How to train your Surface Pro 3: Tips, tricks, hacks

We’ve collected several tips for Microsoft’s popular tablet computer.

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Surface Pro 3 tips

We’ve collected several tips for Microsoft’s popular tablet computer. Most are useful or interesting, one is kind of silly, and another is a nearly literal hack to the Surface Pro 3. Enjoy!

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Train Surface Pro 3 to better recognize your handwriting

The Surface Pro 3 has software that’s already set to learn your handwriting when using the Surface Pen, for converting your written notes to typed text. If you use the tablet a lot for note taking, though, then you should run the Handwriting Personalization program and take a moment to train it to improve its recognition of what you write. There are two ways to do this: by writing specific characters and words you want it to recognize, or following the program as it instructs you to write out sentences or characters (letters, numbers, symbols) that it assigns you.

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Deactivate the Windows button

When using the Surface Pro 3 as a tablet, it’s not uncommon to accidentally press the Windows logo button on its bezel. This can happen when you hold the device in landscape mode with both hands, and your thumb touches the button. Or, when using the Surface Pen, your palm, wrist or arm might trigger it. You can deactivate it by opening the Device Manager, double-clicking System devices, double-clicking the Surface Home Button, clicking the Drivers tab and then clicking the Disable button.

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Make the Surface Pen more comfortable to hold

If the Surface Pen feels too small in your hand or slips from your grip, or your fingers or thumb accidentally press the buttons on its shaft, try adding a grip to it. Web-comic artist Daniel J. Hogan used the rubber grip from a mechanical pencil, cutting a slit along it so that the digital pen’s two buttons are exposed through it and can still be pressed. Check it out here.

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Get a free replacement nib for the Surface Pen

The tip of the Surface Pen, which is called a nib, wears out over use. This is true for any digital pen, but there have been grumblings by some users that the nib in the Surface Pen wears out too quickly. Microsoft has been sending replacement nibs for free to Surface Pro 3 owners who call their technical support line. Or, if you live near a Microsoft Store location, it may be worth visiting it to see if they have nibs in stock to give.

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Run Disk Cleanup to free up space on the SSD

Check for large temporary files that may be taking up a lot of space on your Surface Pro 3’s SSD. Launch File Explorer, Right-click on the “C:” drive and select “Properties” from the pop-up menu. Click the “Disk Cleanup” button. After the program has scanned your SSD, from the Disk Cleanup window, click the “Clean up system files” button. This operation will take a bit longer. When the Disk Cleanup window re-appears, scroll down through the list under “Files to delete” and note any large file sizes, such as “Temporary files.” Click a check next to the categories that are taking up lots space, and click the “OK” button next to clear them out.

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Use a micro SD card to store personal folders or Windows apps

More involved ways to free up space on the Surface Pro 3’s SSD are to have your default personal folders (i.e. Documents, Music, Pictures, Videos) moved to a micro SD card, and to have your Windows apps installed onto the card. Alejandro Ramirez gives a thorough step-by-step on how to do either of these, and his tips apply to any Windows notebook or tablet that can use SD cards.

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Replace the SSD with a larger one (don’t try this at home)

This hack is definitely not something we recommend: Cutting out a window in the back of the tablet’s case to access the SSD so you can replace it. But a man named Jorge Malagon did this by taking a diagram showing the inside components of the Surface Pro 3 and using it as a template to pinpoint where the SSD is situated behind the rear casing. Then with a Dremel tool he carefully cut open a square section over the SSD. You can see how he did it here

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Assign an “Insert” key function on the Type Cover keyboard

The Type Cover for the Surface Pro 3 lacks an “Insert” key. Most people don’t notice this, since it’s not a key used much nowadays, and not supported by many programs. You can use the Registry Editor to remap the Type Cover keyboard so it can execute an “Insert” key command, but Scott Hanselman, a programmer who works for Microsoft, recommends using a free program, SharpKeys, to do this. It’s easier and safer. He changed his Type Cover’s right-hand “Alt” key to serve as a de facto “Insert.”

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Use a USB-powered fan to keep the Surface Pro 3 cool

To prevent overheating, the tablet slows its processor speed when things start to become too toasty, typically when running graphics intensive programs. This of course reduces performance. A YouTube user claims that connecting a USB-powered fan and aiming it at the back of the tablet can keep it cool. This “fix” sounds a little silly to us, since the fan is using the tablet’s battery, and as the battery level becomes low, the Surface Pro 3 will clock down its processor. But it could be handy to have a USB-powered fan with you when you’re going mobile with the Surface Pro 3.

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Install Linux or OS X

You can turn your Surface Pro 3 into a “Hackintosh” by installing OS X 10.10 (“Yosemite”) on it. Unfortunately, this hobbyist’s effort has yet to get either the touchscreen or Wi-Fi of the Microsoft tablet working on the Macintosh OS. You’ll have better luck getting both features working with Ubuntu, but several tweaks may be necessary to get the hardware of the tablet to work fully. Development in making this Linux distro work flawlessly on the Surface Pro 3 is currently ongoing.