Booting a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with a broken screen

A few months ago, the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 that I use for work took a knock at one corner and developed a crack across the screen. I was gutted – I’d really looked after the device and, even though it was approaching three years old (and running like a dog), it was likely I’d be using it for a while longer. I could have swapped it for a conventional Dell laptop but I like to use the Surface Pen when I’m consulting. And now it was broken and beyond economic repair (Microsoft are currently quoting £492+VAT for a screen replacement!)

The screen still functioned as a display but the crack was generating false inputs that made both the Surface Firmware and Windows 10 think that I was touching the screen. That was “fighting” with the trackpad or a mouse, meaning that the device was very difficult to control (almost impossible).

I managed to get it up and running and to log on (just about) so that my support team could remote control the device and disable touch for me. The image below shows the two components that needed to be disabled in Device Manager (Surface Pro Touch Controller Firmware and HID-compliant touch screen):

Windows Device Manager, showing disabled devices to work around issues with a broken screen

The biggest problem was booting the device in the first place though – it would load to the Surface splash screen and then stay there. Presumably, the firmware had detected a problem but the hardware hadn’t actually failed, so there was no error message and no successful boot.

Then I found a forum post that gave me the answer:

  1. Hold Power and Volume Up together until the Surface splash screen appears, then let go of the power button.
  2. When presented with the UEFI menu, press ESC to exit.
  3. Press Enter to confirm that you want to quit without saving.
  4. At this point, you’ll see an underscore (_) cursor. Be patient.
  5. After a few seconds, the BitLocker screen will appear, after which the PIN can be entered and the device boots into Windows.

It’s a bit of a faff, but it’s worked for me for the last few weeks. Just before I handed in the broken device (for a replacement with a functioning screen), I recorded this video in my hotel room – it may come in handy for someone…

12 thoughts on “Booting a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 with a broken screen

  1. Fun tip- take some water from a glass and put it on the screen (dip your finger in a glass and move it around the crack a few time). Screen will stop jumping hopefully enough to let you use the trackpad and disable the appropriate devices.

  2. The UEFI method did not work better than lightly pressing the screen in multiple areas, at least for me. The Calib4G.exe method works wonderfully for me. No hiccup in booting now, and I got a small area back (new PC clock area) with touch. The calibration process apparently stored information in the N-trig chip which is accessed during booting before Win 10 starts. I knew this because my small area with touch works in UEFI now. Previously, the mouse cursor flicked along a crack line. When you run Calib4G, make sure you enable both touch and pen settings in Device Manager. Hope Calib4G solves your booting problem too!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.