How To Maximise The Battery Life Of Your Windows Laptop

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How To Maximise The Battery Life Of Your Windows Laptop

So you forgot your power cord on your way to an important meeting or the coffee shop. We’ve all been there. There’s nothing you can do to stop your battery drain, but you can do a lot to slow its inevitable demise.

If you’ve got a laptop with a really old battery that drains in a few minutes after a full charge, there’s not much you can do to make that old thing last much longer — you’ll probably want to replace the battery before you do anything else. For everybody else, these tips can help you keep your battery working at peak efficiency.

What Drains Your Battery?

put together a very useful chart

The one thing this chart doesn’t point out are add-on devices like flash drives, USB mice and especially PC Cards — which are known to kill your battery very quickly. If you’ve got an unpowered hard drive plugged into your laptop through a USB port, it’s going to drain your battery more quickly than if you had a powered one.

Tweak Your Power Plan Settings

The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure that you have a reasonable power plan selected for when you’re rolling on battery power. The high performance plan is always tempting (you’re a high performance user, after all), but you’ll burn through your battery a lot more quickly, so select the Power saver or Balanced plans, and make sure it’s set to turn off the display quickly after inactivity, since that’s the biggest power drain.

Adjust The Screen Brightness

Make sure that your power plan is set to turn off the display quickly when your laptop is idle, and don’t use any fancy screensavers that overuse the graphics capabilities of your laptop. Many websites tell you to disable Aero to squeeze more battery life, and it’s true that you might get a very small bit of extra life, a couple of minutes at the very most — you will be much better off adjusting the screen brightness and using aggressive screen blanking settings.

Optimise Your Hardware For Power Consumption

Try to avoid using a PC Card adaptor, as they can drain your battery quickly, and make sure that your USB devices are set to allow Windows to shut them off to save power — you can find the settings in device manager’s Power Management property pane for the device.

You’ll also want to make sure that your laptop has enough RAM — if Windows has to constantly thrash the disk because you don’t have enough RAM to keep everything in memory, you either should consider upgrading your RAM or running fewer applications at once.

Kill Background Processes And Services

Prime targets for removal are things like Windows desktop gadgets, and all of those applications that hide themselves in your system tray. It’s time for a cleanup, so disable or uninstall any application running in your system tray that you don’t actually need. (Only uninstall if you’re still plugged in — no use wasting extra battery life on that now.) It’s not just good for your battery life, it’s a good practice in general.

If you want an easier way to toggle settings on or off, you can use previously mentioned utility Aerofoil to help you automatically disable Aero Glass, switch between power plans, mute the sound and even disable the sidebar, all with a tiny, lightweight icon sitting in the system tray.

Use Hibernate Mode When Possible

One of the other benefits of using Hibernate mode that many people don’t consider is that there are any number of ways that your laptop can be accidentally woken out of sleep mode — for instance, a scheduled task for an application that pulls your laptop out of sleep mode to do backups, or just an unruly device that triggers the laptop to wake up. If you are using Hibernate mode, nothing can wake the laptop other than the power button.

Take Care Of Your Battery By Avoiding Heat

Photo by JustinLowery

Today’s laptops use Lithium batteries instead of nickel, but there’s a lot of incorrect information out there about how to charge or drain your batteries, so let’s set the record straight: Nickel batteries required being fully drained before a recharge to optimise your battery life, but Lithium batteries are the opposite — you do not need to fully discharge it before recharging, and in fact, if you fully deplete a lithium battery and don’t recharge for a while, it can become incapable of holding a charge.

You’ll also want to make sure that your battery is not always fully charged — Wikipedia points out that if your lithium battery is fully charged all the time, you will lose up to 20 per cent of your capacity every year, no matter what you do. Make sure to discharge the battery sometimes, and if you spend most of your time plugged in at a desk, you would be better off running the battery down to half, and then simply removing the battery and storing it in a cool place. You can use Hibernate mode to save exactly what you were doing while still shutting down the laptop completely.

How long does the battery in your laptop last? Have you had any luck tweaking settings? Share your experiences with your fellow readers in the comments.

Comments

  • Windows + X key brings up Windows Mobility Center which has the all important screen brightness plus a drop down list of available power plans, and some other buttons for wireless and projectors.

  • I’ve got a netbook, so battery for me is not that big a problem.
    i’ve extended it since then to about 5 hours plus now

    Tips:

    1. Install “Granola”

    2. Tweak Startup
    Run “msconfig” and yes, do get rid of those other background processes
    – Uncheck all Startup boxes you dont need, if unsure, install Soluto, its like msconfig for dummies
    – Not too sure if this is orthodox, but i also went to the services tab, “hide microsoft services” and uncheck all the services with the “stopped” status

    3. If you’re running XP, change to pre Xp skin, yes the good old win98 days

  • Not sure that chart is completely the same for all laptops. Most LED screens are very power conservative. The most power hungry devices of my laptop is the CPU or GPU. Playing a game will give me a battery life of 1 hour while light browsing will give me 7 hours.

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