Software Development

Extending your laptop's battery life


If you are new to the IT profession and do not know it yet - shipment of laptops has already surpassed that of the traditional desktop over a year ago.

It is therefore interesting to note that even with such a huge installed base - and the price of an additional laptop battery costing upwards of $100, there are hardly any guides around on how to maximize your runtime when on the road.

Well no longer, you can check out this piece here on how to keep the battery lifespan of your laptop going strong in Top 15 Ways to Extend Your Laptop's Battery Life.

But if you are the impatient sort, I have summarized a few of them here:

  • Defrag regularly - reduces needless hard disk seeking
  • Dim your screen - self explanatory
  • Cut down background applications
  • Cut down external devices
  • Add more RAM - reduce virtual RAM usage
  • Run off ISO rather than physical CD/DVD
  • Keep battery contacts clean
  • Hibernate not standby
  • Take care of your battery *
  • Get a new (more power efficient) laptop
  • ...

(*) Where lithium ion batteries are concerned, there is no "memory effect" to speak of. However, there are actually 3 Things You Should Already Know About Your Lithium Ion Battery that I wrote earlier this year. Hope you find it useful.

Share your laptop anecdotes or stories.

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About

Paul Mah is a writer and blogger who lives in Singapore, where he has worked for a number of years in various capacities within the IT industry. Paul enjoys tinkering with tech gadgets, smartphones, and networking devices.

34 comments
sancretor
sancretor

Defrag not only to extend battery life by reducing drive workload, but also to avoid poor HDD read/write performance which is a symptom of file fragmentation. Defragging regularly also prevents unnecessary heat build up in the laptop from an overworked drive. I recommend an intelligent automatic defragger like Diskeeper Pro. It defrags automatically in the background only when necessary and only when it finds idle system resources. When you configure it correctly (very easy to do), it disables the auto defrag whenever the laptop is not on AC power, so no fear of draining the battery either. Excellent software.

TheGooch1
TheGooch1

As the title says, if you just leave the laptop plugged in to the wall power outlet, you will not notice any drainage on your battery.

aweinrib
aweinrib

Remove the battery when using AC. After seeing several batteries die in 1 year and 50% price increase, this trick has kept my last battery going and going and going ...

paulmah
paulmah

Any laptop anecdotes or stories to share?

Karrtik
Karrtik

Heat is a big issue for laptops even under normal circumstances, whent he drive is badly fragmented, it can be worse. Mine froze after a few games were installed and i tried to play with my new graphics card. its like the laptop was running a high fever. No point if the system is a very costly high speed one, if the HDD is fragmented and generates heat, cant get any task completed without a headache:(

olsenbanden2
olsenbanden2

I agree that that is the way to keep the battery working. In our department we "train" the users to use this procedure.

jharmony7
jharmony7

Malware/trojans were placed/loaded onto my computer and I found the source deleted the malware etc...however the file was stored on my c drive...went in and sent it to mcafee shred bin computer was fine...then my computer started slowing down and I starting click and shut it down the wrong way. Now I have a blue screen w/error msg. unmountable volume....could it be the battery.

mattohare
mattohare

I get funny looks when I walk into a place and start looking into corners for power points (outlets). It wasn't as hard back in the States, there are a lot more there, and they're generally in standard places. It's a little tougher in Ireland and the UK with fewer of them, and being in more creative places in the older buildings. Then there's having the right cord/adapter. My power supply is fine for the voltages, but I still have to use a plug to charge up. My oddest story is when I was travelling from Dublin to Wales on an Irish Ferry. Both Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom use the British-style plug. But the ferry only had European continental style plugs. I just didn't think to carry an adapter for the continent if I wasn't going to it. *chuckle*

json_white
json_white

#1 if you're using a larger, full-featured laptop, often times you will find that the main exapansion bay used for interchangable CD-roms, floppy drives, etc will also hold a second battery. I am unsure why but running off of 2 batteries leads to 2.5 - 3 times the battery life in my experience. #2 Research the types of batteries available for your model. Often there will be otions for larger batteries. The more cells the battery contains, the more power it will store.

wallowamichael
wallowamichael

I saw it a couple of years ago, and since I'm an Electrical Engineer by training, I took notice. The suggestion is to use new Li-Ion batteries until they have 30-40% charge left and then charge them back up to full. According to the study (which I tried to find for a few minutes but was unable to), even the 'no memory' Li-Ion batteries can be trained. If you do this for the first 10-15 times you use the device (laptop, camera, cell phone, iPod, etc) you will actually increase the life span of the battery. You may not get more charge/discharge cycles, but the battery will work better throughout it's life. I have many digital cameras, so I tested it out. I purchased four sets of new batteries and put them to use. In two cameras, I did not let them discharge all the way. In the other two cameras, I kept one set fully charged and the other set I let get completely discharged before charging. Both sets of batteries that I 'manage' the charge on still work very well. The set of batteries that I keep fully charged still work, but seem to run out of steam sooner. The batteries that I let fully discharge finally failed and I had to replace them after only 100-110 recharges. I'm getting a batch of laptops in this fall for a project I'm working on. I'll be managing some batteries and letting others be used as they will. If I remember in a couple of years, I'll let you know how it turns out. Works for cameras, though.

rubendlct
rubendlct

A few things you must know in order to elongate the laptop battery life: 1. Do not use USB mice or devices while working with battery power - they suck a lot of power 2. If travelling by automobile, purchase one of those power inverters (pretty cheap nowadays) and keep your battery charged at all times. Leave your laptop connected to the power inverter only while using the laptop or getting it to recharge. 3 Do not expose your laptop to extreme temperatures (cold or hot) - both drain the battery. 4. Check the applications you are working with for power consumption before usage. That will help you guesstimate how long the charge will last you. 5. Never, ever let your laptop battery drain completely; you might not be able to get it to recharge. On the same token, never leave your battery charging continuosly pass the full mark unless you are using the laptop; it will kill the battery! I hope these tips will help you enjoy your laptops as it was intended by the manufacturers. By the way, it will never hurt to have a fully charged extra battery nearby.

BillFerreira
BillFerreira

This technique extends battery life up to a third when using a laptop with typical business tools such as a word processor or spreadsheet. Install a flash card and copy the files to be processed to the card. It also helps to have sufficient memory in the computer so that there is no need for the OS to access the page/swap file. Even though the extra memory draws power, that consumption is significantly less than what is consumed by accesses to the hard drive.

angry_white_male
angry_white_male

I carry a 2nd battery. Since AC power in airports can be hard to find, I also carry a 3-in-1 power outlet tap which allows me to share an outlet in the airport.

paulmah
paulmah

I see them being sold at airports normally. They have strange appendages and folding or retracting levers and plugs for all conceivable outlets (or so I imagine). Would that work for you?

dcheuret
dcheuret

I have been travelling a lot for years on business trips. I am equipped with IBM now Lenovo Thinkpads since April 94. I have been using a 2nd battery in the CD bay (aka ultrabay) for +10 years. As these 2nd batteries fairly quickly died due to continous charging, now I only plugged them in for extended autonomy needs (plane, train, or meetings). I realised the MS ACPI driver empties it in 1st row then moves to the main battery. So you never stop loading the 2nd battery when AC connected,unless you customise the power management scheme to prevent reloading until 30% or less remaining charge. It looks like the recent Lenovo power management driver propose an optimised scheme for battery life. I can reach up to 8 hours with my jumbo (9 cells) and my ultrabay (4 cells) batteries together in my T60 equipped with an Intel Core Duo@ 1.83Ghz. Regarding power consumption, in addition to the previously mentionned items(reg. USB devices, flash cards), you should also stopped Bluetooth, IRDA and WiFi devices. Avoid also using a 2nd HDD or a CD-DVD device to watch films. But the hungriest one is the PCMCIA card for GPRS/EDGE/3G connection.

baldwinleo
baldwinleo

I HATE laptops with fixed optical drives, because I hardly use them AND if they are fixed, I can't pull them out and put in a "bay" battery. Bash Dell all you want, but the Latitude line has had bay batteries for over a decade. I have been buying by Dells like this for a decade, and Dells are smart enough to use the bay battery first, and then the main battery. Initially, I typically get 3 or 4 (first 4, then 3 with power hungry processors and now 4 again with new processors and even better batteries) hours from each battery for 8 hours total run time (a full transcontinental or transoceanic flight). But with the bay battery taking the lion's share of the charge/discharge cycles, it is down to 1.5-2 hours within a year of heavy use but the main battery is still at 4 hours. I generally run laptops 2-3 years here, that means 2 or 3 bay batteries over that time but at the end the main battery still lasts darn close to 4 hours. One thing that really sucks down battery power is a separate 3-D graphics card, but only if you use the 3-D (i.e. OpenGL features) - running Word or even watching a DVD will not increase the consuption rate of the graphics card but fire up a 3-D CAD program and you can watch that battery meter fall!

rippleintheforce
rippleintheforce

1. Almost impossible to overcharge the newer batteries, I never take mine out of the machine when I am on AC power. 2. Completely discharging the battery will not harm the battery. 3. Be careful when purchasing a power inverter- some are not recommended for charging any type of battery, read the box.

Ajax4Hire
Ajax4Hire

You can leave you laptop on AC-power continuously, letting the laptop fully charge your battery. When the battery is at full, the laptop will stop charging and continue to run on AC-Power. Also, most stand-alone battery chargers today will NOT overcharge the battery. This is especially dangerous with new chemistry/technologies. Overcharging Lithium-ION

eparisjr
eparisjr

I suggest you purchase an all in one charger like "iGo" to keep the amount of gear to a minimum while increasing your flexibility. If you add a cigarette lighter wire to the basic package, you can charge your laptop on the plane or in a car. Plus with an added connector, you can charge cell phones and PDAs at the same time. With this setup, I've never had the need for a second battery and I travel alot. The three way plug is a good idea. I'll definitely add that to my gear.

bfay
bfay

As a long time road warrior I'm disappointed I didn't think elegant solution myself but certainly appreciate your post. I wouldn't hurt airport operators to recognize the needs of business travelers and provide more outlets more strategically placed as well.

paulmah
paulmah

I was at a Starbucks once at a rather popular shopping mall and was amazed to see a couple or three of power STRIPS that were plugged into the wall sockets. I counted 15-16 laptops in the (small) air-conditioned area, looked out the window, realized there were MORE laptop users outside, and gave up counting. I live in Singapore - does the Starbucks in the States get so crowded with laptop users?

mattohare
mattohare

...I don't change plug types that often. I have a North American cord and a Brit/Irish cord. And, I have a European contienent adapter for my Brit/Irish cord. That generally covers me. That said, I have to tell you about my trip to Israel (lived in the states at the time). I took an adapter. But I knew I'd be driving a bit and be bored with an hour or so in the desert. So, I took the converter that plugs into a cigarette lighter. It was odd taking off the adapter so I could use the computer in the car with North American mains.

paulmah
paulmah

Yup, I get what you meant there. Though, I do prefer a single adapter "block" than bits and pieces, and then you bring the wrong piece along accidentally... :)

mattohare
mattohare

More places for things to break down. I did get a packet of adapters from US to various places. (It looks like a money bag of Harry Potter's.) My point was that I didn't expect to need an adapter. It's like taking a ferry from US to Canada, and finding the ferry requires a European plug. Both use the north american style plugs. Why does a ferry that only takes traffic between the two, owned by a company in one of the countries, require a totally foreign standard? *chuckle* I can tell you why though. Irish Ferries, being an Irish company, probably ordered the boat and didn't think to check the plugs thinking they're not important. "After all, we can just sell adapters in the gift shop."

paulmah
paulmah

It is ok to completely discharge your lithium ion, but it is NOT recommended. The reason is because if your lithium ion is completely discharged and you forgot to recharge it for a few months, it is possible for the lithium ion to be rendered a dummy! The reason is that lithium ions have safety circuits built-in that will render the battery inoperable - and prevent future charging, when the charge falls too low. The reason has to do with the volatile nature of the lithium ion cells and is beyond my field of expertise. Something to do with the risk of fire or explosion when trying to charge a cell with too low a charge I believe. This is the reason why the bundled lithium ion batteries for all your electronic gadgets ALWAYS comes charged from the factory.

silverbiker
silverbiker

I ruined my battery in a very short time by having it continuously plugged into mains supply. It went from 3 hours to 17 seconds usage. The replacement laptop gets used on battery until it is run down then revert to mains. So far, so good.

ray.labrecque
ray.labrecque

With the advent of Ni-Cad batteries came the problem of memory. Just like plastic, batteries have a discharge memory. Even tho todays Li-Ion batteries do not have the over-charge problems, if you do not occasionally discharge them fully they will loose capacity over time. What is actually happening (and no, I don't have all the correct engineering terminology) is that the battery is setting a discharge memory and whe n it is discharged to that point, the output flat lines. There are 'conditioning' utilities or applications available from some manufactures, or you can invoke a manual conditioning exercise: Charge your battery fully, disconnect the charger and use the laptop until the battery is fully discharged, re-charge the battery fully, discharge fully, repeat at least 3 times. Use the laptop normally for a day or two, then repeat the process. Each time you repeat the process, you should regain more capacity, but alas you will probably never get more than 80% of the original capacity back. I have performed this process with Ni-Cad batteries and with the newer Lithium Ion batteries with good results. After getting back as much capacity as you can, never run for days or weeks without discharging your battery at least once. This practice and protocol seems to serve me well and I support about a dozen laptops for our techs... Maybe I am deluding myself, but I think my empirical efforts prove out the process... Good luck. Ray L.

Larry the Security Guy
Larry the Security Guy

Perhaps it's the laptop's charging system. My company-provided laptop and battery are 7 years old and are plugged in most hours of the day. I can still wring out about 3 hours of work as long as I don't try to use any resource hogs.

Mindtickler
Mindtickler

I faithfully unplugged my laptop when not in use after buying a new high capacity battery. The battery was fine until my kids started using the laptop and left it plugged in continuously and in very little time it went from holding a 3 hour charge to a 20 minute charge. I make sure they unplug it now.

janet.cook
janet.cook

It seems everywhere we go in the States, there's a different WiFi provider, all of which are expensive. Here in Germany, there are also several providers, so it's so expensive to travel and use the Internet at your hotel or at a reststop. We do, however, subscribe to the "share an outlet" club as I generally carry a power strip with me.

janet.cook
janet.cook

It seems everywhere we go in the States, there's a different WiFi provider, all of which are expensive. Here in Germany, there are also several providers, so it's so expenive to travel and use the Internet at your hotel or at a reststop. We do, however, subscribe to the "share an outlet" club as I generally carry a power strip with me.

mattohare
mattohare

The Starbucks has T-Mobile wifi. Available, but not free. *chuckle*

paulmah
paulmah

Do they have free Internet? Every Starbucks in Singapore (where I live) has wireless Internet. Of course, free wireless Internet is now available island-wide as well.

Larry the Security Guy
Larry the Security Guy

I think that phenomenon is more prevalent in Asia than in the U.S. The two Starbucks near my house in rural Oregon are always empty when I drive by, and the two near my office (metro Portland) have more coffee drinkers than laptop users. And of those, I've never seen any of them plugged in.