Friday afternoon I had a Skype meeting, and as I was settling into the board room at my office for quiet, I realized the battery on my Surface Pro 4 was at 0%. I plugged it in, and got the feedback: “Plugged in, Not charging.” Okay, I would be careful to not yank the power cord for the duration of the meeting.
I spent the weekend with friends in Montreal. Rick lamented, as he often does, that he hates the preponderance of devices with no serviceable parts; for example: he uses an old smartphone because he wants to be able to replace the battery. I poo-pooed his unwillingness to accept progress. He isn’t wrong, of course. Planned obsolescence is a terrible thing, and the fact that the Apple Corporation expects me to replace my phone every two years is infuriating. What’s worse, is that I do.
Karma came calling Saturday evening, when I plugged my Surface in to charge overnight. It is now about three and a half years old, beyond the warranty. I have not looked into replacing the battery, but I would not expect it is a easy process. It is not something I had ever given a lot of thought to… until Sunday morning, when the device (which had been plugged in overnight) still had a dead battery. I packed it up and decided I would look at it when I got home… I was not looking forward to thinking about it.
As I sat comfortably in front of the TV later that evening, I decided that before anything else, I would try to plug the device in to a different charger. A defective charger would have been the best outcome, if the problem was to be defective hardware. I have three chargers, and even if I only had the one, it would be a lot less expensive to replace one of those than the device itself. Unfortunately, I got the same “Not charging” message as I had with my main charger.
I went online and looked to Microsoft for support. The first recommendation is to apply the latest patches, drivers, and firmware. Okay. An hour later, and I am facing the same results. Crap.
There is a Microsoft Surface Diagnostic Toolkit that they recommend trying next. I downloaded it and installed it, and it went through a number of tests before asking me to reboot. I rebooted, and once I authenticated the Toolkit continued to run automatically. After a few minutes it asked me to reboot again. I did, and when the system came back up, it no longer gave me the same notice. It told me that my battery was at 0%, and it was 3h02m from a full charge. I wasn’t sure if this was true or not, but I was happy to see progress. I left the device to charge and went to sleep.
This morning I packed up the device and brought it to the office, where it is currently sitting at 91% charged. Seeing as it has only been turned on for about half an hour, and I have not been working on it, I am not hopeful that the battery life will now be what it once was… but at least it is not dead. I am going to drain the battery and recharge it overnight a couple of times, and hopefully that will get it back to sorts.
Unfortunately I understand that battery life diminishes (often greatly) over time. It is not unusual, and it is one of the reasons I agree with Rick… I wish I could go out and simply buy a new battery for my device, and replace it at will. Or, better yet, have two batteries that I could interchange, doubling the device life. I used to do that with my smartphones. Those days are gone… at least, when it comes to higher end tablet and hybrid devices, where every microgram is conserved, and where the term user-serviceable is laughable.
I am wracking my brain trying to think when the last time I had a primary device that lasted this long. Certainly not in the last decade, and possibly not since the days when my primary device was a desktop tower. My Surface Pro 4 has certainly given me everything I could have expected; that does not mean that I am ready to trash it just yet. It is a good device that still does absolutely everything I need… not to mention that to replace it with a nearly identical configuration (modernized for today, so a Surface Pro 6 with an i7 CPU, 16GB RAM, and 512GB storage) would cost CDN$2,400 plus tax to replace… if (and that’s a big if) I was to replace it with another Microsoft Surface device.
My current crisis was averted. With the battery working again, I am no longer faced with the immediate threat of having to replace my device (or even pay to have it fixed). While I am thrilled by that, I am reminded that it is something that I will eventually have to think about. I suppose it is the computer industry’s equivalent of an aging parent having a health scare; it was only a scare, but it reminds you that you will, at some point (and likely sooner than you would like) have to deal with the unpleasant reality.
Now excuse me, while I call my aging father.