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How to force a frozen Surface PC to shut down and restart

I use a Surface Pro every day, and though I'm a big fan of it in general, it can be … quirky at times. Every week or so, if I don't remember to restart it on my own, for example, my Surface Pro will randomly freeze up, usually after it's been asleep for a while and I wake it and try to get right down to business. (This frequent freeze rate was apparently one reason why tech reviews site Consumer Reports recently blasted the entire Surface line, though those ratings didn't apply to the latest generation of Surfaces.)

Why you should question Consumer Reports' Microsoft Surface reliability claims

If you're using a new Surface Pro, Surface Laptop or Surface Studio, there is a quick-and-easy fix for the Surface-freeze problem. (If you use an older Surface model, you can find more information on how to fix your frozen PC on Microsoft's website (opens in new tab)

How to force your frozen Surface to shut down

If your Surface Pro, Laptop or Studio is unresponsive, follow this process to shut it down and then restart it:

  1. Press and hold the power button until the display turns off. This will take roughly 10 seconds, but on rare occasion it may take longer.
  2. Let go off the power button and wait several seconds.
  3. Press the power button again to turn the Surface back on. The Windows logo should appear on the screen.

That's it. This process may seem obvious or intuitive, and in fact it is … once you know how to do it. But if you're a new Surface owner dealing with freeze-ups for the first time, it can be absolutely maddening if you don't know how to fix the problem.

In the rare case that this does not force your Surface to shut down, simply hold the power button for as long as it takes for the device to restart on its own. On a few occasions, I had to hold the power button for as long as 30 seconds, but eventually my Surface Pro restarted.

After you've fixed the freeze-up issue, it's also a good idea to check for software updates and install them immediately, because delayed updates could be contributing to the cause of your problem. Just search "check for updates" in your taskbar search, and then click the "Check for updates" box in the Windows Update window that appears.

Al Sacco is content director of Future PLC's Mobile Technology Vertical, which includes AndroidCentral.com, iMore.com and WindowsCentral.com. He is a veteran reporter, writer, reviewer and editor who has professionally covered and evaluated IT and mobile technology, and countless associated gadgets and accessories, for more than a decade. You can keep up with Al on Twitter and Instagram.

11 Comments
  • Issues like this is definitely why they lost their CR recommendation. Now you might say, it's a pc they occasionally freeze, but these pcs cost upwards of $1000 so people expect better than that. And this device doesn't exist in a vacuum - people are comparing it to Mac's which virtually never freeze. Don't forget the iPad Pro is also a Surface competitor and those typically don't need random reboots either.  In the end it's good for Microsoft if it pushes them to improve Windows to the point that it never freezes again.
  • I need to pull the plug on my $5,000 MacPro far more than I need to force restart any of the Surfaces or Dells that I have used. There has only been one machine that I have used that I needed to force start than my Mac Pro, and that was a self built machine with some hardware made by a non-mainstream manufacturer.
  • I've had to do it several times with my iPhone.  Every device I've ever owned without a removable battery is restarted this way when it hangs/freezes.  There is no such thing as perfect software or hardware.  These things will continue to happen for a long, long time.
  • When I had an iPhone, an Apple Store Genius Bar guy who was helping me with a home button issue said they recommend restarting an iPhone at least once a week.
  • CR is mostly crap anyways.
  • I am also experiencing the same freezing issues as mentioend in the article, but usually on a daily basis.  This is seriosly annoying. Have never experienced this sort of behavior with my iPads and my custom Windows PC. I thought that by buying a Surface, I am getting the best Windows experience possible, given the software and hardware is made by the same company.  The worst thing is, that when the freeze happens, there is no way to save documents / data I had been working with...    
  • Step 1 is like 30 seconds not 10 seconds....
  • It's a good recommendation for ANY computer from ANY manufacturer. Being in IT, and having to support Mac users, too, I can tell you they suffer many of the same problems people typically attribute to PCs and with pretty fair frequency...much more than people think. It's that perception vs. reality thing, and that generally favors Mac, because there are so much fewer of them out there. I have experienced a Surface freezing (my Surface Pro 3, so far it hasn't happened on my new Surface Pro 2017), but in all the years I've had it, it only froze, maybe three times. And, I use the Surface Pro as my primary computer, so it's used rather heavily.
  • Hmm, mine surely doesn't freeze that often.  Neither is my mom's, I think.
  • I've never had to hard reset mine like this. Occasionally the display driver will freeze, but simply tapping the power button twice to put it to sleep and wake it back up has always solved that for me. Are system freezes really happening weekly for people?
  • No, and it makes no sense that you would have to restart your computer for anything but updates. I have 4 surfaces and 2 8" tablets (Dell and Lynx) and 2 stationary computers. All running various versions of Win 10 and one being Insider fast ring. I never have to restart them for anything but updates. The only one that can sometimes cause issues is the Dell 8" as its wifi can hang, but you just need to reset the wifi chip. Dell fixed that quite quickly after launch, now it happens 2-3 times a year instead of after more or less 50% of the wake from sleep. I have had my S4 m3 get stuck once in 1.5 years, where the keyboard wouldn't reacquire and the only thing to bring it back was a restart. My 950XL has hung maybe 10 times in 2 years, and 6-7 of those are since I joined insider fast ring. Granted being on that ring gives you a fresh build more or less once a week, so it gets restarted. So this makes no sense. If you have these issue with your Sufrace (or any computer) you are doing something wrong .Reset your S4 to factory image, and dont install whatever you are installing, use it as stock for a month, if you still have problems replace the device or question your charger.