Surface Pro 3 pen woes: you just might have your battery installed backwards

Microsoft’s brand new 12-inch Surface Pro 3 tablet is available for purchase and comes with a fantastic stylus called the Surface Pen. The stylus connects to your Surface Pro 3 via Bluetooth and is powered by batteries. If you are having trouble with the Pen’s connectivity, you might have the battery inserted backwards.

When I try to pair the new pen with my Surface 3, it says connected for a second or two, then it says not connected.  Pen doesn’t work at all except the purple button on the top will launch OneNote. Any ideas? I’ve paired it manually several times and it’s always the same.  I paired a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard without issue,” one Surface Pro 3 owner asks on Microsoft’s official support forum.

Sounds like an interesting issue, right? Perhaps a faulty pen? Wrong. The issue was a result of having the battery inserted backwards. Let me explain.

The Surface Pen uses one AAAA battery to feed the digitizer and two small size 319 lithium coin cell batteries, which come pre-installed in the top of the pen, to power the Bluetooth section. The AAAA battery is manually installed by the user and can be accidentally inserted backwards, resulting in issues with Bluetooth connectivity even though the indicator light on the pen will be on. The indicator light might confuse you into thinking the pen is working fine, when it is not.

The solution? Check the AAAA battery and make sure you inserted it correctly. “This is really embarrassing, but I hope it at least helps someone else out there. I just got off of a chat with MS support… the battery was installed backwards.  I can’t believe how much time I wasted on this today just because of a backwards battery,” the same user stated, after speaking to Microsoft’s technical support.

Keep in mind the Surface Pen utilizes Bluetooth to launch OneNote – that’s it. The AAAA battery is crucial for the stylus functions, but the two small batteries at the top of the pen are simply for the ability to launch OneNote via the top of the pen. You can turn off Bluetooth and the pen will work fine – except that you will not be able to launch OneNote.

The Surface Pen is quite expensive and runs for $50 if purchased separately. The pen is cased in aluminum, has over 250 levels of pressure sensitivity, and Palm Block technology. This means you can write and draw without worrying about resting your hand on the screen and messing up your creation. 

  • StarEy3

    Wait………. So does that mean that if the coin batteries run out the pen becomes pretty much useless?

    • Rico Scott

      As stated above, the button cells operate the Bluetooth function, which is used to work OneNote. The AAAA cell actually operates the pen. The pen will function as one would expect an active pen to work without the button cells.

    • Randall Lewis

      You can replace the coin batteries as well, although it isn’t as simple as putting in the AAAA.

  • pmbaustin

    There’s a diagram that shows how to install the battery. You really have to try to install it backwards.

    • JustMe

      You can’t fix stupid ;-)

    • jimbonics

      Hey, pretty sure the diagram had it backwards. I looked at it 8 times.
      It didn’t seem right, because the spring part is always connected to
      negative, but the diagram has the positive sign pointing up.

      • Randall Lewis

        The diagram in the small booklet inside the box clearly shows the + end of the battery pointing towards the tip of the pen.

        • jimbonics

          Wasn’t referring to the booklet, but rather the little tab you take out of the pen prior to battery placement.

  • JustMe

    A simple Wacom Bamboo dual stylus is over $30, and that one doens’t have ANY electronics in it. So why is the pen expensive? Also, it comes WITH the Pro3, so you don’t have to buy one, unless you somehow loose it…..

  • InPlushWeThrust

    Why would they break from the tried and true wacom digitizer technology for some lousy battery powered stylus? The mind boggles.

    • Lee Swain

      The new pen is MUCH more accurate than the old one! I’m guessing that is why!

    • One DET

      Cost, thinner screens, also proven technology.

  • iKrontologist

    This stylus is crap compared to Wacom’s tried and true Active screen digitizer. The pressure sensitivity is in the digitizer itself for direct instant feedback. Whereas the new system is laggy because it’s using Bluetooth radio signals. All the technology is in the battery operated stylus. Weak battery and you’ll have more syncing problems and lag. Microsoft only did this to avoid the cost of the Wacom dual digitizer in the screen and Wacom Stylus is probably more expensive too! …..but I can see Microsoft point in a tablet whose primary target isn’t art professionals. If you’re spending more on the digitizer and lets say even just half of the user are utilizing the stylus, then it would have pushed costs higher for no good reason. If you’re a professional then this SF3 is not your best choice. Samsung’s 12″ Galaxy Note would be a far better choice then for the Wacom Stylus!

    • nohone

      Reading over your post history sounds like a high school cheerleader pep rally for Samsung, so your supposed experience with a Surface sounds rather dubious (not true, since you are obviously still in high school).

    • One DET

      Wow! This is a bunch of bull. So you know you can turn OFF the bluetooth and you still can use the stylus. I guess who ever wrote the article is as uninformed as the WACOM-FAN-BOY Mr iKrontologist. I used the pen on my Android ACTIVE PEN tablet and is kind of cool as the pen has a soft tip unlike the other n-trig pens out there (which all of them are 100% TRUE ACTIVE PENS). I have not tried any good apps yet on the SF3 but this one seems to be an awesome tablet. Much better in the wallet than any WACOM product so far. Although I do like the Samsung ATIV (the only Samsung product that competes with the SF3) but the price is way up there.

      For proffesionals this maybe the tablet to buy (until Lenovo makes a competing product).

      • iKrontologist

        Use the stylus as a passive stylus? Yes… I know that! haha…. Read my comments about me preferring a SF2… just to get the Wacom Stylus? No! ….because you don’t understand that I’m certainly not an Apple Mac Fan. I use MS Windows on various desktops and own 2 Windows 8 Notebooks and 2 Windows 7 Notebooks and none of them are Samsung’s! hahaha…. Now if Lenovo came out with or launch this Stylus that might be different, but I don’t see them interested in Inking on a touchscreen. As far as SFP3 itself? I have no other complaints than the stylus technology not being ready for Prime Time Professional use! What’s not to like otherwise? It looks great!

  • One DET

    The stylus DOES NOT work using bluetooth. It uses the N-Trig technology that requires a battery. The button cells are for the bluettooth additional capabilities of the pen.

    I did use another stylus from an ANDROID based N-Trig tablet and it works (both stylus worked in both tablets). The tablet were in AIRPLANE MODE with all the radios OFF (NO BLUETOOTH) and it worked fine using the stylus. I even used Sketchbook (which has a PEN ONLY mode, fingers wont draw) and they both worked fine. My Android Pen has no coin batteries AT ALL (ie no Bluetooth capability) therefore I can not launch OneNote unless I tap it (with the finger or pen) on the screen.

  • Gary Barnes

    Not sure why this pen is bluetooth. I connect the pen and within 15 seconds it disconnects (the AAAA is in correctly) but continues to work. If I take the battery out nothing happens. Talked to N-tech and they said they would have a pen ready for sale in August. Not a bluetooth pen.