It doesn't matter if you're out on the road, using your PC to work hard and play hard, or just like to chill out on your sofa and browse the net; it's just so convenient to use the laptop without having to bother plugging it in. Batteries don't last forever and we all know they have a rather mean-spirited trick of running out just when you're in the middle of something vital. Whether you're at home or on the move, how do you get that battery to keep on running?

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The Knowhow

It's impossible to give you an exact figure on how long your battery will actually last; it depends on many different factors, such as:

  • How much you use your wireless network or DVD drive
  • How bright you set your screen
  • How many programs you run
  • If you're using any built in power saving features
  • How old your battery is

Work through the list of power-saving tips below to make your battery life as efficient as possible:

Power saving tips Brightness
Sound Minimise the use of external devices
Turn off unused wireless connection Power Plans
Reduce the number of open programs Extending your battery's lifespan
Things that can drain your laptop's battery life Caring for your battery
Battery not charging? Calibrating a battery
Calibrate the battery while PC is in use with Windows 7 Calibrate your battery when not using your computer

Power saving tips

Brightness

Use your notebook's brightness controls to reduce the brightness to the lowest comfortable setting. Usually this will be a hotkey combination (Fn + F key); look for the "sun" or "bulb" icon.

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Sound

Lower the volume to the quietest comfortable level using a hotkey combination (Fn + F key) or separate volume control. Avoid using the DVD drive

A CD or DVD drive is one of the most power hungry devices in your laptop, especially when writing discs. Try to only use your CD / DVD drive when running on mains power.

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Minimise the use of external devices

External hard drives, CD/DVD drives and USB sticks all draw power from your laptop's battery. Only plug them in when you need to; disconnect when you are finished.

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Turn off unused wireless connection

Turn off your wireless network card or Bluetooth if you aren't using them. Your laptop will have a hotkey combination or wireless switch for quick access.

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Power Plans

A power plan is a collection of hardware and system settings that manage how your laptop uses power. These are designed to help you save energy, maximise system performance or strike a balance between the two.

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Reduce the number of open programs

Every program running on your laptop uses system resources and therefore draws power from your battery. The fewer programs you have running at the same time the longer your battery will last.

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Extending your battery's lifespan

As batteries get older, they don't seem to have as much energy as they used to - just like the best of us! Even though you've given it a good night's charge the battery still needs a mid-afternoon nap and any strenuous activities wear it out in no time. While its lack of power may leave you feeling a little flat, there's no need to retire your battery just yet. There are a number of simple ways to extend your battery's lifespan and while they won't return it to the heady days of its youth, they'll at least put a spring back into its step.

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Things that can drain your laptop's battery life

  • Batteries wear out a little each time they go through a charge cycle, whether the battery is charged from flat or nearly full. If the battery is used regularly for short periods and then recharged it will wear the battery out faster. Many users leave their laptop on a desk running on mains power. Doing this, removing the battery and only using it when you go mobile will increase its lifespan.
  • Laptops run on Li-ion batteries, which gradually lose their performance over time. The decline is very gradual and you may not notice any difference for a long time but when they get near the end of their lives, their performance will very suddenly drop off and your battery will only last for 10 minutes or so. If this happens, it is time to purchase new batteries.
  • Even if you don't use your laptop, the Li-Ion battery will slowly discharge over time and will eventually need recharging again. If the battery is left in your laptop, it will discharge quicker as your computer uses a small amount of power from your battery even when it's shut down.
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Caring for your battery

Your computer's user guide or manual will have recommendations for battery usage and storage.

In addition you can take the following steps to prevent a short battery life or low capacity:

  • Store Li-Ion batteries between 20°C and 25°C with approximately 50% charge
  • Do not expose the battery to high temperatures for extended periods. For example; don't leave your notebook/battery in a hot car or next to a radiator.
  • Remove the battery when the computer is going to be stored or not used for more than two weeks
  • Remove the battery from the computer if it's going to be plugged into mains power continuously for more than two weeks
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Battery not charging?

If you battery runs completely flat, it may appear that it isn't recharging. Don't be alarmed, as your battery is designed to only allow a "trickle charge" when charging in this state. It does this to prolong the battery's life and prevent overheating.

Once the battery has charged to a certain level, it will start charging at a normal rate again. You may need to leave your battery charging for up to 12 hours.

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Calibrating a battery

Sometimes the computer and battery can get out of sync with reading the amount of charge. For example, Windows may display that you have an almost full charge, only to suddenly drop down to almost nothing in a short space of time.

Use one of the following methods to calibrate the battery and you will get a more accurate guide to the life of your battery.

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Calibrate the battery while PC is in use with Windows 7

A calibration cycle requires that the battery be completely charged and then completely discharged:

  • Connect the mains adapter and fully charge the battery
  • Unplug your mains adapter
  • Open Start, type power in the Search programs and files box and press Enter
  • Choose Power Options from the Control Panel section
  • Click Create a power plan from the left hand menu and press Next
  • In the On battery column select Never for:
    • Dim the display
    • Turn off the display
    • Put the computer to sleep
  • Press Create and close Power Options
  • Allow the battery to discharge completely until the PC shuts down; this may take some time.
  • Connect your mains adapter and restart the computer
  • Return to the Power Options and select your desired power plan

The battery is now calibrated.

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Calibrate your battery when not using your computer

For this you need to completely charge and then discharge your computer's battery. Calibrating your computer this way can take several hours depending on the age of the battery and your computer's configuration.

Follow the steps below to calibrate the battery power meter readings:

  • Shut down your computer
  • Connect the mains power adapter and charge the notebook PC until the battery is completely charged Note: Your computer's User Guide will have details on how your battery indicator light shows this.
  • Restart the computer and start tapping F8 while it boots up
  • Ensure Safe Mode is highlighted in the Windows Advanced Boot Options menu and press Enter
  • Unplug your mains power adapter from your computer
  • Allow the battery to discharge completely until your computer shuts down
  • The battery is now calibrated.

Following these steps and choosing the right power plan will help you see there's life in the old battery yet. While it may not have quite the charge it used to, it's still game.


Updated On:

Feb 24, 2014

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