Windows 8

Standby battery performance fix for Surface RT 8.1

Donovan Colbert offers a possible fix for Surface RT 8.1 Preview users who have updated to 8.1 RC and are now experiencing poor standby performance.

Surface battery

My Surface tablet gets heavy use, and I used to charge it almost every other night. However, after updating my Surface RT to 8.1, the previously unimpressive standby life of the battery on this device has gotten worse. It had even gotten to the point where it was nearly dead every morning if I didn't charge it the night before. 

A quick Google search returned ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley asking her readers if they were experiencing poor standby on Surface RT. Reading her experiences and the comments of her readers let me know that I wasn't alone, but that didn't give me much hope that I'd find a solution.

Today, I sent a tweet, asking Mary if she had resolved her issues. One of her followers, @jcmm33, spoke up and sent a link to a fix for Surface RT 8.1 Preview users who had updated to 8.1 RC and were experiencing poor standby performance. That information simply recapped the instructions published on Microsoft’s Surface web page. Microsoft claims that the wireless power profile isn’t migrated properly during the update from Windows 8.1 preview to 8.1 RC.

Here are the steps, in case you don’t want to click through to any of the links I’ve provided above. Having a Touch or Type cover or another keyboard and a mouse will make these steps easier to perform -- and keep in mind, this fix is only for Surface RT users who installed the 8.1 Preview and then updated to the 8.1 final release when it was made available. If you're on another device or went from Windows 8 to 8.1 without trying out the Preview first, this solution may not work -- and it might cause more problems than it solves. In any case, proceed at your own risk.

  1. The first step is to swipe in from the right edge of the screen and tap the Search charm
  2. Type “command prompt” (no quotes) in the search dialog box
  3. Long-press (or right-click) on the command prompt icon that appears, and click Run as administrator (Figure A)
  4. Figure A


    Figure A

    Click Run as administrator.

  5. When the UAC dialog prompts you to authorize the command prompt to run with administrator access, click Yes
  6. In the command prompt, copy or type “powercfg -setdcvalueindex SCHEME_CURRENT 19cbb8fa-5279-450e-9fac-8a3d5fedd0c1 12bbebe6-58d6-4636-95bb-3217ef867c1a 3” (no quotes) and hit Enter (Figure B)
  7. Figure B


    Figure B

    Information to enter in the Command Prompt.

  8. Finally, type “powercfg –setactive scheme_current” (no quotes) and hit Enter (Figure C)
  9. Figure C


    Figure C

    More information to enter in the Command Prompt.

There will be no confirmation at either step above when you hit Enter.

Another command that's useful for troubleshooting batteries on Windows 8.x devices is "powercfg /batteryreport" (no quotes). This command, entered at the command line, creates an extensive HTML report of battery use on your device that may assist you with spotting trends or issues with your battery. It creates a very technical report that isn’t very easy to read or understand (Figure D), but it does generate a lot of powerful information. 

Figure D

Figure D

Battery usage report.

Other users have recommended going to the App History tab in Task Manager (Figure E), selecting Delete usage history, and monitoring the CPU time consumed by apps installed on your device. This may help you determine which, if any, apps are hogging CPU cycles and having a negative impact on your battery. 

Figure E


Figure E

Monitor the CPU time consumed by apps.

Have you experienced poor battery performance on your Surface tablet? If you've discovered additional fixes for this problem, please share them in the discussion thread below.




Donovan Colbert has over 16 years of experience in the IT Industry. He's worked in help-desk, enterprise software support, systems administration and engineering, IT management, and is a regular contributor for TechRepublic. Currently, his profession...


Sigh... I wish there was a similar tip to improve battery performance on my Surface Pro.



Surface Pro is a non-Haswell IA64 chipset. I'm afraid the price of early adoption is going to be less than stellar standby on that device.

But when you're ready to upgrade - you have a lot more choices. ARM with Surface 2 or Nokia tablet, ATOM Bay Trail if you've found you don't use a lot of power legacy Intel apps, or a Haswell based Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 based hybrid/convertible like the Surface Pro 2 or the latest Yoga 13 ultrabooks.

Any of these should result in a marked increase in standby and runtime performance compared to your original Surface Pro.

In the meantime, I found that disabling the live tiles for People and Mail in addition to the fix above seems to have also had a significant impact on my standby time. Mail in particular does not have very granular settings about polling or setting up the app for push or pull notifications. I'd pay a lot of attention to what apps you've allowed to run in the background and to notify at the lock screen. Skype is another that is worth checking out if you have it installed. All of these are likely to have a measurable impact on your standby time.

Maybe there is another article in describing how to locate and disable these apps and features.