After three years of ownership, my old laptop, when it was plugged in, was fantastic. It was fast, bright, and worked great. Then, the moment it came unplugged from the wall, all hell broke loose. First came the race to find another plug somewhere in the three minutes before the battery died, or to see if it would hibernate before the battery died, possibly destroying all my files.
Not a good situation. But it’s an avoidable one—there are simple ways to make your battery live longer (like, 3 years instead of 6 months), and last longer (like, 4 hours instead of 8 seconds).
There’s tons of tips out there, and most of them are wrong. But here’s what’s worked for me.
Making Your Battery Live Longer
The first thing to know here is that most of what you’ve heard is definitely wrong. The whole “let it completely die before charging it” thing? Totally untrue—it’s data based on old types of batteries, that haven’t really been in use for the last decade.
Marco Arment, a guy who knows his stuff and does his research, wrote a great article on all this, called Laptop battery myths. It’s worth reading, because he not only dispels most of the common knowledge, but comes up with some interesting alternatives. A few things he notes about making your battery live longer:
- Unplug your computer at least once a month, just to let the battery run
- Don’t worry about keeping your laptop plugged in most of the time—when it’s plugged in, the power structure totally ignores the battery, and won’t “overcharge” it as many people feared before.
- There’s no need to kill, charge, kill, and charge the battery, ever. The lithium-ion and lithium-polymer batteries that everything uses now won’t be hurt by that, but there’s no benefit for it either.
- Every few years, batteries just need to be replaced, due to their chemistry. Otherwise, there’s not a lot to worry about—technology around this stuff has made batteries smarter, computers smarter about using them, and put less pressure on you as the user.
Making Your Battery Last Longer
Now, as far as making your battery last longer for you on a day-to-day basis, there are some things you can do to help. There are a few things on your computer that account for most of the power usage, and they’re not always the most obvious things. Here’s a few tips:
- Keep your laptop cool: warm batteries don’t run very long, and neither do cold batteries. If you can keep your laptop relatively cool by not putting it on a blanket or even on your lap, giving it space to breathe a bit, your battery will thank you for it.
- Turn off external signals: anything that’s trying to contact the outside world kills some serious battery life. Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G connections (I found one that wasn’t set up, but was still trying to connect constantly) are all culprits—if you can make your laptop totally isolated, it’ll last a lot longer.
- Dim the screen: I can’t find the numbers, but I’ve read in a number of places that the computer screen is the most power-sucking part of your laptop. Just about every laptop will let you control the brightness of the screen, so whenever you can, opt for more light around you and less light on your computer.
- Close processes: On both Windows and Mac OS, there’s a way to check what processes are running on your computer, and how much of your CPU they’re taking up (hint: more is bad for battery life). On Windows, it’s called the Task Manager, and on Mac OS, it’s the Activity Monitor. Check there, find out which programs are making your computer work hard, and close them—you’ll immediately see your computer run faster, and battery last longer.
- Cut off external devices: Running programs, files, or whatever off a USB dongle, or a CD or DVD is total suicide for your battery. Whenever you can, put things on your hard drive and run them from the system itself.
- Reboot: rebooting your compute every once in a while is a good thing for your computer, and for your battery—it refreshes everything, and starts over without all the goofy processes, temporary files, and whatnot that accumulate in the background while your computer’s on.
Any other tips, and help for me trying to make the run to the living room before my battery dies?