Learn How To Extend Your Laptop Battery Life

Many of our customers keep asking me how to extend their laptop’s battery life. It seems that they used to last for 5 hours and now, they don’t last for more than 1/2 of what it should be !! The worst thing is when you finally got a sit at a cafe and ready to power up your laptop to reply an urgent email, poof, the system just shutdown because the battery is low!!

For those who’ve owned a laptop before, they’ll know that over-charging their laptop batteries will render them useless after a year or two, so they would cleverly remove their batteries when they are working at home or in the office. However, after about 18 months later, they still complain to me that their batteries never last at all.

Well, first thing first. Even when you are not using the laptop batteries and just left it sitting somewhere collecting dust, the batteries are still discharging itself and the worst thing is if you do not use the batteries, they tend to fail even faster!! That means, you’ve paid for a battery during the time you buy the laptop, but the battery just gone bad as you never use it! A big irony, I know, but did you know that? :)

There are many other users who will cleverly share the tips of doing the following:-

  1. Dim the laptop screen
  2. Minimize background processes
  3. Don’t use the CD/DVD drive.
  4. Disable the wireless antenna when not in use.

But there’s still a lot you may not know about battery technology and the things that both help and hinder your laptop’s juicebox.

You can fiddle with background processes and other software settings all you want, but your hardware is the biggest factor in battery life. In fact, software such as power-management utilities can help minimize the impact internal components have on battery longevity. Here are a few more ways to optimize hardware for maximum battery output :-

  • Turn off ports.
    • Disabling unused ports and components, such as VGA, Ethernet, PCMCIA, USB, and yes, your wireless, too. You can do this through the Device Manager or by configuring a separate hardware profile (see next step).
  • Create Power-Saving Hardware Profiles.
    • Configure your laptop for the various scenarios in which you use it (on a plane, at the coffee shop, at the office, and so on). You can do this through the Hardware Profiles menu by right-clicking on My Computer and selecting Preferences or by using a freeware utility such as SparkleXP (for Windows XP users).
  • Configure the display to turn off when not in use.
    • This is different from just using a screensaver, because in many cases a screensaver still requires the display’s backlight to be on. You can set the interval to turn the display off in Windows’ Power Options—found in the Control Panel.

Extending the Overall Life

The easiest way to give your battery an early death is to damage it. And the two most common causes of damage are from overheating and overloading. Here’s how you prevent overheating:

  • Use a cooling pad when using a notebook computer on your lap.
  • Avoid propping your laptop on a pillow, blanket, or other soft surface that can heat up.
  • Clean your desk. It sounds strange, but if you have a dusty, dirty desk, that dust will get into the vents and clog the cooling fan. Once the dust is inside your laptop, it is much harder to remove. You can try blasting it out with canned air, but you run the risk of damaging internal components. You can also remove the vent and clean out the grit, but remember that taking apart your laptop can void the warranty. So clean your desk at least once a week, if not daily.
  • Never store your laptop in a place where the air temperature exceeds 28 degrees Celsius (80 degree Fahrenheit), such as a hot car or an outdoor patio.
  • Consider taking your battery out when using your laptop plugged into AC power. Just make sure to keep the contacts clean. If you need to clean them, use rubbing alcohol. Just make sure you use the batteries occasionally in case it’ll go bad even faster.
  • For lithium ion batteries, you do not need to discharge them fully and recharge constantly. Since they don’t have the same “memory” as older nickel-metal hydride batteries, it is actually better to discharge a lithium ion only partially before recharging. You need to do a full discharge only about every 30 charges.

Overloading a battery occurs when you use an AC adapter that has a higher wattage than that specified on the laptop (and battery), or if the circuitry of the laptop consistently overcharges the battery. If you’re using a replacement or spare adapter, make sure the wattage matches your laptop’s within the specified voltage range. In the worst-case scenario, overloading can also damage your motherboard.

Picking a Laptop for Maximum Battery Life

If you’re in the market for a new laptop, there are features and components you should consider to get the most mileage from the system’s battery:-

  • An ultra-low-voltage processor, such as the Intel Penryn or one from VIA’s line of ULV processors.
  • A solid-state storage drive, which requires less power and, since there are no spinning parts, will suffer less wear and tear than a traditional hard drive.
  • An LED display. Although pricey, LEDs use much less power than LCD.
  • A smaller screen. A smaller screen means a smaller backlight, which will also save on battery drain.
  • Don’t skimp on your battery. If you choose the lowest-cost battery you’ll probably get a battery that degrades quickly, and you’ll end up buying a replacement too soon anyway. So spend the money now to save expense and frustration down the road.
  • Don’t buy an expired battery. A good indicator of a battery’s performance is how far into its product life it is, whether it’s used or new. If possible, look at the bottom of the battery and find the manufacture date.

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