the Windows 10 upgrade’s biggest features, windowed Store apps and the new Start Menu, owe their existence to this more balanced philosophy of introducing new features. Nowhere is the new balance Microsoft is trying to strike more apparent than when running Windows 10 on Surface Pro 3.

The Surface Pro 3 is Microsoft’s flagship device and proof that it can foster new hardware categories like Apple. With Windows 8.1, Microsoft worked to create notebooks that could be tablets. Called Windows 2-in-1s, they were a great idea in need of better software. Windows 10 for Surface Pro 3 is here and mostly, it is impressive.

The Surface Pro 3

The Surface Pro 3

Windows 10 on Surface Pro 3: Features & Upgrades

The Surface Pro 3 best represents the idea of the Windows 2-in-1. Whereas most devices in the category or notebooks with adjustable screens for transforming into a tablet, the Surface Pro 3 is a 12-inch tablet with a kickstand and powerful Intel Core processor. Attach the $120 Surface Type Cover and it can be used like a notebook.

In Windows 8.1, connecting a Surface Type Cover lets you navigate the Surface Pro 3 with a touchpad and a physical keyboard. Swiping on the trackpad triggered the Charms Bar and multitasking. Swipe really hard and you’d go back to the last app you had open. Nothing about the software experience changed, for better or for worse.

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The Surface Pro 3 outside of Tablet Mode.

The Surface Pro 3 and a new feature in Windows 10 called Continuum adds something new to this mix. When you add a Surface Type Cover, Windows 10 knows it and adapts what you get on-screen. With the Surface Type Cover locked in, Windows Store apps and programs downloaded over the internet become resizable windows, with a Start Menu in the bottom-left corner to match. Take the Surface Type Cover off and the Start Menu morphs into a Start Screen. Users can snap apps to the sides of the screen for multitasking and the Taskbar picks up a Back button and Search button.

How to Reset a Windows 10 PC (4)

The Surface Pro 3 in Tablet Mode.

Most PCs upgraded to Windows 10 will have to manually switch between these modes with a pop-up, but Microsoft already updated the Surface Pro 3 so that it can perform the switch automatically – with the user’s permission.

Cortana comes to the Surface Pro 3 with the free Windows 10 upgrade. Anyone too tired of typing to Cortana can communicate with her using their voice – the Surface Pro 3 has decent a microphone that allows Cortana to always listen for a keyword, then take a command.

Read: Windows 10 Review – A Love Affair

Windows 10 is a massive upgrade in terms of apps and software. Microsoft hasn’t upgraded its Surface app yet, but every other app in Windows 10 has serious improvements. The Camera for taking pictures with the two sensors on the Surface Pro 3 is easier to use, but still can’t focus on specific areas in a picture because of hardware limitations.

Surface Pro 3 buyers never received from subscriptions of Microsoft Office like Surface 3 and Surface 2 buyers did, but Windows 10 adds new Office Mobile apps with reading support. Only devices with screens smaller than 10-inches get to create documents and presentations with these Office Mobile apps free of charge. The Surface Pro 3’s 12-inch display far exceeds that threshold, unfortunately.

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Microsoft Office Mobile on the Surface Pro 3

Outlook Calendar, Outlook Mail, People, Music and the Windows Store are all upgraded too. Microsoft Edge is Internet Explorer’s replacement. Each one of these apps are great with touch or a mouse, therefore excellent for the Surface Pro 3.

Windows 10 on Surface Pro 3: Experience & Performance

Living with Windows 10 on the Surface Pro 3 is sometimes magical. Microsoft sold the Surface Pro 3 on the idea that users could “click in” a keyboard and extend their entertainment experience. Only now does that mantra make sense. Attaching my keyboard feels like pushing a “Be Productive” button. Upgraded apps make getting things done on the Surface Pro 3 more fluid.

The free Windows 10 upgrade also kills a few annoyances with the Surface Pro 3. Windows 8.1 had touchpad gestures that could be maddening – like switching to a previous app. Windows 10 kills these, opting to keep three finger gestures for scrolling. Touch gestures for multitasking are back, but each has an on-screen button too. Action Center, which comes in from the right edge of the Surface Pro 3, helps bring order to notifications and changing settings. TaskView, a screen for seeing what apps you have open, comes in from the left edge.

How to get better Windows 10 Battery Life (13)

The Action Center is far more useful than the old Charms Bar was.

Read: 8 Real Windows 10 Problems & How to Fix Them

Outside of playing games, the Surface Pro 3 almost never turned on it’s built-in fan for everyday apps with Windows 8.1. The same isn’t true of Windows 10. On a few occasions early-on the Surface Pro 3’s cooling system kicked in with nothing but Microsoft Word Mobile running. Sometimes I find that apps fail to resize correctly, forcing me to drag the app to the bottom of the screen to close. I’ve run into scaling issues with programs too.

Surface Pro 3 Review (6)

The cooling vent on the Surface Pro 3.

My Surface Pro 3 power cable, Type Cover and Surface Arc Mouse all work fine in Windows 10. The included Surface Pen still lets me draw and take notes, but doesn’t unlock the Surface when you click the pen-top as it once did. Since Windows 10 launched Microsoft has released a few updates to OneNote, but this feature remains broken in my upgrade. It’s a shame; the Surface Pen is a big reason I decided to purchase the Surface Pro 3.

At first, Windows 10 on the Surface Pro 3 was a bug-ridden mess, but Microsoft has cleaned it up in recent weeks with dozens of what it calls Cumulative Updates. Performance has improved and app crashes are rarer. New firmware issued earlier this week also fixed some maddening Wi-Fi and Bluetooth drop-outs. The only consistent issues I’m noting now are related to Cortana not being as responsive as she should be.

Windows 10 on Surface Pro 3: Should You Install

How to Reset a Windows 10 PC (1)

Microsoft released two cumulative updates to Windows 10 in recent weeks. Had they not, I would have encouraged Surface Pro 3 users to wait on the upgrade.

As it stands now, Windows 10 on Surface Pro 3 is pretty stable. I haven’t run into any compatibility issues. I value the changes Windows 10 adds to the Surface Pro 3. You should install the Windows 10 on your Surface Pro 3, but keep your system ready to go back to Windows 8.1 if something goes wrong.



  1. dawg89

    08/22/2015 at 12:35 pm

    You wrote: “The Camera for taking pictures with the two sensors on the Surface Pro 3 is easier to use, but still can’t focus on specific areas in a picture because of hardware limitations.”

    Actually, there is manual focus UI for the rear facing camera: Just press the > button in the top “dashboard” and manual controls will show themselves. There isn’t a manual focus option for the front camera since it’s fixed focus.

    • Mike R

      08/31/2015 at 2:39 pm

      I think there is a control for exposure. The control you describe will lighten/darken the image, but does not change the focus. The infinite focus rear camera was an epic design fail. Someone should lose their job of that decision… you can’t photograph docs, for example. You need to maybe shoot the picture on your phone using Office Lens or something in order to get it into OneNote. Completely boneheaded decision.

  2. Buddy Green

    08/22/2015 at 5:17 pm

    “The free Windows 10 upgrade also kills a few annoyances with the Surface Pro 3. Windows 8.1 had touchpad gestures that could be maddening – like switching to a previous app.”

    This was not an “annoyance”. It was a beautiful thing. So was the full-screen experience with Explorer 11. And let’s not forget the global charms window that allowed consistent and contextual sharing wherever you go. These and other features made Windows 8.1 THE best OS for tablets out there.

    Unfortunately, Microsoft bent over backwards to please the desktop complainers out there and completely over-reacted.

    Windows 10, quite simply, sucks in comparison to 8.1 (on a tablet / hybrid).

    After a week of trying it out, I could not revert to 8.1 quick enough.

    • Ron G.

      08/23/2015 at 10:38 am

      I agree completely with you. I also enjoyed the full-screen browser, the intuitiveness of the photos app, the placeholders in OneDrive, the global charms bar, and other wonderful things in 8.1. I really tried to like windows 10 but I don’t understand why they got rid of these things. To top it all, everything runs slower. I can’t stand the delay when trying to select a menu item/icon on programs such as PhotoShop or even the new Photos app. I went back to 8.1. Hopefully 10.1 will bring back the joy.

    • er

      08/25/2015 at 1:17 am

      I agree as well. It is so hard to use windows 10 on a tablet now. The icons or buttons where you need to touch are so small. I loved Skype before they forced everyone to get the desktop version. Now it just sucks and I don’t use it on my surface pro any more.

  3. JeffGr

    08/22/2015 at 8:26 pm

    I’m not really sure what to suggest to you as a way to solve the problem with the Surface Pen not waking the computer, but that feature works fine for me on my Surface Pro 3 with Windows 10. Just as it did with 8.1, clicking the top button wakes the system and launches OneNote.

  4. Glenn

    08/23/2015 at 7:23 am

    I have a Surface Pro 3 with 8 GB MEM and 256GB. Windows 10 is still sluggish compared to 8.1. Takes longer to load, lags a bit between applications. Tried a variety of adjustments to virtual memory and the regular adjustment to boost performance vs some of the graphics. I hope Microsoft fixes some of this soon. I also echo the fan coming on early compared to 8.1. Obviously, there is some tuning needed. You would think some of these would have been caught early, but, I’m sure MS just wanted to get it out asap.

    • Ron G.

      08/23/2015 at 10:43 am

      My SP3 comes has the same specs as yours and indeed Windows 10 runs slower. This along with the removal of other niceties such as a full screen browser, OneDrive placeholders, and others, made me go back to Windows 8.1. How disappointing Windows 10 proved to be!

  5. Ron G.

    08/23/2015 at 10:52 am

    Clicking the pen to open OneNote over the lock screen does work in Windows 10. I just had to pair the pen again under the Bluetooth settings. Give it a try. Having said that, I rolled back to 8.1 because of the other issues mentioned in the other comments.

  6. Justin L.

    08/23/2015 at 12:49 pm

    My OneNote and several other Microsoft apps (office apps mostly) would get stuck on the boot screen and won’t start after I’ve upgraded to Windows 10 a couple weeks ago. I have since then reverted back to 8.1 for the time being, since I use OneNote heavily for my work and I need it to work.

    Does anybody else have the same problem?

    • Jim murphie

      12/04/2015 at 3:52 pm

      Yes Justin, I upgrade al our surface 3s to windows 10 and we had huge issues with boot screen freeze and compatibility, could not print etc. Cost my co thousands over a few days as couldn’t get help from Microsoft “had to book a return call ” that took 3 days! Then the MS Tech rep advised “go back to 8, 10 is very poor on the surface” , so back to 8 and too scared to try 10 again

  7. Ruthjtoney

    08/30/2015 at 10:30 pm

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  8. Mike R

    08/31/2015 at 2:43 pm

    The touchscreen keyboard is the biggest fail.

    It is “always on top” for many applications. Like Skype, for example. Covers the text input field. Of course, you can move it. But it is really awkward to try to thumb type with the keyboard halfway up the screen when when holding the surface pro 3 in portrait mode.

    Utterly RUINS the experience, and I find that I’m using the otherwise cool machine must less.

    Fortunately what they have screwed-up with software updates can be fixed with software updates, so we’ll keep our fingers crossed.

  9. Justin Chang

    09/02/2015 at 2:16 am

    Ever since I have installed the Win10 upgrade on my SP3, Touch gestures such as swiping from the right side of the screen to bring up the action center has disappear after a few update patches have been installed. I’ve tried to reset the surface with a fresh windows 10 installed, these Touch gestures came back for a day or two but disappears again after update patches installed. Is it just me who has these issues?

  10. Chug Chug

    09/11/2015 at 7:53 am

    I just recovered my Surface 3 Pro back to windows 8.1. After upgrading to windows 10 I had numerous problems. It seems impossible at times to switch the machine on. It seems the machine had difficulties figuring out when it was in the docking station and when it had an external monitor connected. Finally it lost of WiFi without ability to reset or restore it use. The only way to get the WiFi working again was windows 8.1.

    • Mike R

      09/11/2015 at 7:54 am

      How difficult was it to revert back to 8.1?

  11. Damian Biltres

    09/18/2015 at 6:53 am

    I’m glad I found this post! I thought I was the only one with Windows 10 on a Surface Pro 3 who hated it. It is obvious that touch functionality was an after thought on Windows 10.

    – Web Browsing: Windows 8.1 gave us the ability to use a Metro style version of Internet Explorer. While many dismissed this version as lacking in features it was actually very useful for those who preferred tablet mode. Example, you could swipe left and right in order to go back and forth between web pages. This is no longer available in 10 forcing you to use smaller arrows in Microsoft Edge.

    -Charms: With the absence of Charms there is no consistent UI for Metro applications. Instead, you have to use smaller icons that can be difficult to navigate through.

    -Action Center: This feature I actually do like. Unfortunately, it never actually works. I click or swipe from the right edge and nothing happens. On occasion it actually opens in a frozen state then disappears. (I’ve spent some time looking for a fix but have not found anything yet.) I’ve resolved this by restoring the PC to an earlier snapshot only to eventually happen again. I think it become corrupt if you receive too many emails….. not sure?

    – Mail App: There are some improvements in the mail app. However, if you plan on using your Surface for business and use Exchange do not plan on using it. This is a huge step backwards from Windows 8.1.

    – Application Crashes: It seems that all Metro style apps randomly crash. Mail, Excel, Word and Calendar all do it.

    – Power Off: I’m not sure what the deal with powering off my Surface is. When it is turned off and turned back on all applications that were open on shut down are open when you power up. My concern is power is not truly turned off and memory is not completely cleared. I’ve seen a lot of posts online with complaints of sluggish start ups. I suspect this might be a related issue.

    Any one else see these problems?

  12. pollybennett

    10/24/2015 at 6:56 pm

    I upgraded my 256 GB Surface Pro 3 to Windows 10 shortly after its release, and after two or three days, it completely locked me out of my computer. I lost absolutely everything I had on my computer, as it hadn’t been backed up yet (it was new). Microsoft ended up sending me a new one and giving me the Office Suite for free as an apology. I’m very nervous about upgrading again…at least until all the bugs are worked out. I’m actually getting used to Windows 8.1 and don’t mind it that much anymore.

    • Polly Bennett

      10/25/2015 at 6:45 am

      The continuing saga: When Windows 10 locked me out of my Surface Pro 3, it also deleted the program that was supposed to let me revert to 8.1. It was a complete nightmare. I had to drive 1.5 hours to the Microsoft Store when the online techs couldn’t help me. The techs at the Microsoft Store just shook their heads, took my computer, and said Microsoft would send me a new one in 10 days. Two weeks later, still no computer. Once it finally shipped, they sent me the wrong one…a 128 GB instead of a 256 GB. They reshipped 3 days later after their “escalation team” researched it and found that they indeed had shipped the wrong one (I even sent a photo of the wrong computer, labeled 128 GB). The correct machine was then shipped to the WRONG address. The “escalation team” said they would research it and reply in…you got it…three days. They found that yes, they had shipped it to the wrong address. I spelled the right address phonetically, and it STILL shipped to the wrong street. I ended up having to drive 30 minutes to meet the FedEx guy and get my computer. That’s how I ended up being given Microsoft Office Pro 2013 for free as an apology.

      So, you see, I am extremely reluctant to attempt another upgrade to Windows 10, which isn’t winning many accolades with the Surface machines anyway. And I doubt that I will purchase much from Microsoft from here on.

  13. Yvonne

    10/29/2015 at 7:17 pm

    In general, I don’t mind Windows 10. I like the start menu a lot better. However, I have two complaints that are making me want to go back. First, my pen is “buggy” it doesn’t work on web pages like it used to, it is also hard to activate. The second complaint is my calendar. Normally, you have to click on the time/date on the bottom of your screen for your calendar to open. Since upgrading to Windows 10, I can click anywhere on my screen and I might make a move in a game or choose a website link, if I’m lucky… most of the time, the calendar pops up. Very frustrating!!! I’m to the point that I want to revert back to 8. However, that option is not available unless I do a reset??? I’ve installed all of the latest updates and nothing helps. Anyone else having this problem?

  14. K. Srimannarayana

    11/06/2015 at 7:10 am

    Today (6-11-2015), I have dated my surface pro 3 with Windows 10 after seeing the update to Windows 10 on the screen. After update, the surface is not booting and keypad is not working. My son gifted this to me from USA . As I am staying in India, I am not in a position to get the working of the system at least with Windows 8.1. Please give me the suggestion.

  15. ashrafafana

    02/06/2016 at 4:48 pm

    I updates my surface 3 Pro to windows 10, everything seems to work fine. However, the battery consumption is higher than windows 8,1, which is the initial version. Anyone faced something similar? I’m thinking of going back to windows 8.1 and compare the battery consumption between the two systems.

  16. K. Penfield

    12/21/2016 at 7:47 am

    I have a Surface Pro 3 – i5, 4 Gigs Ram, 128 GB Hard Drive, Windows 10

    I have been experiencing the dreaded “Freeze” in Windows 10 after starting up after both “Shut Down” or “Sleep” Mode. It happens 5-10 minutes into every session.

    I have tried EVERY fix on the MS Site and even downloaded a recovery image after speaking with MS Support. Has anyone else experienced this, and have you found a fix?

    I am out of the Warranty Period for the device…unfortunately.


  17. paula

    05/16/2017 at 12:42 pm

    I can not open my surface every time I though the screen it goes back to the open screen and wouldn’t let me type in my password dos anyone else have these problem and is there a way to fix it.

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