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I love my Surface Pro; here’s how I made it better

This is an absolutely phenomenal device – with enough CPU to do my day job while I travel, long enough battery to last a day of meetings (or a long flight), and light enough that it is now the only gadget that I put in my bag (leaving home my power-laptop and eReader).

That all being said, here are a few gadgets that make it even awesome-er.  The links are to Amazon, in case you want tech-specs or easy-purchases:

My Home Docking Setup

When I work at home, my desk has a 24” monitor, ergonomic keyboard/mouse, etc. – all of which is connected through a KVM switch, so that I can connect to other gear, as well. Surface doesn’t have a “docking station” like my laptop, but you can get really close:

3-USB ports and an Ethernet Jack – I like the Kanex USB 3.0 hub, which is really small and plugs into the Surface’ one USB port. The RJ45 is Gigabit Ethernet, but does require an external generic ($10) power supply. But going from one USB to three lets me add my KB/M, a fit-bit dongle, etc.

And for using a bigger monitor at my desk, I have Microsoft’s VGA adapter.

Depending on your screen, you might choose a DVI or HDMI adapter instead. I have an HDMI adapter for when I travel.

I have heard of folks using a combination “docking device”, such as the Plugable Station, with 2 USB3, 4 USB2, Gigabit and Video in a single USB3 plug, but I haven’t tried it so I can’t recommend it (yet).

Throw in a second Microsoft power supply, and you have an easy set of Connect/Disconnects that are ready for your Surface to be “docked”.

Traveling Gear

When I travel, I have other gear that I leave in my bag:

A good mouse! I am picky and don’t care for the artsy mice that seem popular today. But I think a Surface mouse needs two features – BlueTrack technology (much more accurate on non-traditional surfaces/desks) and BlueTooth, so that it doesn’t take up the one USB port. My choice – Microsoft Sculpt Touch Mouse.

Mini-DisplayPort to HDMI Adapter – I bought a generic and then an HDMI cable, but if I had to do it over again, I would probably get a cable that is mDP on one end and HDMI on the other.

An Xbox360 Wired Controller – because after hours, I am a gamer. And the shared Xbox Live gaming ecosystem is just one of the many reasons a Surface trumps non-game-able productivity devices. It beats checking an Xbox360 in my luggage or carry-on (yes, I’ve done that for long trips).

My other Surface Pro power supply, with a microUSB cable hanging out to charge my phone in hotels and conference rooms.

I do also have a travelling USB-to-Ethernet dongle, for hotels whose wireless is shoddy.

So, that is my gear.

Add More Usable Storage

The other notable enhancement is I wanted more usable storage on my Surface Pro. It comes with 128GB and an SD slot, but because Windows doesn’t let you use ‘removable storage’ the same way as fixed disks, I had to do some workarounds (although there is a rumor that 8.1 will provide more options).   There are lots of data types that don’t need super-fast access but I want to carry with me, so I don’t want to waste the 128GB built-in storage, such as Skydrive, Dropbox, Steam, UVVU, etc.

1. Start with the biggest microSD card that you can justify; but be sure it is also rated for speed, so don’t go overly cheap. I have a SanDisk 64GB.

2. And then run Windows Disk Adminstrator (Run> diskmgmt.msc)

3. HIDE your SD> I don’t want to see the SD, since I will be treating it like real storage, so I change the SD from being a drive letter to being a directory.

.   .  a. From your C:\ create a directory like C:\SD

.   .  b. In DiskAdmin, right-click on the SD card, and go to Change Drive Letter and Path

.   .  c. Click Add and then point it to C:\SD (or some other empty directory)

.   .  d. Then click ‘Remove’ on the D:

.   .  e. Now you can easily navigate to it, but you don’t have to see it by default

4. CREATE a REAL HARD DRIVE

.   .  a. From DiskAdmin > Actions menu > Create VHD

.   .  b. Create the VHD at C:\SD\D-drive.vhd

.   .  c. Then format it, and let it be the “D:” for your system

Because you created it as a VHD volume, it looks like real (unmovable) storage. There are some great step-by-step videos on the web that have pictures to walk you through this.

So now, you can put move your Skydrive or Dropbox cache. If you are a gamer like me, drop your Steam cache directory on it. If you like movies, move your UltraViolet (digital DVD) cache over there. None of these can sit on ‘removable storage’ but work just fine this way.

And as a last step – don’t forget to turn on BitLocker. You aren’t the only one that thinks that your Surface Pro is an awesome device, and those folks should not have your data (or your tablet).

I hope this was helpful. As always, thanks for reading.

 

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