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Turn On Your Surface for the First Time

After prying off all the cardboard, peeling off the plastic wrappers, and charging your Surface, the fun begins. Follow these steps to turn on your Surface for the first time:

  1. Press and release the power button on your Surface’s top-right edge.

    Two or three seconds after you press and release the button, the word Surface appears in white letters on a black screen as your tablet churns its way to life. After a minute or two, it leaves you staring silently at the opening screen called Your Display Language.

  2. Tap your favorite language from the list and tap Next.

    As soon as you tap one of the listed languages, the Next button’s wording changes to that language, giving you a visual warning that you’re switching away from the tablet’s startup language, English.

    The screen goes blank when it’s left untouched for more than one minute. To revive it, touch the Windows key centered beneath your screen. (Or, if you have a keyboard cover attached, tap any key.)

  3. When the License Terms page appears, read the License Terms agreement, tap the I Accept the License Terms for Using Windows box, and tap the Accept button.

    Pull up a chair and relax. The Surface RT agreement is almost 6,000 words long. (The Privacy agreement, available a few screens down the road, is more than 20,000 words.)

  4. When the Personalize screen appears, choose your Start screen’s background color, type a name for your Surface into the PC Name box, and tap Next.

    As you tap in different places on the colored strip, the background color changes to match the color beneath your finger. Spot a color you like? Lift your finger to lock that color into place.


    Next, tap in the PC Name box and type a name for your Surface. If you haven’t attached a keyboard to your Surface, the tablet’s built-in keyboard pops up, letting you type in your Surface’s new name.

    After choosing a color and name for your Surface, tap the Next button.

    After you leave this screen, the subsequent screens all have a backward-pointing arrow in their top-left corner. Tapping a backward-pointing arrow lets you return to the previous screen and change any of your answers.

  5. When the Wireless screen appears, connect to a wireless network, if available, and tap Connect.

    If you’re within range of a wireless network, the Surface lists all the wireless networks it detects. If you spot yours, tap its name and tap the Connect button. Type in your password, if required, and then tap Connect.

  6. When the Settings screen appears, tap the Use Express Settings button.

    The Express settings provide a good mix of security while preserving your privacy. If you prefer to personalize your settings, however, tap the Customize button.

  7. If you successfully connected with the Internet in step 5, type in your e-mail address. If you didn’t connect, create a Local account and type in a name and password.

    At this point, your path moves in different directions depending on whether you were able to connect with the Internet in step 5.

    • If you connected with the Internet and already have a Microsoft account—an e-mail address you use to visit Microsoft services like Hotmail, Messenger, SkyDrive, Windows Phone, Xbox LIVE, or—type that address into the white box and tap the Next button. Enter your password at the next screen, tap Next, and move to the next steps to verify your security information.

    • If you connected with the Internet but don’t have a Microsoft account, type your favorite e-mail address into the white box. The setup program then walks you through the necessary steps to transform that e-mail address into a Microsoft account. (You need a Microsoft account to get the most out of your Surface tablet.)

    • Couldn’t connect with the Internet? Then create a Local account by typing your first name and a password. Then tap Finish.

No matter which path you take in step 7, you end up staring at the Windows 8 Start screen. Welcome!

If you signed in with a Microsoft account that you’ve owned for a while, your Surface begins stocking itself with all of your settings. If you’ve kept any online contacts or appointments using that e-mail address, Windows 8 automatically stocks your contacts list and appointments, too.

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