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Surface Pen Stops Working


New Member
I have the latest style Microsoft Surface Pen and it randomly stops working during use. This has been a problem since ordering my Surface Go a year ago and I'm now on my third pen – don't ask how I got to this point.

I'm currently running Windows 10 Pro version 1903, and all drivers and firmware are up to date. The pen behaves as if it has suddenly decided to go to sleep while using the Touch keyboard or scrolling on a Web page, and when this happens, the cursor vanishes, and the pen is non-responsive.

The pen and Touch keyboard are the primary means of input, and I can't go for more than a couple of minutes or so without this happening, so this is quite frustrating. I can get the pen to activate by repeatedly tapping the screen or by holding the pen away from the screen a couple of feet for a moment and then returning it to the screen.

I contacted Microsoft Customer Support, and all they could suggest is to go thru the pairing process again and check the battery. The warranty exchange pen I received ended up behaving the same way.

So, I purchased the Bamboo Ink pen and haven't had a single issue. For $49.95, it's a great pen but doesn't offer the same feature set as the Surface pen. If you don't need the extra functionality of the Surface pen, I would highly recommend getting this pen.

Anyway, I'm just wondering if anyone has experienced similar issues with the Surface pen as I'd like to get this resolved.
The pen that came with my Surface Book (that was a few years ago) had those same issues - I found that a fresh battery would always solve the problem, leading me to believe that it was sucking juice when I wasn't using it. If I grabbed my daughter's Surface Pro pen and tried it - voila, it worked perfectly every time. I sketch and render for my work so I ended up having to get 36 AAAA battery sets from Amazon to keep going! Finally a few months ago I called it quits and got a new Surface pen - all is good. Maybe they've fixed my particular problem.


New Member
Thanks very much for the response.

I have the Surface Pen with no pocket clip (4th generation), and the batteries in each of the pens are at 100%. Since starting this thread, I stopped by my local Best Buy and was able to replicate the problem on a Surface Laptop 3 running Windows 10 version 2004.

So, I tested the Surface Pen and the Bamboo Ink to compare how each behaves under two circumstances: when continuously hovering and when doodling in Sketchable, and it appears they are quite different from each other.

When holding the Surface Pen within hover range, the cursor is visible for 2 minutes, 12 seconds, then disappears, indicating what I initially presumed to be a state of sleep. When this happens, pressing the pen against the screen fails to bring it back to the active state. It’s dead, really dead, but will activate by lifting it beyond hover range and changing its orientation for a moment. Another way to achieve activation is to rotate the pen on its axis about 45° while still in hover range and watch for the cursor to reappear.

Now, when holding the Bamboo Ink within hover range, the cursor is visible for 5 minutes, 4 seconds, then disappears. But unlike the Surface Pen, pressing the pen against the screen will wake it up. With typical use, you seldom become aware that this has happened.

In the case of the Bamboo Ink, this is a good thing because, for situations that involve writing, note-taking, and annotating, the built-in timer is continuously reset, keeping it in the active state until the 5 minutes, 4 second period is allowed to expire after setting the pen down to rest.

The Surface Pen takes a different approach to the way it activates because, for situations that require a high degree of creativity, such as sketching and rendering, we need to keep latency to a minimum, which means we can’t necessarily rely on a screen touch to get started. The pen employs a variety of sophisticated sensing technologies that can detect various motion events before making contact with the screen, so inking is nearly instantaneous.

Anyway, I can't use the pen for more than a couple of minutes while browsing the Web or typing text with the touch keyboard without having to stop and change the pen's orientation. However, I did get up to 30 minutes of continuous use doodling in Sketchable, but my results were not repeatable by any stretch. I have no issues in either case with the Bamboo Ink.

So, why am I having a problem?

I’ve concluded that I’m likely not providing enough stimuli to the pen (e.g., change in tilt angle, velocity, rotation) to make it think I’m using it. As far as it’s concerned, I’ve set it down on my desk and went to grab a cup of coffee.

Below is a YouTube video I recently discovered, which demonstrates the problem I’m having. The video starts at the 2-minute mark, and the pen appears to stop working around the 2 minutes, 15 seconds mark.

YouTube video


Staff member
I also have the Surface Pen (4th Generation, no clip) and have no problems using it on a Surface Book 2.

Your particular situation fortunately seems to be solved with the Bamboo stylus. Thanks for posting.
It's good to know the Bamboo seems to be as (or more) reactive to quick sketching. I may have to check one out and then give my new Surface pen to my son! Thanks for the intel.