Brightness flickering on your Surface Laptop or Surface Pro? Here’s a fix

I recently made the switch from using Macs for 20 years to having my first Windows laptop, a Microsoft Surface Laptop. All’s been well, apart from irritating brightness flickering when the screen is dimmed. I feared at first that it may be a hardware issue, turned out it was fairly straight forward to fix.

Flickering brightness on Surface – The issue

I found the most affective way to replicate was to:

  • Dim my display to around 50%, then open the Netflix App (or something dark) and your browser of choice.
  • In your browser go to Google, or some other predominently white page.
  • ALT + TAB and switch between them, allowing around 3-5 seconds between switching between these dark and light applications.

During this 3-5 second switch period, you’ll notice a ‘brightness ficker’. Irritating, right? It’s probably worth pointing out that disabling automatic dimming in systems does not fix this.

The cause of the Surface brightness flicker

This isn’t a hardware issue (as I initially suspected) you’ll be relieved to hear, but a ‘feature’ of the Intel Graphics chipset. Intel DPST, or ‘Display Power Saving Technology‘, is a power-saving technology that adjusts the brightness dependent on what’s on screen. Although well intended, this feature is pretty crap, as it doesn’t do it in isolation nor is it quick enough to react.

The fix for flickering brightness on Surface devices

You can do one of two things here:

  • Download Intel drivers and disable through the control panel (not what I did) or
  • Change a key in the registry to disable Intel DPST. I’ll talk you though this method

Step 1 – Launch the Registry Editor

Open the Start menu and type ‘regedit’. Once you’ve done this, right click it and choose ‘Run as Administrator’. You should now see the Registry Editor, a fairly intimidating piece of software. It’s fair to say at this point, if you’re not confident with regedit, don’t continue.

Step 2 – Locate the entry which controls Intel DPST

Navigate to the following key:

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\ControlSet001\Control\Class\{4d36e968-e325-11ce-bfc1-08002be10318}\0001

In there you should see ‘FeatureTestControl’. Right click and choose ‘Modify’. If you don’t see this item in ‘0001’, look in ‘0000’ instead.

Step 3 – Modify FeatureTestControl and restart

You should see a value of ‘9240’. Change this to 9250 and click OK. Restart your Surface device and hey presto! Job done.

Conclusion

The Surface line are brilliant devices, but I feel this is a big oversight on Microsoft’s part. Hopefully, they’ll put in a fix in future releases. If an update reverts the key change, just redo this tutorial again. Any thoughts or questions, sound off in the comments.

Ste

Web Developer living in Manchester, working for Studio Skylab (http://www.studioskylab.com). Views and thoughts are my own.

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13 Responses

  1. Irwin Munoz says:

    It worked! Thank you very much

  2. aukevanderheide says:

    My condolences to you.
    Having to switch from OS-X to Windows.
    Personally I separate work (Windows) from pleasure / home (OS-X)
    😉

    • aukevanderheide says:

      And of course fun (Linux / Rasbian etc.)

    • Ste says:

      Hi! It’s taking some getting used to, I’ve pretty much got windows set up like how I had my Mac, most stuff I do runs in docker containers so it’s been okay so far. It’s not as pretty as Mac os though! What kind of work do you do with your Mac, out of interest? I was talking to a video editor friend of mine, he said a move to pc for him just could never happen, but he shares in my frustrations with them

  3. I did it but it did not work. Problem still continues 🙁 I am very disappointed with my Surface Pro 4 because of this problem.

    • Ste says:

      I think you’re not alone, for the 5 people who have got in touch with me over this issue, this fix only worked for one. It works fine for the Surface Laptop, but it seems the Pro issues go a bit deeper, which is a real shame.

  4. Grumpy says:

    This worked for my surface pro 4 when I did it a few weeks ago, but due to a recent update the screen started dimming again. I went back into the registry and changed it to 9250 and back again, resetting each time, but nothing changed.

    I guess I’ll have to wait for another work-around to surface.

  5. Eddy says:

    I bought a surface laptop and immediately noticed the flicker when transitioning from a dark screen such as YouTube to say my documents folder and was socked at the disturbance it causes. I saw your fix and tried it. It did not work on the first try, so i undid the change and then a short time later i decided to give it another try and it worked! Thank you so much for this invaluable solution. I wonder does the battery suffer as a result?

  6. Gustav says:

    oh my god it worked! thank you so much! been trying to fix it ever since I got my Surface pro 2017 version. This should not be a problem on a device with this kind of high price!

  7. 1camps says:

    I know that there is a while since the first post…
    In my case I installed the manufacturer drivers and disable the DPST directly in the driver panel (I own a Surface Pro 4). The flickering stops but two new thing happens now: (1) a white shadow appear in the middle of the screen (I have printscreenn but can not upload here) and (2) Windows insist in removing the manufacturer driver after rebooting or power off.

  8. Martin says:

    This did not work for me. Im on a surface pro 5gen. And the problem for me isn’t only when switching dark/bright, but even if im just looking at the same screen for several minutes. feks a pdf, not even scrolling,

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