The Surface Pro line of hybrid PC’s, including the recently released Surface Pro 3, were designed as road warriors, devices that could handle your full computing needs on the go. With each generation introducing new features to make the device more powerful, and more “lapable,” but the core goal remains the same.
The tablet/laptop hybrid can surprisingly handle relatively intensive, resource-heavy tasks quite well, mainly thanks to the Intel ‘Haswell’ CPU’s in the Surface Pro 2 and 3. But there is always room for improvement. This guide will help you make the most out of your Surface Pro – regardless of its generation – and squeeze as much raw power out of it as possible. While there isn’t much you can do in terms of upgrading the hardware of the Surface to increase performance, there are a few things you can do to optimize the software running on it.
1) Switch to High Performance
Changing your Surface’s power plan can make a significant difference in performance. If you’re running resource intensive applications like Photoshop, AutoCAD, or games, switching to High Performance mode could result in higher frame-rates and reduced lag. It works by disabling CPU power management and dynamic clock scaling. Basically, it means that your CPU will work harder at the cost of battery life, so you should really only use this mode when you’re connected to the power outlet, unless you really need it.
Switching to High Performance mode is relatively easy; simply click the battery icon on the Windows taskbar, then click ‘More power options’, then ‘show additional plans’. ‘High performance’ is right under it.
NOTE: Remember to change the power plan back to ‘Balanced’ or ‘Power saver’ to maximize battery life when you’re done.
2) Manually close unnecessary background apps
Next, closing running applications will free up system resources, allowing more to be allocated to your resource-heavy application. Modern UI applications will continue to run in the background even after you close them. They remain in a “suspended state” although they still use up memory and could collectively make a difference in performance, depending on how many are open/suspended at a time. This is not a glitch, the apps remain open in the background so that when you come to open them again, they quickly resume exactly where you last left off, making for faster multitasking.
There are two ways to completely close Modern UI apps. The first is to use the swipe-down-and-hold gesture while a Modern app is open. Alternatively, you can use the Windows Task Manager. Right-click the taskbar, then ‘Task Manager’. Click on the apps, then hit ‘End task’.
NOTE: It is not recommended to close Desktop applications this way as this method abruptly kills their processes, without saving any work. Close desktop applications as you normally would using the red ‘close’ button, many desktop apps will prompt you to save your work before safely closing.
3) Disable unnecessary system tasks
After you’ve ensured that all your work is saved and that you’ve closed any running desktop and Modern UI apps. You can proceed to the next step. This step is a little more advanced as it involves closing system apps that if not handled carefully, could result in Windows crashing.
Start by once again launching the Task Manager, then click ‘More details’. Under the ‘Processes’ tab of the now expanded Task Manager, you should see three sections; ‘Apps’, ‘Background processes’, and ‘Windows processes’. If you’ve followed the steps above, the only item under Apps should be the Task Manager itself, if not, simply select the other apps, and click End task.
But we’re really here for what’s under ‘Background processes’. You can start by ending the processes that you recognize and are aware that you do not need. Processes such as the “Adobe Acrobat Update Service” that is common if you’ve got any Adobe applications installed. Or other Modern Apps which sometimes show up here such as the Sound Recorder app.
If you’re unsure about what to keep open or close, you can download applications specifically designed to do this, such as Razer’s Game Booster or similar alternatives.
NOTE: Nothing under ‘Windows processes’ should be touched, these are directly related to the running of the operating system and are likely to cause stability issues if tampered with incorrectly.
After following these steps, you can go ahead and launch your focus application or game and hopefully you’ll see a noticeable improvement in performance. Keep in mind that that is not always the case though as other factors can also affect the performance of your Surface such as outdated drivers, viruses, and regular wear and tear. Also, if your storage capacity is in the red and nearly filled up, performance could suffer.
If you have any other tips and tricks on increasing Surface performance, sound off in the comments below!
For those of you on the Surface Pro 3, as pointed out by one of our readers below, these Power Options are not available by default on a Surface Pro 3, due to the implementation of InstantGo. Only the balanced power option is available. The additional Power Option Profiles only populate after InstantGo is disabled. Thanks Spunk for Robots!