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?
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
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
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.