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Getting the best out of your laptop battery

In our repair shop, customers often ask about their laptop batteries and how to get the best performance out of them. A lot of people don’t realise that the laptop battery, much like the battery in any other device, is a consumable item. After a couple of years it will not hold charge for as long as it used to, or maybe it just won’t charge at all.

There will come a point in time where the laptop battery should really be replaced, and your local laptop repair shop will be able to advise and supply a replacement when the time comes.

In the meantime, there are a few tips and tricks listed here that you can employ to get the best out of your laptop battery and to prolong its useful life.

To understand why we suggest these tips, it is useful to understand what components in your laptop cause the most power drain.

Hard Disk – The hard drive spins constantly while the laptop is switched on. To read or write data, there is a small arm, similar to an old record player, that moves back and forward, reading or writing data at a specific location on the disk. The spinning of the hard disk and the control of this moving arm all require battery power. There is not much that you can do to reduce the need to spin the disk, but some of the tips below may reduce the need for the read/write arm to move excessively.

CD/DVD Drive – The optical drive is another mechanical part that uses up battery power when there is a CD or DVD inside it.

LCD Screen – The LCD panel is illuminated by a tiny fluorescent tube which usually sits along the bottom edge of the screen. Running this light on full power uses up the battery more quickly, so reducing the brightness reduces the power drain on the battery.

CPU – The processor or CPU is the brain in the laptop. The harder the CPU has to work, the more power it will use.

Fans – The harder the CPU is working, the more heat will be produced. So the fans have to spin faster to try to blow away all that extra heat.

So now that you have a basic understanding of the main power draining components in a laptop, here are my top tips for reducing battery usage and prolonging battery life.

Defragment your hard disk – The more organised your hard disk is, the less mechanical work has to be done to read your files. So defrag your hard disk on a regular basis, maybe once a month or so.

Add more memory – When there is more RAM available, the computer does not have to use the pagefile on the hard disk as much. Less hard disk activity means less power consumption. On the other hand, more RAM will use some extra power, so this tip is more useful if you must work on multiple applications at the same time. Where and how to buy laptop RAM.

Avoid multi-tasking – Try to limit yourself to running one application at a time. This will lower the amount of RAM and CPU being used, as well as reducing hard disk activity.

Try not to use the CD/DVD drive – Simply having a disk inserted uses up power. But even worse is when the disk is spinning while you are listening to music on a CD or watching a DVD.

Dim the screen brightness – Most laptops will have function keys that will let you increase or decrease the brightness of the LCD screen. While running on battery power, reduce the screen brightness to a level where you can still comfortably view the screen.

Avoid running too hot – Make sure that the air vents are not being obstructed. This will make sure that cool air is getting in and hot air is being removed. Otherwise heat will build up and the fans will have to work harder to try to remove the excess heat. Here’s an article on controlling the heat in your laptop.

Battery charging – Try to make sure your battery is 100% charged before using the laptop on battery power. Also try to let the battery power completely drain before charging again. This will help eliminate any ‘memory effect’ on the battery and keep it healthy.

Avoid using USB devices – All USB devices will drain power from your laptop battery. The effect will be even more noticable if you are charging a USB device like an iPod.

Optimise the Windows Power Options – In Windows Control Panel, go to Power Options and adjust the settings to lower power usage when running on battery power. Settings will include how long to wait during inactivity before turning off the LCD panel and hard disk.

Use Hibernate instead of Sleep – If your laptop is setup to use the hibernate feature, use this instead of the sleep mode. Sleep mode still uses battery power while it is sleeping, whereas hibernate remembers your settings and powers off the laptop.

These are just a few tips to help prolong the life of your laptop battery. Hopefully they will be of some help.

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One Comment:

  1. Sanjuana Wallman

    Very good website you have here but I was wondering if you knew of any community forums that cover the same topics discussed here? I’d really love to be a part of community where I can get comments from other experienced people that share the same interest. If you have any recommendations, please let me know. Thank you!

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