Surface Pro 3 cursor disappears

I like my new Surface Pro 3. Things were working fine and all of a sudden, the cursor would disappear. I just have the Type Cover and a memory card installed: no other hardware. Narrowing down the issue: if I move my finger in circles on the trackpad to make the cursor move in small circles in the same area on a web page in IE, or Word or Visual Studio, the cursor disappears in a few seconds. I made sure my finger does not go anywhere near the edge of the trackpad and the mouse stays within the same window over a blank space (so that the WM_MOUSEMOVE is handled consistently). If I move my finger a little more, the cursor will come back, but after perhaps closing the window I was working on.

I used SPY++ (installed with Visual Studio) to track WM_* messages and saw that hundreds of MOUSEMOVE messages appear as expected, but stopped appearing when the cursor disappeared.

This made it very difficult to do any productive work. I tried disconnect/reconnect the keyboard multiple times, rebooting/shutting down, etc. with no luck. After the cursor disappears, it can come back with subtle trackpad movements, at the top right corner of the screen. This is really annoying because touching the trackpad sends a WM_MouseDown on a maximized window’s “X” button, closing that window.

My Surface RT and the Surface Pro 1 never showed this problem.

I was quite disappointed and wondered how I would be able to return/exchange it, having purchased it at full retail price.

I brought it to my office the next day and it worked fine. I tried lots of ways to try to reproduce the problem, but it continued to behave properly. I eventually thought it must have something to do with the environment.

When I put it on the table at home, it didn’t work. When I put it on my lap, it worked fine. Wow. I used a lead lined bag (used for shielding camera film  (remember that?) from x-rays at airports) which I’d flattened and use as a shield between the Surface and the tabletop, and it seemed to fix the problem a bit, but not quite. As soon as I move the Surface off the table the mouse works fine.

If I put the Surface on my lap, the cursor never misbehaves. <whew>

I tried the Surface Pro 1 Type Cover with the Surface Pro 3 on the glass table, and the problem does occur, but less often.

This is a table with “Micro etched matte tempered 10mm glass”: there was a metal bar right under the table, so I tried various positions of the Surface on the table, even hanging it over the table edge.

Then I thought maybe it wasn’t the table, but something near the table. I noticed that the fluorescent light on the table might have something to do with it. Sure enough, when I turned off the light, everything worked just fine!

When I thought about it, the Surface Pro 3 comes with a pen and works as a digitizing tablet as well. The Surface detects the presence of a pen without any physical contact, so it must be some sort of electromagnetic field. When the fluorescent light was on, it was emitting a field that seemed to the Surface to be the pen. The cursor would just move toward the light (just as phototropic plants do J). When the pen is above the corner of the screen (both left and right), the cursor turns into a little point. As I test it now (I’m writing this on the SP3), the cursor goes to the corner of the screen only when the pen is about an inch from the screen. The light was typically at least 8 inches from the screen, so it must have been a fairly powerful field.

So there was nothing wrong at all: I just needed to stay away from the light!

Comments (44)

  1. stephbu says:

    I ran into a similar problem at Boston Airport when I plugged my phone in to charge it.  Whenever my phone was plugged into the charger at the table, it almost consistently refused to accept touch input.  At first I thought my phone was broken, but then it started working when I removed the case – of course unplugging it.

    The touch sensor is electrostatic, I suspect something like a poorly grounded appliance can also be at fault.

  2. Ian says:

    Some fluorescent fixtures have a square-wave feature (particularly those using interruptors to simulate an AC circuit), which means all frequencies are generated in the circuit.  This can really mess with things.

  3. Laura says:

    Wow. So I just spent over an hour on the phone with Microsoft technical support and they had no idea what was going on with my surface. Did some research and BOOM your blog saved my life. It totally worked! I had a lamp right next to my surface so I turned it off and my baby is back to business. Thank you!!!!!

  4. Barry says:

    So, what you're saying is, "Don't go to the light!"  Sorry, I couldn't resist.

  5. mcglvry says:

    I have 7 users (including myself) on Surface Pro 3s and have seen this problem several times. Here are some ways I’ve fixed it:

    Restart (lame)

    Ctrl+alt+delete then escape

    *Open the charms bar, then click on “Devices”, then “Project”, then “PC Only”

    Note: I’ve found that none of these fixes are guaranteed to work, for example; I’ve had restarting and “ctrl+alt+ delete then escape” fail before the last method finally fixed the problem.

    *I used this last fix on my computer just this morning. What’s strange is I haven’t had my computer connected to another display, or a dock, or anything other than the charger and type cover for several weeks.

    Other suggestions I’ve seen but haven’t worked for me:

    Disconnect and reconnect type cover

    Fold type cover all the way back and forward a few times

    Change mouse various settings

    Hide pointer while typing set to off

    Enhance pointer precision set to on/off

    Install updates

    Moving lamps that are sitting near by (really?)

  6. David says:

    When I turned off the light, it totally worked!!!

    Then I tried to move the surface to the left of the light, the mouse cursor automatically moved to the right upper corner of the screen.

    This is really a vital bug of surface pro 3. Microsoft MUST solve this problem as soon as possible!!!

  7. jasonshortphd says:

    I can't believe this worked.  I have been trying to troubleshoot it for almost a month.  Only happens at home, in my dock, during certain times of day.  Never thought about the LAMP next to the desk that I turn on when it gets dark.  I never correlated the two events.  Well done.  

    I just spent about 45 mins proving it with multiple lamps in my house.  It seems to be much worse on power compact (energy saving low UV bulbs) than normal lights.  The one next to my desk is a circular power compact and the problem is really bad if I put the keyboard directly under the light.  Amazing.

  8. Jesse says:

    Thanks for pointing me in the right direction. This was driving me crazy as it was only on my desk at work. Fluorescent lights didn't matter,  but the little plasma ball lamp I keep on my desk was the culprit.

  9. Charly says:

    I had the same issue with my surface pro 3. And with just blocking a part of the light that goes to the device the weird thing disappears. It seems that those special economical lights have a lot of field energy, I need to test this with del lights. Could a cover for the surface help?

  10. blp says:

    I have my SP3 connected to two 24" asus displays with the PS3 docked and sitting in front of these.  I just read the above posts and switched of both monitors…..BOOM… mouse cursor reappeared!  I honestly thought the posts above were far fetched.  Sorry for doubting all that provided information.  Note that the issue I had was that the arrow would not display but the other cursor symbols would when hovering over links etc.

    Cheers guys.

  11. SRIT says:

    The culprit here was an Ionic Breeze fan. Amazing!

  12. Thom says:

    This is the one that works for me most often…

    *Open the charms bar, then click on “Devices”, then “Project”, then “PC Only”

  13. Kati says:

    I tried all the above suggestions, and I'm still having the issue. I'm at a cafe, and I have been using a Logitech wireless mouse for the past few weeks with no problems at all.

    Both the wireless mouse and the mouse on the trackpad jerk the cursor to the upper left corner of the screen, and it's very frustrating.

    I've rebooted, installed windows updates, and I uninstalled the mouse drivers and reinstalled them from Device Manager.

    Still, no luck in figuring out what's wrong here.

  14. Kati says:

    Update: I moved to another seat in the cafe I was at, and it works fine. There must have been something near me that as causing it. Not sure what, though. Very bizarre.

  15. Scott says:

    Thanks Thom this "*Open the charms bar, then click on “Devices”, then “Project”, then “PC Only”" worked for, I have another screen linked to the surface, when I did this only the main screen worked, but when i then went back in to enable it to extend to the other screen, the mouse pointer was back, phew, now i can get some much needed work done 🙂

  16. Gururaj says:

    The third suggestion by mcglvry Click Devices on Charms Bar, Click Display, Click PC only worked for me. I use an additional display. I switch back to multiple devices again and the cursor appears on my Surface pro 3. I use a Japanese OS, so the names Display, Click PC only etc. might be slightly different on the English OS.

  17. JayEll says:

    I was having the same problem, but it only occurred when I was using Word 2013 with three more windows open with large documents in them, and was doing searches going from window to window. I think Word just can't handle that. If I am careful to close the search panel before switching windows, I don't seem to have the problem of the cursor disappearing. But, I also have a compact fluorescent lamp on my desk, so I'll watch that as well now.

  18. Koen says:

    Waauw. Thanks a lot for this. We have a neon in the office and that was apparently the cause of my cursor jumping to the top left corner all the time. Am I glad I found this post before I contacted Microsoft or became even more frustrated about this 'jumping mouse' issue.

    And Microsoft: fix this!!!!!! The surface pro 3 is by far the most briliant device I ever had, but the fact that it misbehaves in certain light conditions is inexcusable.

  19. Mike King says:

    Impressive troubleshooting. Fixed my issue and now I have to find a better place to put my daylight lamp as that kills the cursor stone dead (the sort of thing devs like to have to combat the winter blues). On a serious note it's a real worry that this is that sensitive. I've had the issue crop up in a variety of office locations and sometimes it's not obvious but moving always fixes it. I think MS have got some shielding missing somewhere (woes of a very low screen stack perhaps).

  20. peju says:

    Yippyyyy…works like magic; Charm, device, pconly….!!!

  21. C6 says:

    Could someone tell me how to apply the magical "Charm, Device, PC Only" on Widows 10 9926?

  22. Buddy Farr says:

    well I have the same issue of the cursor disappearing. charms bar hint did not work. I have tried it with no lights on at all and still nothing. my mouse disappears all the time when I use it on my lap at home. ugh!

  23. John C says:

    I'm sitting in a hotel room in SanFran – the desk lamp is a CFL light. I turned it on as the sun went down and didn't put 2 and 2 together. turned it off, and whammo everything was fine. Thanks for the post!

  24. Jennie says:

    I was having some wacky behaviour from my pen and was trying all the suggestions. I just took out the battery and blew in it and popped it back in, now it's working! Silly thing

  25. Wotan says:

    I had trouble figuring it out. It wasn't the lights in my room. I've been closer to them than when the problem arose. Removed my charger once the battery filled up and the pointer suddenly became sane. Did a little more testing. I had plugged my charger into a surge protector. That was what was causing the issue.

  26. Dave says:

    I have a Surface 360, and it worked for me after doing Charm, but first set it to Duplicate, and then back to PC only, and THAT fixed it.    Thanks for your post!

  27. Char says:

    I am so very glad to have found this blog for the past 6 weeks the pointer snap's back up the left hand corner.. I have purchased a new mouse, changed out the batteries, I have reset the pointer, I have moved the pen, done the control Alt Deleted and still the pointer would not behave. So here I am, and after review this blog……. it turned out to be the light in my fish tank. I was sitting next to the tank.. Move the SP3 10 inch's from the tank and I am back in the driver seat, in control of my wireless mouse. Thank you.

  28. Eric says:

    I'm working at a booth in a hotel bar (business traveler glamor).  There's a low light fixture, and sure enough, that was the issue.  I moved 1 ft to the left, and it stopped.  

    Thanks for the post.  I was about to stop working…

  29. Darren says:

    I have had the same issue and it turns out to be the Air conditioner which was interfering with the touch. Turning it off and the issue was gone!!!

  30. Anonymous says:

    I unplugged my charger and It quit acting goofy

  31. Anonymous says:

    I am sitting on the bed with all lights off and no electronics nearby. Still pointer is missing on my SP3 🙁

  32. Anonymous says:

    I have the same issues and had the surface Pro 3 replaced but the same issues still occurs. Issue only when charger is connected.

  33. Anonymous says:

    Also having the issue when the charger is connected. Really sucks. Any help?

  34. Bob says:

    I'll be damned… I've been having the same problem for quite some time. I had an internal cardiac defibrillator installed earlier this year. I buried by chest into a pillow laying chest down on the couch and the problem goes away. It's a pretty useless way to use my pro 3 but at least the problem is isolated…

  35. Katja says:

    I have the same problem with my SP3. This morning it was so bad that I actually thought a virus was behind all this. Booted in safe mode without actually doing anything. Safe mode worked fine – no cursor jumping. Then I booted normally and it worked fine for some time. (I also switched workplaces…) Now I am at the library, and the goofy cursor accompanied me again… Put the stylo a little further away… Now it seems to be better… I will try the light suggestion and see if that will work…

    I love my surface – but that problem here is really annoying. I have already replace my first model because of a different problem (a line on the screen).

  36. Frank says:

    This has happened to me a few times for the 1 day I have had my surface pro 3. I found that the mouse pointer icon dissapeared within the page of chrome but you could see it in other programs. Covering the light sensor, removing and reattaching the keyboard didn't fix it and my pro is 100% up to date (windows 8.1). Then I fixed it going into the chrome settings and select run in windows 8 mode. ??? So it seems to be a chrome issue.

  37. Gianluca says:

    same problem here (windows 10). its really annoying, the mouse disappears (to) often. what can we do? isnt that a hardware bug?

  38. Dave says:

    Essentially, its a piece of hardware you can't rely on.

  39. Demetris says:

    Happened to me too, so annoying! it turns out its the air conditioner and when I turned it off it worked instantly!!

  40. R. says:

    THANK YOU! It was my desk lamp. I switched it off, and boom, I'm back in business.

  41. Michael says:

    Much frustration, much lost time trying fixes, not willing to work in the dark without my A/C, and my defribulator turned off. Let's face it, the Surface is an untested, unreliable piece of poo.

  42. Sue says:

    Hi everyone.  I think i found a better alternative that moving away from the light.  Generally the cursor disappears in Chrome.  Go into the chrome settings, click on advanced settings, scroll down to disable hardware acceleration.  That did the trick for me and others.

  43. Marie says:

    If you understand how capacitive touch screens work, as well as CFLs, then it makes total sense how there could be interference. This really isn't something that Microsoft needs to fix, but rather the CFLs themselves. It's been a controversial topic for a while that CFLs emit EMF and other types of radiation. There's also considerations if CFLs are worth the cost and the difficulty of disposing due to mercury content. If you can't prevent their usage, at least try to stay several feet away from a CFL bulb. I highly recommend LED bulbs which are much more efficient and do come in the warm tones of traditional bulbs. Some are even dimmable now. There's no reason to get rid of your Surface, nor sit in the dark to use it.

  44. Matt says:

    This doesn't just happen with CFLs.  Any device, like a wireless keyboard and mouse that generates EMF will wreck havoc with the capacitive screen on these devices.  I've never seen this on any of my Apple products with touchscreens.  To me this seems like a shielding problem.  You should not have to avoid using any device while using the Surface line of products.  Period.