How To Make Your Laptop Battery Run Longer

January 29, 2010 at 1:52 am 5 comments

When your laptop is new, you can run on battery power for hours! But, as the battery gets older it doesn’t hold a charge like it used to. Ideally, you would just buy a new battery, but laptop batteries are expensive. From the manufacturer, they range from $80 to $150. Aftermarket batteries are often 50% – 70% of the manufacturer’s price. I’d recommend searching eBay or Amazon for new aftermarket batteries.

If you buy a new battery, keep your old one. I used to travel almost every week for work and I always had a second laptop battery with me. At times, the second battery was old, and only ran for 45 minutes, but that was a lifesaver on an airplane when you’re trying to finish some work (or watch the end of a movie you brought).

I usually buy the aftermarket batteries and never have problems with them. I did have a problem with an aftermarket power supply cord once; it died after three months. But, even with that $13 loss, buying aftermarket laptop accessories has saved me a lot of money over the years.

If you travel a lot, a second power cord is paramount. You should have one that you always leave in your computer bag, that way it’s impossible to leave behind when you travel. Have you ever tried to find a computer power cord at a retail store? If you are lucky enough to find one, it’s going to cost at least $60. If you can’t find one, and you need one for work — it’s a disaster.

In the meantime, you want your existing battery to run on its charge for as long as possible. It really comes down to energy consumption. Think about your computer the way you think about your car. You use less gas when you’re going down hill and more gas when you’re going up hill because your engine needs to work harder going up hill (which requires more energy/fuel). To make your laptop battery last the longest, you don’t want your computer to work hard. Here are some ways to do this:

Keep it clean. While your laptop is turned off, use canned air to blow the dust out of the fan on your computer. Dust is a really good insulator and your computer needs to stay cool. When dust builds up in the heat-sink, the fan has to work harder to keep the computer cool, which drains your battery more quickly.

Avoid peripherals. Don’t use your CD/DVD/Bluray drive if you can avoid it. Spinning the disc and running the laser both require extra power. Also, USB drives with lights on them should be unplugged when not in use.

Dim the lights. You computer screen is one of the worst culprits for sucking battery juice. Unless you’re outside or in a really bright room, you should be able to dim the screen and still see what you’re doing just fine. Look for a set of icons on the keyboard with a shining sun on them — they’re for changing the brightness of your screen.

Drive downhill. If your computer is clean and you hear the fan get louder, that means the computer is working hard (and the fan is trying to cool it down). If what you’re doing can wait until you’re plugged in, save it until then. Watching movies and playing graphically intense games are two examples of activity that can drain your battery more quickly.

Adjust your power settings. Most laptops have power profiles/rules that are used when running on battery power. You can set your screen to shut off within a few minutes of inactivity, you don’t lose any data but your screen stops using power. If you’re not moving the mouse then you probably don’t need the screen on (unless you’re doing a presentation or watching a movie).

Disable wireless functions like wifi and bluetooth if possible. These use a lot of power and should be off if you’re not using them (like on an airplane).

Disable scheduled tasks. If you have a virus scan that runs at a specific time every day, disable that when you’re on battery (but don’t disable constant protection).

Close programs you’re not using. Programs you’re not using may be working in the background, you don’t want your computer to work any harder than it has to.

One final thing. If you are going to buy a new battery, get the highest mAh (milliamp hour) battery you can afford. This indicates how much energy can be stored in that battery, and they vary widely, so look closely.

Broken Secrets

Written By: Chad Upton

[available on Kindle]

Entry filed under: Around The House, Be Efficient, Be Frugal, Computers and Internet, Demystified, Gadgets and Toys, Geek, ProTips. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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5 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Ryan  |  January 29, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    Very helpful! I have heard that it is good to let your battery run down as much as possible between charges to help prolong battery life…any truth to that? Also, does your battery lose life if you keep your laptop running and plugged in all the time?

    Reply
  • 2. Chad Upton  |  February 1, 2010 at 1:35 am

    Ryan. The answer does depend on the type of battery. With modern laptop batteries, letting it run down all the way is not supposed to make a difference. If you have an old battery that uses Ni-Cad technology, then it is important to do so.

    Most laptops I’ve had will check the battery each time you start the computer, so if you leave it plugged in all the time be sure to restart it once in a while so it will top up the charge.

    Thanks for your comments!

    Reply
  • 3. battery not charging  |  March 16, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    We have no way to maintain the battery not charging.

    Reply
  • 4. Matt  |  May 27, 2010 at 11:30 am

    You can also just take the battery out of the laptop when you are using it plugged in.

    Reply
  • 5. Laptop secrets | Monserratedesi  |  September 22, 2012 at 10:39 am

    […] How To Make Your Laptop Battery Run Longer « Broken SecretsJan 29, 2010 … When your laptop is new, you can run on battery power for hours! But, as the battery gets older it doesn’t hold a charge like it used to. Ideally … […]

    Reply

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