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Extending Laptop Battery Life

So you want more…, battery life that is.

Most tips can be applied to any laptop setup, at your own risk of course.

It’s not the years in your life that count but the life in your years. Abraham Lincoln

How much life is in your battery?

6 Tips when buying

  1. Buy Higher Capacity Batteries – buy the highest capacity batteries you can afford. It’ll costs you more initially but just one case of flat battery blues is too much. Rather have some excess capacity than too little. You’ll have to balance this, yearning for power, if you are wanting to keep your notebook’s weight down.
  2. RAM it in – Basically more RAM means less hard-drive use. If your system does not have enough RAM, it creates simulated RAM (Virtual Memory) on a segment of your hard-drive. The added benefit is that your machine will perform better when running larger, more memory intensive applications. As well as being able to run more applications simultaneously. More RAM also means that your HDD is being used less and so will most likely last longer. This is more important when using Windows Vista.
  3. Power Saving CPU – Intel’s Core range of  processors where indeed a huge leap forward in increased processing speed while reducing power consumption, i.e. battery drain. They seem to have lead, to the global boom in notebook sales as you can now get both decent speed and decent battery life.
  4. LED Backlit Screen – newer notebooks use LED backlit screens instead of flourescent, they offer higher contrast and better colour reproduction whilst using far less power. Also means your laptop screen is thinner and lighter. Oh and let’s not forget screen size, bigger means more power consumed.
  5. Power Aware OS – If your really on the road a lot, your operating system makes a huge difference. Linux is probably best when it comes to being frugal with power usage, then probably XP, Win 7 and probably Windows Vist last. Windows 7 may have some tricks still to improve it’s power usage and it may still best XP and possibly even Linux.
  6. Bigger “Green” Hard Drive – especially if you are installing Windows 7 or Vista as they take up far more space than XP. A full and fragmented hard drive means more spinning and more power consumed. Keep at least 30-50% of your drive free to help performance. Green drives use less power.

8 Tips whilst on mains power

  1. Remove Background Apps – The fewer applications running the more resources available when you need tham. Many applications install helpers that load on startup and run in the background continuously, reducing battery life. Download Advanced System Care (7.7MB) to help cleanup your system. Turn off as many of the background programs as possible.
  2. Uninstall – all unnecessary applications that take up space on your drive an reduce it’s efficiency.
  3. Defrag, defrag, defrag – This sorts the data on your hard drive so that your PC can get to it more quickly and therefore reduces HDD seeking and burning up excess power. Look for and install power management software for your particular brand of HDD. I like IObit Smart Defrag or Piriform’s Defraggler.
  4. Disk Cleanup – Run weekly – In your Start menu, click My Computer. In the My Computer dialog box, right-click on the drive you wish to check for errors (for most of us this will be the C: drive), and click Properties. In the Properties dialog box, click Disk Cleanup. Helps clean out temporary files to speed up disk access.
  5. Windows XP – run Microsoft Bootvis to streamline you bootup process, a minor power saving but nice touch if you are shutting down and restarting often.
  6. Optimise Power Options – setup power management options for when you are on mains and for optimal battery life. These are then easy to switch to when you are on the road and wanting to get more from your battery.
  7. Low Power Theme – create a low power Windows Theme for when your on the road. Flashy graphics suck your battery dry. Graphics cards have become very power hungry and under Vista waste precious battery life.
  8. Battery Care – If you’re not using your machine for an extended period, disconnect from your laptop store you Lithium Ion battery at roughly 40% capacity at around 15°C. Keep batteries in a cool and dry storage area. Refrigeration is recommended but freezers should be avoided. When refrigerated, the battery should be placed in a plastic bag to protect against condensation.

5 Tips when running on battery power

  1. Dim Your Screen Sum – Laptops come with the ability to dim your screen via software or from your keyboard. Bright white consumes the most power. So even a dark theme will help a little with reducing battery use. Some laptops dim the screen automatically by sensing the ambient light conditions and adjusting accordingly.
  2. Disconnect – USB devices e.g. mouse, external HDD. Remove or shut them down when not in use. Also turn off unused network connections, your onboard Wireless network & Bluetooth if not in use.
  3. Focus – run 1 thing at a time if possible, this means there is more memory free for that application and your processor is being utilised optimally. This was your system is not keeping unnecessary applications going in the background. Avoid having your mail client running and music playing unless you know your battery can handle it.
  4. Avoid using your CD/DVD drive – CD/DVD drives use more power than your HDD. Make sure your drive bay is empty to stop the OS from reading the drive. If you need information on the road that is normally on a CD/DVD copy it to your HDD.
  5. Hibernate – hibernation saves your current system state to your hard drive, then completely shuts your PC down. i.e. therefore no power drain at all. Added benefit, you can pick up where you left off.

2 Tips for Physical Maintenance

  1. Keep Battery Contacts Clean – Dirt means added resistance, increased heat and therefore reduced battery life. Power down, remove the battery and clean the metal contacts on the battery and laptop every couple of months with a cloth moistened with rubbing alcohol.
  2. Cool Down – most batteries function better when cooler. Heat is wasted energy, so make sure your laptop’s air vents and fans are clean.

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