As devices shrink to the nanoscale, surface-to-volume ratio increases and the surface-environment interaction becomes a major factor for affecting device performance. The variation of electronic properties, including the surface band bending, gas chemisorption or photodesorption, native surface defects, and surface roughness, is called "surface effects". Such effects are ambiguous because they can be either negative or beneficial effects, depending on the environmental conditions and device application. This review provides an introduction to the surface effects on different types of nanodevices, offering the solutions to respond to their benefits and negative effects and provides an outlook on further applications regarding the surface effect. This review is beneficial for designing nano-enabled photodetectors, harsh electronics, memories, sensors and transistors via surface engineering.