Newsletter Archives

  • Microsoft Surface bulging batteries continue to anger and frustrate customers

    The bulging/expanded Surface battery issue has been growing. And it’s obvious that, while Microsoft won’t discuss this openly, that they are well aware of the issue. And trying to close the barn door after the horse has escaped. The issue starts for most customers with a yellowing of the screen which can eventually end up as a battery bulge. Reports of the issue started in November 2017 and it’s obvious from the more than 20,000 views of this thread that this is a problem. Typical of the problem is this post:

    Well, I’m having the same issue. My screen is yellowing and the battery is causing the display to bulge making this “premium Microsoft product” unsafe and unusable. 

    I contacted Microsoft support who let me know I’m outside the extended warranty period. Which was graciously extended because they know there’s a defect with these.

    Support offered me a same generation, refurbished model for CAD $1,000. So, another $1,000 for another Surface Book that will eventually have the same problem.

    This issue absolutely needs legal action.  ”

    Running a search on Microsoft Communities specific to Surface Book and bulging reveals multiple threads like where there are over 8600 views and 398 “me too’s” indicating others with the same issue who may not have posted in the thread. In this case, the original poster with multiple Surface Books with this issue writes:

    I now have multiple Surface Books (1st gen) that the batteries in the tablet part are swelling and warping the screen.  My Surface Book can’t even close the lid due to the battery being so large.  My screen is bulging out.

    We’ve already retired two Surface Books due to the screens peeling off and I have found 2 more where the screens are starting to curve.

    We are now looking at replacing all 15 remaining Surface Books due to potential fire hazards.

    What a shame.  It was such a nice piece of hardware.”

    Microsoft has locked a number of these threads, which results in new threads being created. And there are still customers unaware of the “issue” who start new threads like Carol’s below.

    Similarly, Surface Pro 4 owners are reporting this issue. Microsoft IS providing free, out of warranty refurbished Surface replacements for any customer with this issue, but only if within three years of the original purchase date. This would seem to indicate that the expected lifetime of a Surface device is three years and at this point, a majority of SP4 and Surface Book first generation customers are past the three years and fear that the refurbs they would have to pay for would develop the same issue.

    So what has Microsoft said and/or done about this issue? states battery expansion does not present a safety concern but also states “you should stop using the device” which seems contradictory, but similar language is used by HP:

    Here is Microsoft’s statement:

    Microsoft has recently (and very quietly) also introduced functionality for the newest Surface devices called “Lifespan Saver” that claims to reduce the risk of battery expansion. They’ve also added a “Battery Smart Charging” feature that also mentions battery expansion. It is impossible to determine from the release notes in the Surface Update History for Surface devices exactly when this feature was added. But they’ve obviously recognized the issue with battery bulging afflicting Surface Book (original) and Surface Pro 4 owners (yes, a few Surface 3’s and other devices can develop this issue – I’ve had to junk a Surface 3 myself because of this). More and more customers report that, since they are stuck working at home due to COVID-19 work from home scenarios, that they are using their personal Surface devices more than ever before and there are increasing reports of bulging batteries on the MS Forums and elsewhere. Even iFixit has weighed in on this issue

    Note that now documents the Lifespan Saver as follows (and the table on the bottom of the page pointedly states this feature is only available for Surface Pro 7, Surface Book 3, Surface Laptop 3, Surface ProX and Surface Go 2):

    Battery Lifespan Saver – Battery Lifespan Saver is a feature designed to help protect your battery from the cumulative negative effects of consistent and recurrent use at high temperatures or high states of charge. This feature complements Battery Smart Charging by monitoring battery conditions continuously. If these adverse conditions are detected, Battery Lifespan Saver implements a limited number of permanent reductions in charging voltage. Although this will result in a small incremental permanent loss to battery capacity, it will maximize the total lifespan of your battery by limiting conditions that would otherwise accelerate battery deterioration, significantly reduce battery capacity, or lead to battery expansion.

    Also now documented is Battery Smart Charging (but it is unknown as to when this feature was added as it is not specified in any of the release notes in Surface Update History and it applies to all devices except Surface 3):

    Battery Smart Charging – Battery Smart Charging is a feature that helps protect your battery from the effects of charging patterns and high temperatures that may accelerate battery deterioration or lead to expansion. Battery Smart Charging is always active and engages automatically to limit battery charging capacity when it detects your device is plugged in for prolonged periods and/or used at elevated temperatures. Battery smart charging is automatically deactivated when the battery is discharged below 20%.

    Charles Hill has an interesting theory

    When Microsoft figured out that the Battery Smart Charging wasn’t doing what they expected it to do (strike one) they instituted a firmware update called Battery Limit Mode (No one I know ever received notice that this had to be utilized in the UEFI) but this wasn’t done until 2018 which for most of us was 2 years or more from the date of purchase AND more then a year AFTER our warranties expired. AND, they never notified us that these batteries were prone to these types of actions because the Battery Smart Charging wasn’t performing as they thought it should (strike 2).  Incidentally, Microsoft instituted a new battery mode in the newest surfaces which leads me to believe either the Battery Limit Load isn’t working as they thought it would or they are afraid customers would balk at the possibility that once the customers found out they could only charge these batteries to 50% thus degrading the batteries quicker then normal and they wouldn’t buy the product (strike three).  Microsoft conveniently does not supply these documents with their systems AND does not notify it’s customers (remember that registration form you had to fill out the day you registered your Surface?) through any of the numerous means available from the registration forms…email, address, phone call about these problems or the solutions. It’s become a Con game with Microsoft and we the customers who have spent thousands of dollars have become the marks.

    He further goes on to say in I dig deeper into this fiasco I am finding more and more about the possible cause of these battery issues. Going over my battery report I am finding something very strange, first I see that for the first 58 weeks using the system I am seeing an average overcharge on the battery of 278 to 314 mWh and this stops once the May 2017 Firmware and UEFI (103.1684.256.0 improves battery life during sleep.and other Surface drivers) updates are installed in June of 2017. From here I can trace the degradation of the battery immediately after each and every Firmware and UEFI update to the day. The worst degradation I’ve noticed is immediately after the Aug 2019 Firmware update (Surface – Firmware – 103.2614.257.0) where within a matter of 2 weeks the mWh dropped from 34972 mWh to 28634 mWh and it has been staying within a few hundred mWh per week since then.  “

    The bulging battery issue is NOT unique to Surface devices.

    The big difference between Surface and most other devices is that the Surface batteries are NOT replaceable. Most people wouldn’t mind spending $150-200 for a replacement battery, but the out of warranty cost to replace a SP4 or Surface Book per is $599 USD, which is a lot of money to pay for a refurbished device that was released in 2015. The Surface Team actually stated in a Reddit AMA that the battery replacement cost for SP3 was $200 and “If the battery fails during the warranty period, we’ll replace the battery.” And many of the boxes that these devices came in suggest a replaceable battery (by an authorized service provider). I’ve seen this statement on several Surface Pro models myself.

    It’s certainly easy to see why afflicted Surface customers are upset.

  • Microsoft Closes Retail Stores

    Microsoft has announced it is closing almost all of its retail Stores (and the few that won’t close won’t be selling products and will be turned into Microsoft Experience Centers).

    This is a devastating blow to existing Microsoft Surface users looking for decent support and it certainly won’t do much to help with sales of new Surface devices.

    One counterbalance to the poor online and phone support for Surface products was that if you were fortunate to live within traveling distance to a Microsoft Store, most consumers could get better results for hardware issues than using online support. And then there was the instant exchange, as opposed to sending in your broken device and waiting, sometimes up to two or more weeks for a replacement. And then getting a bad replacement. At the Stores, the replacement process was usually instant and customers could examine the replacement product (reject if needed), etc. For many with bulging batteries in Surface Book and SP4 devices, going to a MS Store was the only solution to avoid a $600 out of warranty charge (Microsoft cut off free replacements after 3 years from date of Purchase). The Store staff “got it”. The Apple Stores right next store to most of the MS Stores replaced batteries and devices all day long. And took care of swollen batteries in Macbook Pros.

    The closest store to me was one mile from the Massachusetts border. That Store had a robust small business sales and support business. When in the Store, I often saw pickups of multiple new Surface devices. And they handled software and hardware issues for these customers easily. There were actually smiles on the faces of those folks waiting for the techs to work on their devices. This speaks to the top level skills of these MS Store technicians.

    As Amy Babinchak stated in the Third Tier Facebook page “This is a sucky development. The Microsoft store was a valuable partner to my MSP. They hand delivered orders directly to clients, managed warranty and repair issues like pros I’ve never seen before. The existence of the store legitimatized the Surface line of products. This is a sad event “


  • Surface Laptop 3’s Spontaneous Cracked Screens?

    A growing number of customers on Microsoft’s Answers Forum and Reddit are complaining that their nearly new Surface Laptop 3’s have developed spontaneous cracks in the screen. It appears that these devices are all the non Alcantara variety and are Aluminum only. Customers are posting pictures like the one below showing the issue in Microsoft’s Answers Forum.

    cracked screen

    Customers state that they did not drop, bang, or mistreat these devices or expose them to extreme temperature swings. So far, Microsoft outsourced forum support has been treating these as individual physical damage claims. For those who spent the extra money on Microsoft Complete, there is better coverage, albeit there is a $49 cost and there are only two “incidents” covered and this counts as one. One customer contacted support and states: “ I am currently waiting to hear back from Microsoft after numerous complaints…. they are taking forever but I finally got someone to admit they were investigating reports of the same issue. They said they had no time frame for a resolution or reply

    Reports of this issue are growing. Here’s a partial list of complaint threads:

    One customer writes: “ Soon after using it I noticed that the hinge would make a creaking sound when I opened it and the bottom chassis would do so as well when I lifted it applying even the slightest pressure. In addition to hearing the chassis creak, you can feel it flex when it happens. 

    It appears that if you are afflicted with this issue and are able to get to an official Microsoft Store, you may be able to convince the Store Manager to waive charges, as Nightryder21 reports:

    Clearly, something is amiss here and the typical silence from Microsoft is deafening. Panos Panay, are you listening?

  • Microsoft refuses to clarify policy on replacement Surface Pro 4’s

    Microsoft’s uneven and unpredictable policy for replacing Surface Pro 4 tablets with hardware failures has created ill will and angry customers. There are multiple issues involved. First is “flickergate” which was acknowledged by Microsoft and where “free” refurb replacements are offered IF within three years of original purchase. The problem is that most people receive a SP4 replacement that exhibits the same issue OR becomes a victim of the second issue, typecovers that won’t work ever again. There are lots of stories about the horrific refurbs customers receive, but when the succumb to the same issue just hours after starting up a replacement refurb, it seems clear that Microsoft has quality issues . And some customers are in to their 5th or 6th replacement. This issue has not been acknowledged by Microsoft. But it seems pervasive. Woody has covered much of this a couple of times – see

    But now the situation includes a small number of SP4’s where a battery bulge has caused a lifted screen. Devices with this issue are supposedly eligible for a free replacement if within 3 years of original purchase.

    If Microsoft won’t replace a SP4 for free, the out of warranty replacement cost has jumped to $599 USD – see The problem is that some people receive SP4’s for the outlandish $599 price and some receive functioning SP 2017 (5th Generation). If you read through you can see some of the differing experiences.

    Microsoft refuses to clarify their replacement policy when asked outright.  An outsourced Support Agent posted some information that seemed to imply that if someone PAID for an exchange, they’d get a SP 2017 (5th gen)  replacement, and one can infer that the free replacements would be untested, unreliable SP4’s. As this post from November 20th has gone unanswered, it appears Microsoft does not want to commit pen to paper and publish a policy that is clear to all.  Why should it be a secret?

    Microsoft’s stock answer to “contact support” or “we evaluate each case individually” seems disingenuous, since two people with the identical issue can receive completely different treatment. Why are SP4’s still being sent out at all?

    In August of 2017, Consumer Reports estimated a two year breakage rate of 25%. Panos Panay immediately responded that this was untrue and that 98% of Surface Pro 4 customers were satisfied with their device – and what would the satisfaction percentage be today? If customers posting in the SP4 Microsoft Answers Community Forum were polled.. Unless Microsoft releases figures of units sold versus units returned for the SP4, we’ll never know for sure what the “breakage” is, but with the number of increasing daily posts for flickering, dead type covers, and now battery bulge lifted screens, and the uneven handling of exchange requests, it is clear that the problems are growing.

    It’s time for Microsoft to take the high road and publish their exchange policies for everyone to see.


  • Original Surface Books with Swollen Batteries, a Cautionary Story

    Microsoft’s Answers “Community Forum” for Surface Book (original) seems to be receiving a growing number of posts from unhappy customers whose $3000 computers have become a risk for fire or explosion because of lifted screens due to swollen batteries. And the issue is discussed in other online communities. Some of the images posted of these devices are frightening and appear in some of the threads below.

    While Microsoft won’t comment (other than “contact support”) on these issues, it seems that they decided that if these were within 3 years of original purchase, they’d replace free of charge (which can depend on which agent handles your case). The catch is that more and more of these devices are now beyond the three year from original purchase time frame, and phone and online support won’t budge on this “policy”. And sadly, some customers can’t be convinced of the danger of continuing to use the device.

    I’m a Microsoft MVP and a Volunteer Moderator in the Microsoft Surface Community Forum and I cringe every time I see a new report. Almost daily. (And there have been a few MVP’s and friends who have had this horrendous experience.)

    We think that the official Microsoft Retail Stores (at least in the USA) have more latitude to replace devices beyond the three year date, at least if a customer is able to go there, and make some noise. A lot of noise. Below is a tale of woe from a respected former MVP that speaks for itself. Should Microsoft replace these beyond three years? As a MSFT stockholder and MVP and Surface owner, my answer is a resounding yes. I expect my laptops to last more than 3 years, do YOU?

    Dian’s tale:

    Microsoft Annoyance!
    by Dian Chapman
    Retired Microsoft MVP 1995 – 2015

    In March 2016, hubby bought me a Microsoft Surface book computer because he recently bought one for himself and really liked it. I quickly fell in love with it, too.

    While he was traveling to TX on business, he realized the screen was being pushed away from the computer. He took it to a Microsoft office in TX and they replaced it on the spot. The employee there said, “Oh wow, yeah, we don’t want THOSE out there!” They imaged his current PC to a new one over a few days and he returned home with a new Surface book. His was two years into using it. He was also VERY glad it didn’t explode or start a fire while flying to/from IL/TX.

    A year later (2019), I started to notice that now MY Surface book was expanding and I could no longer close it because the bottom of the screen was being pushed away from the computer.

    Fearing a fire/explosion myself, I called the Schaumburg, IL Microsoft Store and was told that my computer was past the three year ‘swollen battery warranty!’ I didn’t realize MS had a warranty for crappy computers!

    He told me I would have to pay $599 to replace it at this time! Other fellow MVPs told me that they DID get theirs replaced after the three years, so I grabbed my computer and travelled the 1.5 hrs to the Schaumburg MS Store to try to get a replacement.

    Lilly was the employee who greeted me and asked I was I doing today. HA, NOT good! After telling me that I needed an appointment, she relented and made a ticket for me and listened to my argument regarding why I NEEDED a replacement from this defective computer that was broken and dangerous…through NO fault of my own.

    After about 20 mins of me explaining that I was NOT leaving without a new computer and that I would stand outside the store (in the mall) and tell anyone who listened why MS computers were defective…she went back to “check” with her manager.

    She returned a bit later to tell me that she did have one in stock to replace mine and told me that it would take several days to copy my data to the new system. I didn’t have time to be without my computer that long and I also did not look forward to driving 1.5 hrs (one way) back into the city to get it in a few days. So, I said I’d just F-Disk it. I found the reset to erase all the data and she said they’d do it a second time JUST to be sure it was cleared.

    I left with the new computer.

    Several people have had this problem and it’s REALLY pathetic that MS makes people go through this crap to get a new computer. MS is pretty good with software, but as the MS phone demonstrated…they’re NOT very good when it comes to hardware! They need to admit this series of PC has a SERIOUS problem and fix it without a hassle for those suffering with these DEFECTIVE systems.

    Let’s hope none cause a home or plane fire!