While we often hear about battery life in smartphones today and we constantly get new advice on how to extend the life of these batteries, laptops still suffer from the same effects as a smartphone. However, how you deal with your laptop can be very different from your smartphone. While batteries in laptops has improved in recent years, the number of laptops that will last all day on a battery are still few and far between. Sure you can find some that boast battery life of somewhere between 8-12 hours, such as the Samsung Chromebook 3, but for laptops that provide serious processing power, the battery life could often be less than half that.
This means that taking care of your laptop battery and doing everything you can to improve the battery life of your laptop is more important than ever, especially in the digital age in which we live. Whether you are a college student looking to get the most out of your college laptop for class, or a business person who’s business laptop is paramount to their success, you need your laptop to last as long as possible. After all, there won’t always be an outlet handy when you need it.
Today, we will look at how to care for your battery and improve the battery life of your laptop so you can get more out of each charge and make your battery last even longer. To do this, I am going to break this down into two sections.
- General battery care and maintenance to extend the life of your laptop battery.
- Tips to improve your battery life so your battery lasts longer on a charge.
By the time you are finished reading this guide, you should be a battery expert. You will know how to properly care for your laptop’s battery and what you can to do extend the life of your laptop while it is using your battery. Are you ready to get started? Let’s do it.
General Battery Care and Maintenance
First, let’s look at what you need to do to properly care for and maintain your battery over the course of your laptop’s life. With just a little TLC, you can keep your battery in the best shape possible for the entire lifetime of your laptop.
Save Your Cycles
Every laptop battery is rated to recharge on a number of cycles, often that number is around 500. It could be more or even less depending on the battery quality. That means you can recharge it that many times without any trouble. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it won’t last far longer than that, but it may not.
Now back in the day there was this thing known as battery charge memory. Basically, the battery would remember when you started charging it and over time it would essentially forget about the amount of charge you started with, thus reducing the amount of battery life you had. In modern batteries, this is no longer the case. But, there is still many who believe you need to fully discharge and recharge it every time.
In fact, these days they recommend keeping it somewhere between 20% and 80% at all times. The idea is to reduce how much it charges each time to save the cycles. For example, if you plug it in when the battery is at 50%, and it charges to 100%, that is one-half of a cycle. By keeping it between 20% and 80%, you will reduce the charge cycles on it when you charge. Now this is often easier said than done, but it is definitely possible to do if you keep an eye on things and take steps to reduce the load on your laptop battery while you are using it.
Keep It Cool
We all know how much technology loves extreme temperatures. Whether hot or cold, extremes on both ends can hurt your battery, just as it can damage the other components of your laptop. This is even more true when we talk about heat. Heat is your laptop’s natural enemy, and the same can be said for your battery as well. These extreme temperatures can damage the components of your battery and lead to problems maintaining a charge or even charging again when it is depleted.
Try and keep your laptop in a nice room temperature environment. A good rule of thumb is if you are comfortable, so is your laptop. If you are too hot or cold chances are your laptop is too. Now I’m sure you won’t always be able to avoid these situations, but try to minimize them when possible. If you are going to be outside in the middle of summer, do you really need your laptop? In some cases, maybe. But I’m betting you can leave it at home or at the office in many cases. If you can do without it, please don’t use it. Your laptop battery will thank you for it.
Ideally, you want to keep using your battery for as long as possible. But, if you have to store it and it needs to go unused for any amount of time, you want to make sure it has at least a charge of 50%. A battery that gets depleted and stays that way unused for an extended period of time may cease to function when you do turn it back on. So try to give it a bit of charge before you put it up for long periods of time.
At the same time, you need to make sure that you store your laptop properly. Avoid temperature extremes wherever it is stored so your battery’s components stay safe. When you do store it, try to make sure it stays in a clean environment, such as in a case or even an anti-static bag to keep out dust and dirt.
Remove and Clean
In some modern laptops, and I’m looking at your MacBook, you can’t remove the battery. However, even today, many laptop batteries can be removed. If you can remove them, then every few months take them out of your laptop and give them a good cleaning. Clean the connectors carefully and remove any dirt and dust from them. This will improve the connection your battery can make to your laptop, thus, improving the ability to charge and power your laptop.
If you can’t remove the battery, do your best to keep your laptop clean. Blow out any vents on your laptop that you can to try and keep as much dirt and dust away from it as possible. Of course, if you are really adventurous, you can open the case and try to clean the inside of your laptop. I only recommend doing this if you know what you are doing, however. You will also need to double check any warranties you have to make sure opening it yourself doesn’t void any warranties that you may need in the future.
Tips to Improve Your Battery Life
Now that you know how to take proper care of your battery, let’s look at a few things you can do to increase the battery life of your laptop so you can get more out of each charge.
Turn Off Screensavers
Ah the screensaver. These fun graphics creations may be great to look at, but they are murder on your battery life. The thing is on modern laptop displays they simply aren’t needed. In the past, they were very much an essential part of every computer owner’s life, as they made sure you didn’t suffer any screen burn in. Today, they just aren’t needed.
In fact, if you do anything before your computer hibernates or sleeps, I would blank the screen. Turning off the screen will give you much more battery life than anything else.
Reduce Screen Brightness
Speaking of your screen, the biggest drain on your laptop’s battery is your display. Think about it. You have this large 15-inch display that is bright enough to light up the entire room when it’s dark. Of course it is a battery drain. Now I’m sure you love how bright your screen is, I know I do. But, if you need your laptop to last you as long as possible, all you have to do is turn down the brightness. The more you turn it down, the longer your laptop will last. Now don’t go too low so it is hard to see. After all, you need to be able to use your laptop or what good is it? But, turn it down as far as you can and I guarantee your battery will last you much longer than before.
Close Background Applications
Your computer will start up with many different applications running, many of them in the background. While modern operating systems such as Windows 10 are very good at minimizing the impact to your hardware and battery life, there is still an impact. By turning off these applications that you probably aren’t using very often, if at all, you can get back a little bit of extra power that can be used for what you really need.
Adjust Power Settings
How many of you have spent any time in the power settings of your laptop? I don’t see very many hands. In your power settings, you can adjust almost everything that uses power. You can turn down your screen brightness, adjust how much power your processor pulls from your battery, and adjust how quickly it sleeps or hibernates.
Now when you’re plugged in, I would make sure you have it set to high performance mode. But when you are using your battery, you should make a few adjustments to the settings. Every laptop comes with a power saving mode in these settings, but feel free to tweak them even more. Just remember, the more you turn off and turn down, the more of a performance hit you will take. If you are just using something like Microsoft Word, that’s probably no big deal. But if you need access to high performance apps, you may have to turn up the processing power on your laptop.
Disable Unused Hardware
Most modern laptops come with all the hardware you could ever need. But just because you have it, doesn’t mean you are using it. For example, does your laptop have an Ethernet port on it as well as wireless? What about Bluetooth? Do you even have any Bluetooth devices? If you aren’t using the hardware, there is no reason to keep it active. Disable any hardware that you don’t need so your battery doesn’t have to use its power to keep them on. That way you have more juice available so your laptop will last longer.
Avoid Maxing Out RAM
If you use all your RAM, your computer will then store the information you are accessing in a page file on your hard drive. That means when you access it, it will read from your hard drive. Now your hard drive will use more power than your RAM, so the end result is less battery power for everything else. What’s worse is this is so easy to avoid. All you have to do is close applications and files that you aren’t using when you are done with them instead of leaving them running to take up valuable RAM space.
Keep Hard Drive Clean
A clean hard drive is a fast hard drive. The faster the drive and the easier it is for your computer to find the files it needs, the less battery power you will use when accessing it. Now I realize that the power we are talking about is probably small, unless your hard drive is just trashed, but still we are talking about extracting every little bit of juice from your battery possible, so why not do it.
Don’t Use Sleep
Laptop sleep is a popular setting these days, and when your computer sleeps you may think it’s not really using any power. But, that just isn’t true. When you sleep your machine, it uses a little power to maintain where you left off in memory. If you really want to increase your battery, then turn off sleep and try turning it off or using hibernate instead. These use far less power (obviously) but it will mean your laptop takes a little longer to get started when you need it.
Reduce Power Hungry Peripherals
I know, you need that external hard drive to store your files and you need to get a charge on your smartphone. But, if you are running your laptop on battery and you plug these devices in, they will siphon off valuable power from your battery reducing the amount of battery life you have to actually run your computer. If possible, try plugging these devices into a wall outlet or only running them sparingly when you really need them.
While you can do everything I have discussed and more manually, there are ways you can simplify the process. But it will require that you download and install an app to take care of things for you. One of the best that I have seen is the BatteryCare app. It will monitor your battery and even help you optimize it to get the most out of your battery life. The application is quite detailed, giving you all the information about your battery and recommending what you can do to increase the life of your battery while you are using your laptop.
Turn Off Backlit Keyboards
After you take care of the brightness of your screen, it’s time to look at that backlit keyboard. Backlit keyboards are great accessories when you need to work in the dark. But if you are sitting in a brightly lit room, do you really need it? I didn’t think so. These lights take up precious power and if you have them turned all the way up, you can almost watch the juice trickle from your battery. While you are using your battery, turn off that keyboard. Most laptops offer a shortcut to do it quickly, so turn it off and watch your battery life soar.
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are great wireless tools that allow you to connect devices such as a mouse, printer or even a keyboard and, of course, surf the Internet. However, there are times when you just don’t need either of these features. For example, if you are flying on a plane you won’t be using your Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, so why keep them running? These protocols require some power to use and can impact how long your laptop battery will last. So, if you aren’t using them, why give them to chance to use power?
Use Power Saving Features
Both Windows and Mac have power savings features built into their operating systems. If you need to use battery power, by all means use them. In most cases, you don’t need your laptop to run full power when you are on battery, so why not try the power saving features to throttle your machine’s components to utilize a little less power?
Turn Off Your Screen
We have already talked about how your screen is one of the worst battery hogs on your laptop. Of course, it is kind of important after all. But, when you aren’t using your laptop, there is no reason for the screen to sit there brightly displaying your desktop. Most laptops will darken the screen after a few minutes, but if you really want to save a little power, try decreasing that time to only a couple of minutes. This will reduce the power drain on your laptop so you get a few more minutes out of it when you do need to use it.
What to Remember Before You Buy
Before you head out and pick up a new battery for your laptop, you need to make sure you know exactly what kind you need to buy, especially if you are going third party. On top of that, before you invest a single dime, you need to take a look at your battery’s warranty. If you haven’t owned your laptop for very long, there is a good chance that your battery could be covered by the warranty. This could save you a great deal of money as the manufacturer will simply replace the battery at no cost to you, assuming you also send them back the faulty battery. If you do have to purchase a battery, remember to shop around before you buy it. Different places will sell the same battery for different prices and often times the manufacturers will be the most expensive options. Just do your homework and find the best deal so you aren’t wasting any of your hard earned money.
Your laptop’s battery is vital to its usefulness. If your battery fails, you will lose the mobility of your laptop, which is its biggest benefit. Over time, your battery will wear out. It’s unavoidable. If you keep your laptop long enough, there’s a good chance you will have to replace the battery. Still, by taking proper care of your battery and practicing the tips of improve your battery life while you use your laptop, you can improve not only how long your battery will last during a day of usage, but the overall lifespan as well.
Most of us keep our laptops for a few years before we upgrade. With the limited charge cycles of a laptop battery, that usually means we will feel the effects of an aging battery. By following this guide, you should be able to extend the life of your battery while also improving the time between charges when you are using it. Really, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be reading and following this guide. After all, you want your laptop to last you as long as possible, don’t you?
What have you done to take care of your laptop’s battery? Which of these tips worked best for you? Let me know what you have done to improve the battery life of your laptop in the comments below. I would love to hear from you.
About the author
Matt is an IT professional with over fifteen years experience supporting network infrastructure and computers. An avid gamer, Matt enjoys his time playing and writing about his experiences both in the IT world and in the gaming communities. You can find more of his writing for LaptopNinja where he enjoys talking about everything tech.