Lessons learned from DIY Microsoft Surface Pro 4 screen replacement

By | May 10, 2017

I just replaced a shattered screen on a Microsoft Surface Pro 4. This was not only my first time replacing a Surface screen, it was my first time replacing a smart-phone or tablet screen of any sort.

Before doing the replacement, I attended YouTube University, watching several relevant videos. For example: Surface Pro 4 Screen Repair From Start To Finish “Sort of”How to Take Apart the Microsoft Surface Pro 4Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Display & Battery ReplacementSurface Pro 4 Teardown Review! (also see the article associated with that teardown).

I honestly didn’t watch all of these videos all the way through, and I probably didn’t watch them carefully enough either. If I had, I might have spared myself some painful “lessons learned” which left my Surface worse off than before (well, aside from the screen, which is now once again intact). In this article, I share the lessons I learned during the replacement, on the off chance that someone else might benefit from them.

Note: This isn’t a complete recipe for replacing your screen. Go watch the videos. This is just the stuff I didn’t pick up from watching the videos. Though who knows, maybe if I’d watched more carefully or paid more attention, I would have.

First, and most importantly: if you use a spudger carelessly along the top edge of the Surface (the edge with the camera), you will probably destroy your antenna assembly, and nobody sells replacements. You can see the antenna assembly in this section of the aforementioned teardown. Here’s the photo in question (click this photo and others for larger versions):

See those three windy yellowish strips, one to the left of the cameras and two to the right? They’re conductive tape which folds under the plastic and makes contact with terminals on the motherboard when the pictured part is screwed in properly. If you carefully remove the screen along the top edge by warming the adhesive with a heat gun and then carefully prying the screen away from the loosened adhesive, then hopefully you’ll be fine. However, if you chip away at the screen aggressively, e.g., because the top of your screen is shattered (as mine was) and you’re scraping pieces off bit by bit, then there’s a good chance you’ll tear the conductive tape or rip it completely off of the assembly, destroying one of the three antennae. I’m not sure why there are three, but I suspect one is for 2.4GHz WiFi, one for 5GHz WiFi, and one for BlueTooth; I don’t know which is which.

So, what can you do if you’ve found your way here too late, after ruining one or more of your antennae? Well, as I mentioned above, nobody sells replacements for this part. Microsoft refuses to sell replacement parts (lesson learned too late: that’s a damn good reason not to buy the Surface!), and it doesn’t appear that there are any third-party manufacturers of this part. You’re not the only one with this problem. So the way I see it, you have five other options:

  1. Try to get Microsoft to fix it. They might refuse, given that they consider opening the Surface “tampering” and not allowed.
  2. Make do with whatever bits of antenna are left over. It’s possible you’ll still get some signal, though your range and speeds will be greatly diminished.
  3. Keep searching Amazon, eBay, and Google for “X939878” until you find somebody selling one.
  4. Buy a broken Surface Pro 4 on eBay and cannibalize the part from it; the odds are that this will be cheaper than having Microsoft fix the damage even if they are willing to, and it will certainly be a lot cheaper than buying a new Surface.
  5. Reconstruct the ruined antenna out of double-sided tape and aluminum foil. Yes, really, that’s what I did.

I started by laying down some 5mm double-sided tape (the same tape I would be using later to mount the replacement screen) on a piece of heavy-duty foil:

Next I trimmed it to approximate the shape of the antenna I’d destroyed:

Here it is flipped over and laid out on the antenna assembly before I’ve removed the tape backing and glued it down permanently:

If you look carefully you can see that there’s a little hole on the left that it appears the antenna is supposed to avoid covering, so I did. There’s another hole like that on the right, though it’s hard to see that one in the photo.

Here it is with the backing removed from the tape and the new antenna fastened into place:

You can see the hole on the right in this photo. Finally, here’s the antenna assembly reinstalled in the Surface:

Now I’ll be honest with you… I don’t know if this aluminum foil antenna actually works. For all I know it’s a complete dud. I mean, WiFi is working in the Surface (though not all that well), but for all I know, maybe that’s because the WiFi actually uses one of the other antennae. But hey, desperate times call fo desperate measures, and it was either this or spend a minimum of hundreds of dollars to fix or replace the Surface.

Additional notes:

  • You need to remove four screws to remove the antenna assembly.
  • You also need to disconnect the little connector underneath the middle antenna strip, and reconnect it when putting the antenna assembly back.
  • The little clear plastic lens in the left-most circle of the antenna assembly falls out. Don’t lose it.
  • I suppose theoretically you could also use conductive ink or paint to “draw” a replacement antenna onto the assembly, though I didn’t try that and I’m not sure how well it would work (of course, I’m not sure my foil antenna is working either, so yay!).

Now that we’ve gotten that disaster out of the way, let’s move on to the other things I learned that you might benefit from knowing…

The speaker output slots are along the left and right edge of the Surface near the upper corners. If you look carefully at the screen before removing it, you will see that the screen glass is slightly indented to expose the slots. When you’re removing the screen, try not to use the spudger too aggressively here, or you’ll scrape the black cover off of the slot. This is probably just cosmetic, but still, no reason to damage it if you don’t have to.

You have presumably learned from watching the videos (you did watch the videos, right?) that you need to remove the logic board from the corner of your old screen and tape it to the same location on the new screen, because replacement screens don’t come with the logic board. When you’re taping down the logic board, make sure it’s all the way in the corner of the LCD, as shown here. Otherwise, it’ll press against the internals of the Surface when you go to tape down the new screen, and the screen will bulge there.

When you’re connecting the two ribbon cables from the new screen to the logic board, you need to make sure the cables are in all the way, as far as they can go. If they aren’t, your touch screen won’t work.

After reconnecting everything, test the screen before taping it down. Why? Well, for example, you don’t want to discover after taping down the new screen that you didn’t push the ribbon cables in far enough!

I used 5mm double-sided tape to tape down the screen. Unfortunately, much of the circumference of the Surface is too narrow for 5mm tape. I ended up cutting strips of tape in half lengthwise to compensate for this. If I have to do this again I’ll probably order 2mm double-sided tape to make the process faster and easier.

Good luck!


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34 thoughts on “Lessons learned from DIY Microsoft Surface Pro 4 screen replacement

  1. Kit

    For those interested, replacements appear to be available on [amazon:](https://www.amazon.com/Deal4GO-Wireless-Antenna-Replacement-X939878/dp/B07Y2N4QPZ/ref=pd_cart_crc_cko_cart_2_3/133-8775262-9769926?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=B07Y2N4QPZ&pd_rd_r=816edf19-c3a6-482e-9936-86d5b624e240&pd_rd_w=BThZ9&pd_rd_wg=mb26Y&pf_rd_p=a7730ea5-9084-4435-9fee-f3718e338383&pf_rd_r=83E10AK6WCZBW58A4FE5&psc=1&refRID=83E10AK6WCZBW58A4FE5) I totally messed up the antenna on the right side and lost Bluetooth.

  2. Colin

    WIsh I found this article before I attempted my first SP4 battery bulge fix. Had the same issues you did, and tore exactly the same antenna you did. I think even if I knew about it I would have torn it. The second repair on my other SP4 was better, although I did manage to pull one of the antennae out, however it was undamaged and I could put it back in place.

    Removing the battery with its paper thin connector under the mobo was a REAL pain. took hours. Make sure the battery is fully discharged and use plastic spudgers only.

    Had the same issue with the touchscreen not working, this is where I found your article; tackling that tonight,.

  3. Chris

    In my case after a screen replacement surface pro, doesn’t power up. It was on for a second and it went off – sleep mode ( so that’s means that screen is fine and works). I found a video of youtube suggesting that’s a battery issue? Let me know


    Anyone else had that issue?
    Did replacecing battery help?

  4. Nuno Afonso

    Hi jik,

    Thank you for this tutorial, I should watch this before replacing my battery.
    I have an SP4 and I’ve tried to replace the screen and unluckily I’ve broken the tape from the antenna on the left side of the camera.
    Now the surface doesn’t turn ON but it seems that is charging the battery, initially, the dock station plug was blinking and after charged using the original charger for a while now the dock station plug is not blinking.
    I had a general look into the SMD resistors and apparently, they don’t look to be damaged.
    Any suggestions for me to check?

    Thank you,

    Best regards,
    Nuno Afonso

  5. Mark

    Thank you for posting in such great detail! After reading your page I took a long time on the top section and at first glance I think I have got away with it 🙂 I won’t know until I get the replacement digitizer ribbon though… I didn’t get away with that 🙂

  6. Giorgio

    Hi Jik,

    Like others here in the comments, 🙁 , i ruined all three antennas (the screen cracked in thousand little pieces exactly in the upper part, and for me, not technician, was impossible not to damage antenna. I removed the remain part of the screen, following your infos and video linked, without other problems, thanks!). Now, my question…is it possible to use the Surface withou repairing the antennas and using a USB dongle instead? At the moment i didnt ordered the screen replacement beacause first i wanted to be sure to disassembly the surface without not too damage 😉 and i can’t test by myself (is my first experience in this type of works).
    Thanks a lot for your article!

  7. MGR Rajan

    Hi jik,
    I read your post and comments from others keenly as I have a SurfacePro 4, which I dropped on a hard surface and the right top corner of the screen is shattered,with fine cracks all over the length and breadth of the screen. But the machine is working ok. I would like to replace the screen, but after reading your post and that of the others, I cannot afford Microsoft’s repair costs and am worried that I may not be able to replace it satisfactorily. Do you think fixing a screenguard will prevent the cracks enlarging with time and damaging the screen further? Please advise. Thanks.

    1. jik Post author

      I can’t say for certain, but my guess is that a screen-guard might slow down the spread of the cracks but would not completely stop them from spreading.

  8. Evil nick

    Just did this last night. as soon as I started pulling in that area for the shattered shards (lucky for me this one also shattered along the top) i saw a glint of copper and knew EXACTLY what I did. I was actually scraping with a razor blade though and think I sliced it a bit. I havent taped the screen down yet as I want to test EVERYTHING fully but IM thinking of taking some copper wire and my conductive glue and resplicing it all together. After testing if that works Ill tape down the screen. If not Ill order the cheap 30$ part to replace it.

    I got the thing for free cuase of the broken screen anyway so even at 130$ (screen cost and antenna) its still a steal!

  9. laurent

    nice tips, I will add that you have to be careful with the cover on the top of the surface, it is plastic … I unfortunately distorted it by wanting to lift the screen.
    To remove the glue, I used isopropyl alcohol with a syringe to soften it.
    And finally, there is a new revision of the antenna: X939879

  10. Erin

    All your tips were really helpful. I replaced the surface pro 4 screen without damaging the antennas. However, I’m trying to test the touch functionality before actually adhering the new screen. The screen lights up perfectly and works great with the attachable keyboard but there is absolutely no touch response. I’ve checked all cables for tears and proper connection. Touch function worked prior to screen replacement. Any ideas what the problem might be?

    1. jik Post author

      Could be a bad screen or bad cable, or it could be that the plug isn’t seated properly. No other ideas. :-/

      1. Louis

        same problem: two weeks ago the new screen arrived, then I destroyed my digitizer cable, had to wait until today. Today I removed the rest of the scattered glass an was really lucky on the antennas. Then I connected everything and I don’t have touch. The rest works, also wifi and bluetooth, but no touch and in three days I will be on vacation and need my surface to write a paper for school.😫😫

        1. Paul Ingarfield

          Hi, for the gent that has no touch after changing the screen. There is a small board actually attached to the back of the screen. This is the N trig board. It is attached by a clip plug and the board can be prised off the screen. New screens do not come with the N trig board attached and you must keep your old one or purchase a new one. The touch will not work without it. Did you swap over your N trig board? I have a spare N trig board if anyone wants it or you should be able to pick one up on ebay.

  11. K Helms

    I wonder if the surface 2 shares the same antenna part?

  12. Peter Burch

    Hello. This is very good information. Unfortunately, my mission was to “surface pro 4 battery replacement” and did not find this in a search until too late. By then I was searching for “yellow tape on surface pro 4” because I was not sure what I wrecked. I have just a little experience with such repairs having replaced one tablet monitor and one cell phone battery which required screen removal, but I went in with determination because spending $450 through MS was not going to happen as I was more likely to get a laptop for that price. My problem was swollen batteries causing the screen bulge. That problem actually made the screen removal easier, and I was very careful, but ending up with the yellow tape with copper stuck to the screen. (I also broke an LCD ribbon cable, but figured that was a straight forward fix – more on that later) I was bummed that something was ruined, but fired up the Surface without a screen using external monitor and did not experience any problems. Thought maybe it was power to the camera, but even that worked. Finally found out the answer that it was antenna here. I have been able to slip the original back onto the contacts and, as I said, am experiencing no problems. So, for me, this worked out OK, but the lesson to learn is on the LCD ribbon. the right one really needs to be disconnected from the edge of the monitor before lifting anymore than an inch or so. Many of the tutorials show lifting 4 or 5 inches and then unplugging from the board, but mine broke immediately. Granted, it may have been stressed by the swollen batteries. Oh yeah, one other lesson learned that was not clear from any of the tutorials is that the battery cable has a little hole at the end and a corresponding pin under the motherboard that assures proper positioning, though it make removal trickier. Anyway, thanks to you and everyone who shares on the internet, and hopefully this will help someone as well. I would encourage others to try. I am NOT OCD, but can be patient (if I HAVE too.) Get the right tools and take your time. I am not 100% done as I am waiting for the ribbon cable through Amazon, but my about to explode batteries are history, and I am using the Surface in docked mode for the next two days.

  13. benjamin lane

    I am an experienced technician, and wish I had found this post prior to my surface 4 pro screen repair. Most things in most computers/laptops are rather intuitive to an experienced technician, but these tablets are different. Everything (by necessity) is ultra miniaturized, and much more prone to being damaged. My screen, like others, was entirely annihilated due to the tempered glass shattering. The trillion or so shards of glass-ish substance will find their way into the depths of the machine no matter how careful you are. That aside, make VERY certain to use kid gloves around that antenna assembly, and removing/reinstalling that logic board assembly in the corner. One thing I did right was use a sharp scribing utensil to scribe precisely where the logic board was located on the old screen and transferring those marks exactly to the new screen. I don’t know how much fudge room there is in this regard, but my bet is 1mm or less. Get the location off in any direction and the screen wont seat correctly within the case because that board isn’t located perfectly.

    With all that being said, I truly appreciate the original author for taking the time to post his experience and the details. In addition to his wise commentary, I would recommend this repair be attempted by only experienced hardware geeks with obsessive control disorder (you’ll need the OCD here!) If your screen is cracked, it won’t be a neat removal whatsoever. If you have an accurate digitally controlled heat gun it would be of enormous advantage in removing the adhesive itself. I didn’t use mine (for whatever reason), and that was probably a mistake. I was more worried about doing more damage to the rest of the unit with the heat, but I almost surely should have taken that route in hindsight, as I cant imagine it could have worse than the route I took. Even with heat, I would be surprised to see anyone remove one of these screens 100% intact. The wife walked into my shop halfway through and said “What the hell…..?!” when she saw what had happened to the old screen.

    1. Erwin Ried

      What is the perfect temperature for melting the glue?

      1. benjamin lane

        You could use a heating pad if you have one, as it should be large enough for about the entire screen. The temperature should probably be started at 150 F. I would assume the adhesive would let go between about 150 and 180F. A digital heat gun would work, but it’s difficult to get the adhesive to uniformly release initially since the perimeter of the tablet is rather large. With that being said, the heat gun would probably be the second best choice to a heating pad/blanket or something like iFixit’s iOpener.

        If anyone is actually planning on reinstalling the same screen, be unbelievably careful with the uninstallation. The screen is remarkably thin at only .4mm, and by the time you hear it start to crack it’s too late. I would honestly give myself or anyone else who doesn’t work on these screens often a coin flip chance of removing it 100% intact. Obviously these odds go way up with practice and the right tools, but I would suspect most of us reading this now are only reading it because we have neither the right tools or vast amount of tablet/phone screen repair experience!

        1. Erwin Ried

          Ok, thanks. Yeah I am not experienced, my fan started to make a rattle noise and I am out of warranty. I feel that this device was one my worst decisions ever, 2K USD down the drain… 4th replacement via warranty for several issues until my warranty ram out and now staying with an unfixable POS.

          I think I will forget trying to repair it and try to contact MS. Maybe I get “lucky” in the future and the screen starts to flicker so they agree to replace it

          1. Stece

            Surface pro is a piece of junk. I just junk mine after raking out the m,2 ssd. A waste of $1500.

            1. Erwin Ried

              I should update my comment, MS replaced my SP4 for 5th time out of warranty and the new one is OK… I am really scared now of using it

  14. Erwin Ried

    How does the screen holds with the tape you used? did you removed the old glue? I have a weird FAN noise and I am out of warranty (after like 5 exchanges with MS because bad units; this is such a wonderful 2K USD machine …)

    So I am wondering. Do I risk killing the device because the fan noise? or do I just forget the rattling noise and wait for it to die naturally?

    1. jik Post author

      I did remove the old glue. The new tape didn’t hold so well, but that may have been because I didn’t do such a great job of installing it. If I were you, I probably wouldn’t risk opening it up just to deal with a fan noise.

  15. Tingster

    Hello. I tore up my WiFi antenna on all three places since I took no caution removing the cracked screen assembly. Saw your post after I already did the damage but I successfully made a replacement WiFi antenna by using copper foil tape with conductive adhesive and then to protect it from possibly heating up and damaging the plastic around it, I used kapton tape for electrical insulation. I spent $130 on buying a new screen/digitizer assembly, $10 on the copper foil tape, and $6 on the Kapton tape. All from Amazon. Screen works perfectly including touch response. And WiFi connection seems to have improved. I can share pictures but not sure how to do it.

    1. jik Post author

      Nice. It sounds like you did a better job than I did! Maybe you can post about it on iFixit and upload pictures there? If you do that I can link to it from here to help other people who stumble upon my blog.

    2. Emils

      Hi Tingster,

      I also cracked my antennas. Could you share some pictures with me? Would appriciate a lot!
      You can send them to my email: you20@inbox.lv

      Thanks dude!
      Best regards,

    3. Jose Barreto

      Hello, do you mind to share the pictures with me, send to my email plz.
      I had the same issue, and I tore up my wifi antenna on all three places. I’ve found the Cooper foil tape also.
      But how you did to connect the new foil with the connector at the back part ?
      jrbarreto AT gmail DOT com

  16. Paul Ingarfield

    Hi Great ‘Lessons Learnt’. I have removed my screen and found there is no way on earth that I would not absolutely ruin the foil antenna. I reckon this is one of the main lessons learned for me. The black muck MS call glue has to be removed all round the edge of the unit or the screen will not lay flat. The glue covers the antenna so it is almost impossible to remove without damaging them. I threw caution to the wind in the end and just resigned myself to having to find someway to replace the ‘irreplaceable’ antenna. My solution, inspired by you, was to use aluminium tape. I think another commenter has also used alu tape. I carefully measured and cut out, from the alu tape, the shapes that I could see from the pictures you provided and got the sizes and shapes as close as I could to the originals. it was fiddly sticking it on to the plastic piece but I got there. The main issue that I can see is with the connections that the antenna go on to. They are small pins underneath the plastic and if one doesn’t touch or doesn’t touch properly it wont work properly. The originals had gold connectors that seem to be raised up in order to get a good connection. To make sure mine were touching I smoothed the relevant face of the tape and put the screws in place as tightly as I dared. Then I removed the whole assembly and looked to see if the pins had made an indentation in the foil. If they don’t, move the foil a little until they do. Fiddly but doable. Don’t press the antenna areas here when putting the assembly in for the first time or the pins may mark but when you release the pressure it may not actually be touching. If they don’t touch add some foil to thicken the contact area but don’t forget that the tape has a glue side that is not conductive so you’ll have to work out how to do that and keep contact. Mine look pretty good but I don’t have my screen yet so don’t know if any of this will work. The thing I noticed with your foil replacement is that there are two pins underneath to make the connection but your foil in effect shorted them out. Now I am no expert and I do note that the original two legs join into one but it MAY make a difference. Why would there be two pins if they only needed one? I took time to carefully cut two legs into my antenna. Lets hope it works. Thanks for sharing your lessons learnt.

  17. Mike

    Thank you for your post. It made my repair better than what it would have been.

  18. gonzalo

    Hello, I congratulate you for sharing your experience. My question is how the screen worked (is the touch response the expected one? Is the resolution the optimum? color quality?) compared to the original one where you bought it screen replacement.

    1. jik Post author

      Screen was fine.

      All the same, I’m honestly not sure I can recommend to people to do this repair themselves. There’s a pretty high likelihood that you’ll damage the Surface badly enough that it won’t work when you’re done.

      Microsoft charges $450 for out-of-warranty repairs on the Surface Pro 4. You’re probably better off just doing that than replacing the screen yourself, unless you have a LOT of experience with this sort of thing.

      1. gonzalo

        I completely agree but in Latin America there is no repair, there is no other solution than to repair it for yourself.


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