10 ways to make your laptop battery last longer
22nd Feb 2009 | 11:00
Handy laptop battery life tips
With the latest laptops, working on the move has never been easier, but laptops are still slaves to the National Grid.
You can do practically anything on a modern laptop, but their advanced features drain battery life to the extent that you can often only get a couple of hours out of your laptop before its battery drains.
While laptop battery life is a chief cause of mobile moans, it's possible to get significant improvements by good practice and a few software tweaks. To help you get a longer laptop battery life, here are 10 easy ways to improve it.
1. Dim your screen
The screen is one of the most power-hungry parts of the laptop. It takes serious amounts of battery power to keep your display looking clear and bright. Saving this power is simply a question of turning the brightness down. The screen brightness button is usually located as a second function of one of the F keys, and is represented by a little sun symbol with up and down icons. To use it, just hold down the correct function key and then choose up or down.
2. Change power settings
Windows comes with some great power features, which enable you to eke out the best performance when you're plugged into the mains, and optimise battery life when on the move. Type power options into the Start Search box and choose Power saver from the list. The Windows Mobility Center has more methods for saving battery life. These include settings for powering off the monitor and kicking into sleep mode more quickly.
3. Switch off Wi-Fi
One of the biggest battery sappers is the wireless networking capabilities built into most laptops. Wi-Fi drains the battery by constantly drawing power from the battery and, when not connected, looking for networks. When you're using your laptop away from the grid, the likelihood is you're away from wireless networks, so you can turn this device off. Many laptops have a function button that enables you to turn off the wireless adaptor manually to save yourself the unnecessary waste, but older laptops often don't have this. If this is the case, just go to the Control Panel, access the Network Connections menu and disable your wireless connection manually.
4. Turn off peripherals
Using USB peripherals can put a big drain on your system, because your motherboard has to power them, so unplugging everything saves juice. USB sticks, mice and webcams are common offenders, so copy all your information across and eject your devices as soon as possible, and put up with laptop track pads over your USB mouse. Many laptops have function buttons to turn off the built-in webcam, which drains the battery if given the chance. And switch your speakers to mute if you've no need for sound - your laptop beeping every time it gets an email or boots Windows can be a drain.
5. Eject your disc drives
Having a disc spinning in the drive is a huge drain on resources, and many programs constantly do this. Simply eject your discs before you switch to battery power to gain vital extra minutes from your working day.
6. Invest in some hardware
Good practice can go some way to extending your battery life, but if you need to use your laptop throughout your working day, you're going to need some help. Most laptops come with a six-cell battery, but many manufacturers offer eight- or even 12-cell optional upgrades, which can double your power. The alternative to expensive laptop batteries are products such as the Philips Portable Power Pack, which gives you valuable extra hours for all your devices. The Philips is a compact battery unit that has adaptors for most laptops and mobile phones, which is portable enough to be placed in a bag and has enough capacity to double the length of your charge.
7. Disable features
Windows has some handy built-in features, but many put demands on your system that are unnecessary when working on the move. Take the simple measure of turning off Windows Aero when you're on the move to make your laptop more efficient.
8. Battery care
Lithium-Ion batteries don't need a complete discharge (contrary to popular belief) but also you should use a battery once you've charged it. If you have a spare you keep topped up, use that instead of your main regularly. If you have an older non-Lithium-Ion battery, you'll need to regularly discharge it.
9. Get more memory
Give your laptop a break. If you're using intensive apps that usually require a lot of virtual memory, you'd be better off buying more RAM (though it's worth noting that more memory will need more power). Virtual memory isn't too efficient when it comes to battery life; it spins your hard disk more.
10. Don't install apps from disc on the move
Try to reduce the time you use optical drives to a minimum; they can be pretty power hungry and installing apps from CD or DVD can have an instant effect on your battery life indicator.
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