Getting More Laptop Battery Life – “Good to the Last Drop”

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by Barry J. Doyle, republished from

Getting More Laptop  Battery Life – “Good to the Last Drop”

So you got a fancy laptop computer with Intel’s Pentium M or Celeron M chip, or maybe you went for AMD’s Athlon M chip.  You got built-in Wi-Fi.  Maybe even Bluetooth for your peripherals.  You are cutting the cord once and for all right?  Making it through a long flight or the most or your day without “plugging in” is a goal most mobile professionals and enthusiasts wish to accomplish.  Whether you are a long time user of Tablet PC’s or Notebook computers, we have a 7 tips that just might help you squeeze out some extra time out of your battery per charge.

Don’t do it, we can help you!

Tip 1: Starting Off Right

Our fist tip is to get you off to a good start.  When you purchase a new laptop it is essential to calibrate and break in your new battery properly.  When you first unbox your new machine, the first place it belongs (after installing the battery) is connected to an AC outlet.  Even if the battery indicator shows a full or near full charge, it is a good idea to keep the unit plugged in for a minimum of 5-7 hours.  After this initial and absolute full charge, unplug it and have your way with it!  Drain that battery until you “force it to shut down” (save your work upon the low battery alert).  Then proceed to charge it up again to 100% (this time just charge it to “full”).  Go ahead and repeat the drain to zero.  After 3 full charge and discharge cycles, your battery is ready for the road. 

This process does 2 things.  First off, it breaks in your new battery right.  Second it calibrates it with your computer to give you a more accurate measurement of charge status from the software’s indicator.  Over time your battery will slip away from calibration, so it is suggested that you repeat one “full charge” and “discharge” every 3 months.  Refer to your owner’s manual if you wish as some manufacturers may recommend a slightly different calibration technique.

Tip 2: How Many Times Do We Have to Tell You to Turn off the Light!

The biggest culprit of battery drainage is hands down – the display.  Want more time per charge?  Turn that sucker down to a tolerable, but comfortable level.

Tip 3: Turn off Unnecessary Hardware

You heard the flight attendant.  “Turn off your cell phones during the duration of the flight”.  Use that as your cue to remember to shut off your WiFi, Bluetooth radio and to remove unneeded PCMCIA cards from the slot if you are not using them.  These devices all drain your battery.

Tip 4:  Tame Windows

Did you know that you have programs “checking for updates”, scanning files and running tasks that you don’t know about?  All of this unnecessary activity accesses your hard drive and over time makes an impact on your battery’s charge.  You can easily disable these services while on DC power.  Here’s how: 

Click “Start”, “All Programs”, “Accessories”, “System Tools”, and finally on “Scheduled Tasks”. Right-click on any scheduled task in the list you wish to disable and click “Properties”. Select the Settings tab. Under “Power Management”, choose “Don’t start the task if the computer is running on batteries” and “Stop the task if battery mode begins.” Click OK on each selection to save your changes.  You are bound to find several “culprits” that you could care less about while you are out and about running your notebook on batteries.

Tip 5:  Choose the Right Power Setting

In the Control Panel go to “Power Options”.  In the “Power schemes” drop down list, be sure to select either the “Portable/Laptop” or “Max Battery” option.

Tip 6:  Add More RAM!

Shhh.  This one is a secret of the pros!  If you have only 256MB of RAM, your machine is sure to write temporary information to the hard drive constantly.  Boost that up to 512MB or even better 768MB+ and you will be sure to minimize this issue, thereby keeping hard drive access to a minimum.  No matter what kind of “power saving technology” your processor has, your hard drive is a leech on your battery.

Tip 7:  Only Run DVD’s and CD’s Unless you Have to

Gamers, if you must game on the plane – get a “virtual CD drive” application.  There are many out there which allow you to copy an image of your CD to the hard drive, which spares power to run your optical drive.  Movie buffs – your bound to drain that battery watching DVD’s.  The solution: umm well… none at this time.

We hope you find these tips helpful.  If any readers have more to add please be sure to post under the “discuss this story” link.  We would be glad to learn more!

– Barry



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