This is Connected Standby and why it's a big deal for the Surface Pro 3

Connected Standby Surface Pro 3

One of the more interesting features of the Surface Pro 3 is perhaps the least understood and undervalued: Connected Standby (also known as InstantGo since Windows 8.1). Connected Standby is a valuable addition to the Surface Pro line, borrowing the technology from RT devices.

Here's what it is and why it makes the Surface Pro 3 even better.

Connected Standby

This is Connected Standby and AOAC

Microsoft introduced Connected Standby in 2011 during their Build conference as a new feature for Windows 8. Connected Standby is the name of the power state, but the name of the feature is Always-On/Always-Connected (AOAC). AOAC and Connected Standby grew out of the SideShow project during Windows Vista. If you remember some laptops with a second, mini-display that showed email and other updates, that was a precursor to Connected Standby.

The idea behind AOAC and Connected Standby is simple: when your laptop or tablet has its lid closed or display powered off, things should still be able to update, like email, weather, Skype, notifications, etc. If that sounds a lot like how your Windows Phone works, you are correct as that is Microsoft's goal. You can think of Connected Standby/InstantGo as a 'Cloud-scale wake-on-LAN' since the feature is reliant on Microsoft's notification service to wake the device for important things e.g. an incoming Skype call. Every time you install a Modern app in Windows 8.1 and it asks to be run as a background task, it is asking to deliver notifications when in this low-idle state. Apple has a similar feature with a cutesy named dubbed 'Power Nap' for its OSX.

Connected Standby

The experience for the end user is that you never power down your Surface Pro 3, you just turn it off like a tablet. In addition, when in this low-power stage, things like email and weather will be updated so that when you turn it back on, everything is up to date (instead of force syncing everything at once). A user will even hear the email notifications come when the device is 'off'. Interestingly, a Connected Standby device will periodically wake up to renew its IP address and keep the Ethernet NIC connected, albeit in a low-powered mode.

The one caveat here is only Modern apps with the API enabled can partake in Connected Standby. Desktop apps can't. Microsoft did this to have battery drain between 1-4% per hour and so that the Live Tiles will be up to date when you go to use the device, giving the user a more seamless experience.

If you have a Surface RT or Surface 2, you're already familiar with Connected Standby as that's how those devices have always behaved. The Surface Pro 3 though, a full-fledged PC, now acts more like a Surface 2 for power usage. Connected Standby on the Surface Pro 3 means you can turn a music app like Songza on, stream some music and hit the power button and still hear the music playing. It's a neat experience and makes the Surface Pro 3 that much more special over the Surface Pro 2.

Connected Standby

One side effect of the AOAC and Connected Standby mode is that the battery icon on the desktop will only tell you the percentage of battery left but not the time estimate, like traditional laptops. So if you're wondering why that isn't there any longer, there you go.

Connected Standby needs this to run

Not all Windows 8 devices support Connected Standby, including previous Surface Pro editions. Even my laptops don't have it, and they're relatively new. The reason comes down to chipsets and needing the right silicon to run the feature. Even though the Surface Pro 2 and Surface Pro 3 i5 version share the same processor (i5-4300U), the Surface Pro 3 has some extra hardware configuration that the Surface Pro 2 doesn't have on board.

One plausible explanation I read is that Connected Standby needs a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) 2.0 instead of the 1.2 version found on the Surface Pro 1 and 2. Additionally, a required 'active idle' power state dubbed S0ix via the System on Chip (SOC) is necessary, which presumably the Surface Pro 3 has whereas the other systems do not. As is, the Surface Pro 2 is not expected to be a Connected Standby device during its run.

Connected Standby devices also need low-power DRAM, special busses, and an internet connection like Wi-Fi.

Always-On/Always-Connected is the future

As we move into 2015, the differences between devices, laptop and tablets will blur even more. The Surface Pro 3 is an excellent example of this category-bending trend, and the Connected Standby addition makes it a reality.

My hope is that we see more Always-On/Always-Connected laptops and Ultrabooks in the near future that support these super low-power states, while at the same time letting consumers have an instant-on experience. Smartphones have set the trend for this capability and now, laptops and computers are getting the same treatment. It is exciting stuff, and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Do you have a Surface Pro 3 or another Always-On/Always-Connected device? What do you think of Connected Standby and what do you think it means for mobile computing going forward?

For additional reading, check out the Windows Experience Blog, which has some more information about InstantGo!

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • Nice!
  • Agreed! I was pretty stoked when I learned the Pro 3 supported Connected Standby.  It's the new normal. Great writeup Daniel!
  • Real NIce.
  • Hey I am taking this contest.. Lets hope i win
  • Connected Standby is really not that complicated: You get notifications for emails, etc. even when the computer is in sleep, just like a smartphone.
  • It's complicated enough that a Surface Pro 2 can't do it...
  • To explain, I mean.
  • Doesn't make the Surface Pro 2 any less awesome though. I have a Surface RT and a Surface Pro 2, and although connected standby has its uses, it really doesn't bother me at all that my SP2 doesn't have it.
  • Oh absolutely. It's just a neat and useful advancement for Microsoft and the Surface platform, something that I'm not sure if more casual users are familiar with yet.
  • For sure, kudo's for writing this great article, I believe a lot of casual users understand the connected standby concept a lot more now ;)
  • And if WPCentral existed solely on Twitter, such a pithy explanation would suffice.
  • Exactly... I don't understand mango.lovers point. Sure, you can boil down the net effect to users in a sentence. But it doesn't help to explain all the questions that brings up. Which is the whole point of the article. "What effect does it have on battery life?"
    "How does it work internally?"
    "Why do Surface Pro 1 and 2 not have it?" Etc Great article Daniel.
  • Thanks. I learned some stuff too.
  • I hope you can disable this in order to retain battery power during storage. Also, it better have a silent mode or it will drive people crazy binging and bonging all night! Outside it will be great not to have the usual ' semi-hung' PC startup that goes with singing all the cloud services and Outlook these days!
  • From what I recall when I had a Surface 2 (RT), there is a quiet hours setting that silences notifications, etc., during the appointed times. Accessible through PC Settings.
  • You can simply turn off your device completely. And there is a "quiet hours" mode too. PS: Dell Venue 8 Pro and many other Atom-based tablets with Windows 8.1 already have Connected -stand by.
  • Heard there were issues when using SQL server dev edition and hyper-v. Can anyone with one using it for dev work confirm?
  • Yup, Hyper-V and Connected Standby don't play nice. Some people are recommending a dual-boot configuration or just disabling Hyper-V with bcdedit   Nice blog about it here:
  • I rely a lot on hyper v on my Lenovo helix. Intel already tried to offer this on my helix and it was a mess at the time. Honestly though, don't really need it as that's what my windows phone is for
  • Daniel, buy me a surface pro 3?
  • and send it to me ?
  • Ya sure.. Y not.. Daniel buy him one.
  • I agree to this notion, buy him one Daniel.
  • All Atom Windows 8 devices have this, not restricted to the SP3 and RT.
  • Nowhere in the article does it say its restricted to those 2 devices.
  • It still bears mentioning, though. I have always found this to be very like a super power on my little Atom tab-- I can leave it lying around for 2-3 days for the occasional 10-15 min use and it always comes on in a couple of seconds, and has all my email and the weather and stuff ready to update (it does take a few seconds for everything to totally refresh, but I blame the little Atom for that). It's been surprisingly one of my favorite features.
  • How do you turn it off? This kills the battery in my DV8P.
  • Probably have to go into desktop control panel's power management to change this
  • You can't.
  • Panos said in 1 interview that in connected standby the Surface Pro 3 wil last 1 year. What is the actual battery drain? Any measurements?
  • Sorry but if anyone actually claimed year of battery life with it enabled that is Intel level BS (ie, BS of a magnitude seldom encountered).  A one to four percent loss per hour is not a year, nor a month, nor a week of unplugged and unattended idling. 
  • This my understanding as well 1-4% per hour depending on what is allowed. I am seeing about 2%ish right now.
  • What he said was if the surface pro 3 is left idle for more than a few hours (I believe it's 4 hours), it will turn into hibernate mode automatically, i.e. Everything saved to had and shut down the surface. In hibernate mode, the surface will actually last for a year as there's no battery consumption at all (but battery will still drain to empty after a very long period like any battery). You won't get notification though.
  • That's then not really any different then from other devices. Does the Surface Pro 3 have hibernate mode or are the advanced power options completely inaccessible?
  • My old Lenovo lynx k3011 with Intel Atom Z2xxx do the same thing. I can see on my router how is still conect when it is in sleep mode, even I can receive Skype call notification, email notification... So I dont understand how an Intel Atom (slow and old fashion) can do this and a better intel Chipset cannot. Maybe is about energy administration on those Atom, but still I think is a really big 'bug' on Surface Pro 1 and 2. Of course, a can not play music in sleep mode on Atom.
  • From what I understand, Microsoft and Intel had to work specially on this chipset to make it happen.
  • Yes, that is true with those Intel Atom cloverfield, and the worst part of that is than I can't install another OS because they decide to close the UEFI.
  • It should be possible to disable SecureBoot in the UEFI settings on devices with x86 (e.g. intel, AMD) processors. Have you checked?
  • Yes, I can confirmed than is impossible to install any other OS than windows on Intel Atom z2xx cloverfield. I TRY to install Ubuntu, Android and even Windows 7, BUT is impossible. Search on Google/Bing and you will find than is restricted by Microsoft and Intel. But Atom Baytrail (z3xx) are different.
  • I see, although I suppose it's a driver issue and not a deliberate restriction. For example, apparently the PowerVR GPU used in Atom Z2xxx series doesn’t have drivers for anything other than windows 8/8.1; I’m not sure of any of this though.
  • I don't think is a driver issue. Because, in that case, you could run the installation setup and get the error message. But I try unlocking the security boot in UEFI and still it doesn't recognize the drive on USB, or SD card, or flash USB stick, or cd rom trough USB. It is just impossible, and them, I found on an OS Android Port for Intel chipset and clearly does not include cloverfield (Atom Z2xx).
  • The problem is implementing this with x86 seems to be rocket science. Connected Standby already works with all ARM devices like iPhones, Android phones.
  • And already works on Intel Atom (x86) devices like Lenovo Lynx, Lenovo Mixx, Dell Venue 8, Asus T100...
  • It's rocket science on ARM too, they just all have it because phone SOCs were designed from the get go to require this.  PCs just are adding it now. 
  • How do I know whether my laptop Asus N550JV has this interesting feature?
  • press win+r >type cmd  >type "powercfg /a" on command prompt.It will give the details regarding  power management features supported by your hardware
  • Just a warning to anyone who is looking to use the SP3 as a development machine with Visual Studio (at least 2013)... Once Hyper-V has been enabled on your machine this Connected Standby mode becomes incompatible and drops out of the list of power options; hitting the power button will throw you into hibernation mode.   There is more information about this here:
  • Thanks! Do you know if there will be a fix ever or is this just a hardware conflict?
  • Is hyper v known as hyper threading? If so, does the i7 sp3 have issues with this?
  • No hyper threading is different. I doubt if a fix is possible/necessary per se as it's probably got something to do with hyper-v creating a new partition when it's installed and the OS goes into this.
  • Hyper-V is Microsoft's version of VMware.  It's a hypervisor program for running virtual machines.  It is used by Visual Studio (as an option) to emulate other environments such as Windows Phone for development purposes.  It can also be setup seperately from Visual Studio and used to host "normal" vitrual machines for whatever purpose.    
  • Wow it doesn't even support normal sleep mode with Hyper-V enabled. That's a shame. 
  • It does support normal sleep mode.  It basically just operates the same way the SP1 and SP2 did if you have Hyper-V enabled. 
  • I am not sure about this. When I had Hyper V turned on I had hibernate and shutdown only. Also the powercfg command reports that the sleep mode is not supported by the bios
  • I have a Surface RT, and the Connected Standby doesn't really work well. I have to wake my tablet before all my facebook updates and notifications show.
  • It's nice that it checks regularly but on my SP3 it doesn't check sometimes for hours. The other thing is it takes much longer to turn on than my SP1 did. On my SP1 when I turned it on it would show the Surface text without about 2 seconds and then start boot. Now with my SP3, which should be in connected standby, it takes about 8 seconds before you see the Surface name on the screen. It often makes me wonder if I even turned it on. The other things I am experiencing all over again are the network connection just dropping out periodically and not being fixed until reboot and sometime the mouse just stops working on the keyboard until I pull the keyboard and reattach several times. These happened to the SP1 on launch but apparently Microsoft didn't keep the fix in the SP3 so now I have to wait for an update. The other gripe is right after I took out my stylus the cheap plastic they use on the top of it broke in half after removing it from the cover. The metal part is sturdy but the plastic seems a lot cheaper and more fragile. Beyond that, it hasn't once gotten warm, feels much lighter and easier to handle, has a nice screen, and great battery life. Besides the pen, the other issues I have all seem to be software problems that need to be resolved.
  • Mine was having issues with waking on the first day. Even after installing all of the updates. After a few reboots, it seems to be fine now. Wakes up much faster than my Pro 1 now. The wifi bugs are very annoying, feels like SP1 wifi all over again. My touch gets wonky every now and then too. Touch doesn't work in some areas of the display, or it thinks it is being touched. As I was typing this reply I had to reboot because the app thought I was doing an up swipe. Reboot fixed it. I hope that can be fixed by software, and I think it can if a reboot is fixing.
  • Connected standby is one of the reasons I hated to leave RT for my Pro1. I picked up a a Pro 3 Friday.and one of the main reasons is connected standby. It feels like a tablet but runs like a laptop. I love it. Though I have seem some quirks of not getting notified when sleeping. I think this may be due to the WiFi bugs.
  • Try reverting the wifi driver to the previous version. In the forums this seems to work until MS updates the driver to a more stable rev.
  • So I have a Surface Pro 3 but this doesnt work for me? It just goes to sleep, takes 5 sec to start up and music that was playing stops. What am I missing? Thanks.
  • Ty1361. I tried replying to your question but I don't think it got attached. I have a thought of what the problem might be listed below.
  • I have visual studios installed nevermind...
  • Could you be using some application such as Hyper-V like Idiosyncrasy described above which disables Connected Standby?
  • Awesome, I was just wondering what the specifics of this was today. Thanks Daniel!
  • Sure thing. I wasn't sure if many knew the ins and outs of what it meant, so figured I'd do an FYI article. Glad you got something out of it.
  • When a new app is installed and I run it for the first time, it asks to run in the background. I say yes, but then it says that it needs to be in the lock screen quick statuses. If I don't put it as a quick status, will the app still run in the background? That's one thing that isn't clear to me.
  • I don't believe so, but I agree, that system is a bit confusing.
  • Will the i7 powered Surface Pro 3 also support the InstantGo capability?
  • Yup. Or rather, I'm 99% sure it will.
  • Thanks & great to hear.
  • MacBooks have been able to do this for years now. Good to see Windows catching up.
  • Funny thing is on Macbook it only works when it wants. Sometimes the battery dissappears for a while and other times with nothing running it kills the battery in a few hours while asleep. I was hit with the battery issues with my 2011 that they kept saying was fixed in a firmware update but never seemed to get fixed, just changed. :-(
  • How similar is what Intel is doing with their Smart Connect Technology found in most ultrabooks? I see, that it only checks periodically instead of constantly but what exactly is the difference?
  • Honestly, not sure. Will have to look into it.
  • This makes me want sp3 even more. If it had lte integrated as well it would be mine right now. Maybe sp4?
  • From what I have heard before Microsoft may never do that because then they could have a very expensive device that doesn't even work with a carrier if they change things. I think I would prefer a dongle that is sleek and designed to blend into the Surface and be changeable for different carriers. Then you could change carriers without changing tablets and if the carrier upgrades their network you could just upgrade the dongle. Can you image forking out the money for an AT&T SP3 and then switching to Verizon or Sprint. Having all the different antennas for different carriers would present a whole new set of problems.
  • I like these kind of articles! I hope to read more like these in the future since Anandtech and Arstechnica doesn't have a good coverage about Microsoft products and technologies.
  • Cool, glad to hear. Yeah, this was partially to teach myself on this stuff too, just figured I'd share ;)
  • I'm pretty sure this 'feature' saps the majority of the battery from my Surface 2... Any way to turn it off!?
  • Hey Daniel, have you had issues with your Surface 3 "losing" the network adaptor and Bluetooth adaptor. After my Surface comes out of standby sometimes, the Bluetooth and wifi adaptor disappear. It tells me that the PC can't find them at all. I have reboot and they reappear.
  • Yup. I did have that happen a handful of times. I did a hard reset recently and haven't seen it since, but it sounds like a bug somewhere. It is annoying.
  • Ok. I will try that. Thank you sir.
  • Oh, you aren't seeing after the reset. Good to know.
  • Where can I find the chameleon (I think...) wallpaper?
  • Got it from here:
  • Thanks! Great source, by the way!
  • Wish my SP2 had this. :'(
  • I think it's cool and I have macbook pro which is cool with keeping battery usage low.
  • Interesting read. Thanks.
  • This has been out on my Sony Vaio Duo 13 since I've had it, but it's nice to see other devices getting it too. Very useful for the alarms app.
  • Nice explaination. Does OSX have anything like this?
  • Sounds like what xbox one has to bad it doesnt play nice with select routers
    Only problem with mobile haswell is you cant get the graphics horsepower you can get with an ivybridge & finding good lv ram is problematic for this platform
  • "One side effect of the AOAC and Connected Standby mode is that the battery icon on the desktop will only tell you the percentage of battery left but not the time estimate, like traditional laptops." I bought my Surface 1 RT in 2012 December. On the first day I immediately realised, that the battery meter does not show remaining time, only remaining capacity percentage. I said WTF? I asked if this is by design, or software bug on Windows RT 8.0? No answer received on Technet forum, neither on All those bright site admins there (by the way all have asian sounding names, and they are ALL stupid) couldnt tell me this damn single sentence quoted at the top. Its a shame to those idiots in Redmond, that I have to get the answer 18 months later on a site run by amateurs (like wpcentral).
  • Yup. I had the same experience, don't feel bad. Even some people on the Surface team didn't know ;)
  • I wish the Surface Pro had this. It hasn't even been out for a year and a half yet! I wonder how soon it will be until the Surface Pro 3 becomes outdated.
  • "outdated" is simply marketing.  your machine will still be great in a few years.  My 4 year old PC (enthusiast-class) still runs like a champ.  Not in the class of today's elite machines but still faster and better than most low-end machines that the average Joe buys. Yeah, the SP3 is great but there's no way I'd trade in my SP2 to get an SP3.  I love my SP2!!!!
  • Connected Stanby is a great idea, buit I have to say that on my Surface Pro 3 resume from standby is still royally messed up. I can't tell you how many times I've walked up to my Pro3 and hit the power button to be greeted with, nothing. Hold it a little longer, and nothing. Hold for a very long time and my Pro3 completely reboots (as is normal for a really long power button hold). I believe these issues were reported by reviewers that have had the Pro3 since last month, but it was supposedly fixed in that last second firmward update (which I do believe was applied on my Pro3 not long after I set it up). For me the problems persist. Annoying, and I hope they'll get fixed soon.
  • I bet it will not be fixed ever, its HW defect, impossible to hack around from the poor-poor firmware thing. My Surface 1 RT suffers from similar issue, though its related to the touch-sensitive Start button: the device does not wake up at first touch, I have to touch the start button 3-4 times. Even if the tactile feedback confirms the device registered my touch activity. Fortunately, the power button was consistently and reliably waking and sleeping the device for me. Lol, new model, new variation of the same sh*t. When will people learn NOT to buy anything that just came out from the factory? Hell, even their hard earned money doesnt stop them from making this stupid mistake year after year, product after product. Consumer society has future as long as people are so dumb and easy to fool with mind-washing adverts. Not a bright future for humanity, not so bright, folks..
  • Hmmm...interesting.  I haven't experienced this yet.  You might want to do another manual check using Windows Update.  For mine, there was a single pre-requisite update before the batch with the firmware update.  If you only ran Windows Update once you may not have gotten to the batch with the firmware.  The Windows Update history should comfirm one way or the other.
  • Curiousgeorge, that was my problem too but the new firmware fixed it. Go back and force check an update to make sure you're not missing one, because there were two firmware files, I believe.
  • Daniel, I just checked my update history and it shows just one Firmware update from 6/19. But I watched my Pro3 go through two firmware updates (at least I believe that was what I was seeing). And if I check for updates now I get nothing. Do you see two firware updates listed in Update History?
  • I am only Seeing one firmware update as well.
  • Hmm.. is it only me, or are your Skype also going trough during middle of the night on Surface Pro 2 when it's in "sleep mode"? /Z
  • I have to admit that the Surface Pro 3 does get similar battery performance to my Surface 2. I can turn the screen off and just not worry about anything. It is pretty convenient.
  • My Dell Venue 11 tablet has connected standby and I love it. My tablet lasts about 9 days in connected standby with my mobile keyboard attached.
  • My surface pro 3 is often woken up during sleep, seemingly by random (I believe the cover is the culprit, I'm having the tablet replaced).  This prevents the benefits of connected standby to a pretty large degree, and I often find the tablet nearly dead in the morning.  I've seen some other reports of this, so I'm hoping my replacement is a little less buggy
  • I still can't believe MS made the keyboard cover put the SP3 to sleep but didn't include the wake on open????  Does anyone else have problems with the auto brightness just sometimes going dim or super bright with nothing changing in the room? I've been sitting in a room, no sunlight and nothing changes and while scrolling through an article it goes super dim. Other times I have the brightness turned down in a dark room and all of the sudden it just goes up to what seems like 100% brightness and nearly blinds me. Again, with no changes in brightness in the room.
  • I was surprised that Surface Pro 3 even supported Connected Standby as I read that Haswell processors did not support it.  Maybe this is why SP3 has had some hiccups in getting it to work as it was perhaps bolted on. But Connected Standby is amazing. It's one of the best features of my Surface RT.  I just plop down the keyboard and the whole thing is on and ready to go.  I love my Surface Pro 2, but I hate having to hit the power button.  And having it take a couple of seconds to get into Windows.  I wish it had connected standby.
  • Good to see folks still enjoying vladstudio desktop backgrounds! My lifetime sub roughly 8 years ago (how has it been that long!?) was one of the best $15 I've ever spent!
  • But can you toggle Connected Standby off? The simple answer is "no". And my simple question is why not? CS was one of the primary reasons I sold my Surface RT. It lasted 3-4 days on a charge, so each time I wanted to use it (every few days) I had to plug it in. So much for a portable tablet. Yes, I could have disabled all of the background tasks, but then they're always off, even after waking your tablet. I resorted to toggling WiFi, which got me 7-9 days on charge. Interestingly, when turning WiFi on upon waking, my Surface updated tiles, mail, etc. in under 10 seconds. Is that so long to wait for 2-3 times the battery longevity. I am sure there would have been instances where I would have wanted CS on, but most of the time my phone was collecting that instant stuff. Please Microsoft, give us a switch to turn Connected Standby off or on.
  • i require connected standby, like i require glance screens on my phones, its the cherry on top, and is the reason i will be buying an sp3 over the likes of a macbook air. to me, the more a slate pc can act like a smartphone/tablet with its constant notifications the better.