Using a laptop can be a very freeing experience. You’re no longer tied down to your desk or office; you can go wherever you want. Of course, laptop owners know this isn’t always the truth. Sometimes you need to be near an outlet, because your battery is running low.
What’s a laptop owner to do? Here are five things Windows 7 users can do to help reduce the strain your laptop puts on the battery, in order to gain longer battery life.
Note: yes, all the ideas mentioned below will work equally as well for Linux and Mac users, but all the screenshots, and the specific examples, are geared toward Windows 7 users.
The first, and best way to keep your laptop battery running efficiently is to turn down your monitor. According to Microsoft, the LCD screen in your laptop accounts for 43 percent of the drain your computer puts on the battery. Anything we can do to lessen this is a huge help.
So we’d recommend tweaking your monitor’s brightness so it’s as low as you can, while still being able to comfortably use it.
After lowering the brightness and waiting a bit, you should see an almost immediate jump in your battery’s estimated remaining life.
The next step you can take to extending your laptop’s battery life is to turn off all the “stuff” that’s currently on that you’re not actually using. This is intentionally vague, as “stuff” can be all sorts of things. What are some examples of things you might want to turn off?
All of these things can be a large drain on your system, and be even more of a drain in the event you aren’t actually using them. For instance, let’s say you have a laptop that comes with a Bluetooth module. If you don’t have any Bluetooth devices to connect to your computer, then if the Bluetooth module is on and broadcasting, then it’s a pointless drain on your battery. The same goes for WiFi (if you’re not using it or are somewhere there are no networks available). Just because you aren’t connected to a network doesn’t mean your WiFi card isn’t sucking up your battery. Use the physical switch on your keyboard, or turn off WiFi from the control panel.
Our third step is the combination of a good Power Plan, along with the Advanced Power Settings. While it might be nice to have your display at full brightness, your WiFi always on, your computer set to never spin down the hard drives or hibernate automatically, and those settings are fine while using an AC adaptor, those settings are murder on a battery. If you find yourself using battery power often, be sure to set up a good power-saving power plan.
While you’re tweaking your power plan, be sure to go into the Advanced Settings area. You’ll have more fine-grained control over exactly what devices do when using battery power. For instance, you can put your hard drive to sleep after a few minutes on battery power, as well as configure your WiFi for maximum power saving while on battery.
Note: you can find the Advanced Power Options by going to the Power Options control panel, clicking Change plan’s settings, and then clicking the Change advanced power settings link.
The next step to saving battery life is to minimize your use of auxiliary devices, or at least unpowered ones. For instance, using devices such as unpowered hard drives, flash drives, and PC cards means those devices are getting power from the only available power source: your laptop battery. While some use of devices (especially Flash drives) may be unavoidable, other devices such as the built-in DVD drive shouldn’t be used on battery power, at least if you want any kind of decent battery life.
Finally, try to go easy on your poor laptop. Anything you can do that causes the laptop’s fan to run is probably a bad idea. Don’t run swap-heavy programs or have lots of background processes going, for instance. You might not want to wait until you’ve unplugged before starting to edit your movie masterpiece, and trying to run too many programs with not enough RAM is also a recipe for short battery life. A basic rule of thumb is that if your laptop gets hot, you’re likely being too hard on it, if it’s running on battery power.
As a final note, it’s worth stressing this. All these tips go toward one thing: keeping your computer running cool, which helps the battery maintain its charge, as excess heat drains a battery quickly (which is why a cell phone kept in a front pocket will drain more quickly than a cell phone kept in a purse or on a belt holster). Some factors will be out of your control (a hot day versus a cold day), but everything else is something well within your reach. So remember, ease up, turn off unnecessary “stuff” and unplug everything you can while your laptop is unplugged. Your battery will thank you for it.