X-Carve Surface(tm) Modification

Hey guys, I just wanted to share my quickie project modifying my work Surface :smile: I have an old Microsoft Surface which is quickly running out of storage space. I didn’t think I’d need more than the 64GB, given it’s light usage. But as I found out how versatile the machine really is, I started adding more and more programs.

Unfortunately the unit is well sealed, so official upgrades are out of the question. Even the pro guys over at iFixit ended up cracking their screen when trying to open up the unit. But that’s what experimentation and learning is all about, right?

This hack is not new and has already been done and documented elsewhere, but I wanted to show how easy it is to do with the X-Carve. I think others have used a hand dremel, but I was afraid of depth control given the battery and important connectors were directly underneath the cut-out.

The first step was to find the precise location for the cut-out. Using a 1:1 scale print-out of the internals, I was able to locate the SSD exactly and marked the cut perimeter. I drew up the cut-path in FlatCAM and exported the Gcode to Chilipeppr.

I used a 3/64" carbide end mill to make the cuts through the Surface’s aluminum back.

I started off with shallow cuts because I wasn’t exactly sure the thickness of the chassis. I knew that I didn’t want to go all the way through because the battery and connector pins would have been cut through. I ended up making about 6 passes and at around 0.045" is when I finally started seeing a through-cut, and it left just enough material that I was comfortable just removing the rest by hand (most of the remainder was paper thin).

I kept a vacuum on the cut to grab all the flying metal flakes. Even a single metal flake could short something out on the motherboard and permanently damage the unit.

I want to make another warning that I could have easily killed the device if I went too deep. The cut-out runs directly on top of the SSD’s connector pins and the battery on the other side. I knew the risks, but also realized the reward and satisfaction of getting more space was worth it :blush:

Once the SSD was exposed, I just had to cutaway at the top bracket holding the device. The SSD is meant to be removed from the front side, not the backside. So that’s why I couldn’t re-use mounting holes and brackets.

The circular hole you see in the cut-out was for a mounting screw. Once you do this modification, you need to figure out a new way to secure the SSD back to the surface. Luckily it’s a pretty snug-fit, so it won’t take much to keep it safe and secure.

In the end, I have a ton more storage space in my Surface, and it runs good as new!


That is freaking incredible. Props sir.

Nice work! I have a similar problem. It’s not added programs, but a year or two of UPDATES that has filled my drive. I finally reintsalled and turned off updates. Which, obviously, is less than ideal.

Actually, I haven’t sealed it up yet :smiley:

I still have the original piece that was cut-out, so I could fashion something with that and some fancy tape. Snap-in plate would be a great idea! I don’t want to do a permanent seal, because then I’m in the same boat again when it’s time to get an even bigger drive!

Luckily, the device kickstand closes over and protects the area when it’s transported around.

What a slick idea. I’m to chicken to mess with my Surface Pro 3 though. Gives me the shakes

Wow, that takes real balls. Respect.

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Big brass clankers you have there sir. :+1:

Far above my pay grade to attempt such an action.

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Necessity is the mother of invention and Microsoft proprietary mods! Great way to do it,

You couldn’t have just added a large micro sd card to the surface? Sorry to be a party pooper but this seems unnecessary.

You couldn’t have just added a large micro sd card to the surface? Sorry to be a party pooper but this seems unnecessary.

Cutting into your sealed tablet is very unnecessary for 99% of the consumers out there. I never considered myself part of that 99%. I tinker I take apart, I destroy, I do a lot of unnecessary things for the sake of learning and I find it quite fun.

For a lot of people adding a simple MicroSD card would have been fine. In fact, I had a large card in there for extra storage. But you have to understand that external flash memory has speed limitations.

When you run data intensive programs that need fast read/write access, you’ll quickly learn that external flash does not cut it. The nameplate on the card may say 80MB/sec or 100MB/sec speed rating. But that’s under ideal conditions with very efficient controllers.

The MicroSD memory slot is no match for a dedicated SSD connected directly to the computer’s SATA port. The SSD I have for storage is rated at 500MB/sec and I can definitely notice the difference when loading programs from the SSD compared to the MicroSD.


I totally understand the limitations of sd cards.

I never thought of Microsoft surface tablets and data intensive applications as two things that go together previously. I’ve never used one though so I am not in a position to say otherwise.

Nicely done on the accuracy of the machining, were you relieved when you found you’d got it right, or confident from the beginning. I know I’d have measured about 100 times and still been nervous til I saw the result.

Oh my word!! Fantastic mod!!!..the phrase,“measure twice, cut once” was meant for situations like this:) Great job!!!

Some will simply never understand the importance… NAY! THE NECESSITY, of cracking it open. You needn’t justify your actions to anyone on this forum… leave the naysayers to their sock darning.

(had to bring up socks… it’s kind of my thing).

This is a perfect example of how a machine like the X-carve can do beautiful work that a human cannot (or would not want to) replicate. Congrats to you for figuring this out and accomplishing an amazing feat!

I think the fact that he was able to do it is considerably more important than should he do it. Regardless of the application, establishing the process necessary for such a feat is what’s important in my mind for the community. I replaced the battery in my iPod years ago even after we were all told that it was not even replaceable by Apple…