How to Fix Surface Pro Screen Shaking and Flickering

A hardware defect is the most common cause

Surface Pro owners have reported problems with their Surface Pro's screen shaking or flickering. The problem appears as fast, flickering vertical distortions across the Surface Pro's display. These distortions can appear at any time, even just after the Surface Pro is turned on and loading Windows.

The Cause of Surface Pro Screen Shaking and Flickering

A hardware defect in the Surface Pro 4 is the most common cause of Surface Pro screen shaking and flickering. The cause of the defect remains arguable, but the Surface Pro owner community members troubleshooting this problem have settled on it being a problem with the display hardware, and it's thought to be brought on by heat.

Screen shaking and flickering were so common that affected Surface Pro 4 owners put pressure on Microsoft by creating a website called Flickergate. A class-action lawsuit was also considered, though it never moved forward.

Other Surface devices can have problems that are perceived as screen flickering. If you don't own a Surface Pro 4, that's good news! The problem probably isn't caused by a hardware defect, so the additional fixes in this article are more likely to resolve the issue.

How to Fix Surface Pro Screen Shaking and Flickering

Microsoft eventually gave in to pressure over Flickergate and set up a support page for users with flickering screens telling customers how to contact customer support and have the display repaired.

However, Microsoft only extended support for this issue during the Surface Pro 4's three-year warranty. The Surface Pro 4 was released in 2015, so it's unlikely that your device is covered under warranty.

While a hardware defect causes the Surface Pro 4's screen flickering issue, both Microsoft and users report occasional success through other methods.

It's also possible your issue is caused by another problem not related to the known hardware defect. The steps below could resolve it.

  1. Microsoft's support article about Surface Pro screen flickering includes steps for confirming the issue. If it does confirm the flickering issue, then it's a hardware defect that further troubleshooting is unlikely to solve. If it does not, then try the steps below.

  2. Turn off automatic brightness adjustments. Right-click on the Windows desktop and select Display Settings. A window will open, and a checkbox labeled Change brightness automatically when lighting changes appears near the top of it. De-select the checkbox.

    Display settings in Microsoft Windows 10.
  3. Rollback your display driver. This will uninstall the current driver and replace it with an older version, fixing the issue if the cause is a bug in a new display driver.

  4. Run Windows Update and let it install all updates available. This will install all Windows bug fixes and the latest drivers for your Surface device.

  5. Perform a "two-button shutdown" of your Surface Pro. This will force the device to reboot Windows instead of hibernating.

  6. Factory reset your Surface Device. This will clear up any software or driver conflicts causing screen flicker.

  7. Connect your Surface Pro to an external monitor. This does not fix the issue with the Surface Pro's display but, if it's caused by a hardware defect in the display itself, the issue won't appear on an external monitor.

The Freezer Trick: Not Recommended

Users' attempts to resolve screen flickering on the Surface Pro 4 led to some bizarre fixes. The most popular is placing the Surface Pro in a freezer. We don't recommend this because not only is it a temporary fix (if it even works), placing the Surface Pro in the freezer could damage it further.

  • What do I do if my Surface Pro screen flickers when I use the Surface Pen?

    First, switch to a different style of pen in the software (i.e. change from solid colors to a marker or highlighter) because the problem could be related to specific program tools. If that doesn't work, try using the Surface Pen in other apps or software to see if the issue is the program itself. Some Surface Pro users have also had success by turning off hardware graphics acceleration, while others have said that shutting off Desktop Window Manager will stop the flicker.

  • What do I do if my Surface Pro screen flickers, but not when it's plugged in?

    The problem could be related to your display drivers, in which case you can switch to the Microsoft Basic Display Adapter driver and the flickering should stop. Though this method will prevent you from using the Surface Pen and Camera as they don't work with that particular driver.

  • What do I do if my Surface Pro screen only starts flickering after I play games on it?

    The problem is likely tied to your Surface Pro's display drivers. Uninstall the drivers from Device Manager, then restart the device. Once restarted, it should automatically re-install the necessary drivers and clear up the issue. If flickering persists, it might be hardware related.

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