Laptops have become widely used due to their power and portability. There is still a price premium when comparing feature for feature with an equivalent laptop, but it is offset by the convenience offered by laptops. All laptops and portable systems offer the ability to run on battery power. The run times vary widely from model to model. The battery technology has changed also over the years, going from Nickel Cadmium to Nickel Metal Hydride, to Lithium Ion. Each type of battery has different requirements in care, but there are things you can do to extend the length of time you can run on a single charge.
The amount of runtime your battery has is dependent on 2 factors: the amount of power being drawn, and the age of the battery. Here are some of the things that will reduce the amount of drain:
- Screen brightness – The screen is one of the biggest drains on the battery. Most laptops have a setting to adjust this and to determine when they are running on battery versus plugged in. Adjust the on-battery profile to reduce the default screen brightness level that you feel comfortable with. Select it to turn off after about 2 minutes of no use.
- Set the mood – Dim down the ambient lighting in the area where you will be working. This will allow you to see the screen much better while in a dimmer state.
- Buy a smaller laptop – Some laptops are built as “desktop replacement” models. These have large screens that consume more power and typically use power hungry processors not necessarily designed for mobile use and generate a lot of heat. If you want to maximize portability and usability, get a smaller, but comfortable machine instead.
- Power down the hard drive – Also adjust the on-battery profile to power down the hard drive when not in use. Modern disk drives were designed for this and can be powered down within 5 minutes or so of in-activity. Whenever the system needs to store something, it will automatically power backup and there is no data loss.
- Avoid using CD/DVD drives – These drives use a significant amount of power. Avoid using them while on battery. If you have a disk in the drive, remove it. The machine will use up power to spin up the drive to check what’s in it needlessly.
- Unplug USB Flash drives – If you no longer need I to retrieve or store something, use the procedure to safely remove them so as to not keep using battery power.
- Avoid using any other USB devices – Even if you use an external mouse or other device plugged into a USB port, they will continue to drain the laptop battery.
- Turn off networking – Most laptops that have an WiFi adapter or BlueTooth adapter have a way of turning it off. If you are not using these devices while on battery, turn them off. You may want to also check the power properties on the internal Ethernet port and check that it allows itself to be powered off when not in use.
- Stop or eliminate unnecessary programs running in the background – Things like p2p downloaders, iTunes, etc take up memory and CPU power while running in the background.
- Avoid using full action games – It takes a tremendous amount of CPU and graphics processing power to generate those fluid graphics. The more processing that takes place, the greater amount of power drain on the battery. Also, significant more heat is generated, which then requires the cooling fans to run at higher speed, thereby draining the battery further.
- Avoid playing movies – Regardless of the source, the same issue applies as in playing full action games.
- Add more memory (RAM) – Check your laptop’s hard drive indicator light. If your machine is running with a constricted configuration, it will keep swapping in and out of the disk drive. Adding more memory will actually add a slight increase in power usage to power the additional memory, but will save dramatically on powering down the hard drive because it can run without having to swap, and will improve the speed of your machine.
- Hibernate when travelling – When travelling, many people simply close the lid on their laptop. The default configuration is usually to put the laptop in sleep mode. This puts it into a reduced power mode, but continues to draw power to keep critical systems alive. Change this in the control panel, or manually select the option to hibernate instead. This copies the live memory contents to the hard drive and completely powers everything down. When you power it back up, it takes slightly longer to restore the system state from the hard drive, but is still much faster than a full boot. Also be sure, regardless of whether you put it to sleep or hibernate that you save any work you are working on first.
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