How To Increase Your Laptop’s Battery Life

I have read several posts on how to extend a laptop’s battery life, mostly from How-To-Geek, LifeHacker, WikiHow, PCMag, TechCrunch, and Mashable. I spent so much time on it because it was a problem that I personally faced.

After some research on my own, I found some very simple and useful hacks. My Fujitsu Lifebook A Series was constantly kept on charge for 1 year or so. It’s battery life after that was probably around 1 hour or so. My Toshiba was in a worse condition. It didn’t even last 15 minutes without a constant charge, which was a clear indication that the lithium ion battery is expired.

In order to solve my problem, I had to break it down into smaller components and start working up from there. I had to manage 5 basic things, which were the display, the sound, the processor and the memory, all ports and peripherals and finally the battery itself. Apart from taking care of these 5 things, there are few more things that needed attention.

The Display

Every time your laptop’s battery is drained down to 20%, your laptop goes into ‘Critical’ mode automatically, unless you have turned it off. The first thing you will notice is the decreased brightness in your device.

That’s because the LCD monitor consumes a lot of battery power. Obviously, the display is something to be taken care of. So the first thing I did was reduce the brightness of my LCD device down 2 or 3 bars.

The second biggest concern was the resolution. WikiHow says that turning down the screen resolution could help increase your battery life. It also says that the method of turning down the screen resolution depends on the make of your computer.

What I’ve learned is, whether you own a Windows, a Mac or a Ubuntu Laptop, all you need to do is go to settings and search for  ‘Screen Resolution’, and then turn it down. I mainly use my laptop mainly for typing documents, so I don’t need a 4k or even a 1920x1080p Screen Resolution. Also, I have noticed that a 1366×768 resolution or lower is not only easy for the eyes, it also increases your battery life.

So, turning down the resolution and decreasing the brightness did not negatively impact my work, it did the exact opposite.

I changed my wallpaper to a dark image and even customized my browser for white text on black background. If you have an OLED screen, white images consume a lot more power than otherwise. WikiHow says OLED screens consume a lot less power when displaying black images.

The Sound

Even though I use my laptop mainly for typing documents, I noticed that the sound was always on full volume. So, I put my laptop on ‘Silent’ mode. PCMag says that If you need to hear, drop the sound down as low as you can. Consider switching from the laptop’s larger speakers to a set of tiny earbuds to get the audio piped right to your ears.

The Processor and the Memory

Another problem was the number of tasks I had open when I was working, draining my laptop’s battery. PCMag says that It’s not just the hardware that’s stealing your battery juice. Multiple apps and processes running on your system will also chew through battery life more quickly. As with the hardware, start by turning off anything that isn’t being used.With the browser open for immediate references, a heavy text editor, an image editor and a lot of folders and files open, my laptops CPU was often overheating. WikiHow says that the PC memory that is in use takes more power to hold data. Also, using more memory might mean using more swap or virtual memory space on your laptop hard drive. All of this puts an additional drain on your laptop battery. Instead of leaving multiple applications and windows open, use only what you need at any given time. If your laptop has plenty of memory, then keep multiple applications open to avoid loading repeatedly from the hard drive. Close all the applications that run in the background on your laptop like your PDA syncing software or USB hard drive backup software.

At the same time, it is also important to understand that repeatedly reopening programs will place a significant amount of load on the processor and could also drain the battery. Hence, if you really need a task open, you might as well open it and keep it minimized. Use a basic text editor rather than the processor and RAM heavy Microsoft Word. Heavy applications like games or movie watching are especially hard on the battery. Avoid resource intensive programs as much as possible. Multitasking is good only when your computer is charging and you are using ‘light’ programs.

The Ports and Peripherals

The easiest way to reduce power consumption is to simply turn stuff off. Laptops and other gadgets are made up of components that need power to function. Turn them off if you are not using them. Disabling unused ports and components, such as VGA, Ethernet, PCMCIA, USB, and yes, your wireless, too. You can do this through the Device Manager. If you are using a windows device, go to the Control Panel and click on Device Manager, where you can turn off any unused ports. Just like an extension cord left plugged into an outlet, these unused plugs still have power going through them, and losing some in the process. While you can disable USB ports on a Mac using the terminal program, it’s something that IT administrators would use to lock down Macs for security purposes. I don’t recommend doing it as an end user because it may make your system act up. You can, however, disable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi from the Menu bar at the top of the screen, that is, only if you are not searching something on the net.

The Battery

Most laptops have a Lithium-ion battery. One thing I have noticed recently is that all these devices ‘leak’ power. If I charge my laptop to 100% (Fully charged) and leave it like that for a few days, I see that the battery is drained to 60% or even 40%. It’s probably because Batteries have to be kept ‘fresh’. Some people advised me the charge my battery to 100% and drain it all the way to zero to prolong a healthy battery life. Apparently, the manual that came with my Fujitsu said the same thing (who the hell reads manuals, right?). Anyway, after doing some of the legwork on my own, here is what I have learned. One thing I did know was that charging the battery incorrectly could reduce its lifespan. Most lithium batteries should last you a few years, but improper care can decrease that lifespan, meaning that your battery will be unable to hold a charge—or unable to hold as big a charge as it used to—quicker. LifeHacker says that lithium ion batteries don’t need to be charged to a 100% percent. The best thing that I could recommend is the 40%-80% rule, where you keep your battery between 40 and 80 percent. Sometimes, I used to charge my battery to a 100% percent and leave it like that, which, as I’ve learned, is very harmful and may even degrade the battery’s health.

Manufacturers also recommend that you charge you laptop fully once a month, and then discharge it completely. This is because most lithium-ion batteries are ‘smart batteries’. They can tell you how long you have until your battery dies (e.g. “2 hours, 15 minutes remaining”). LifeHacker says that this feature can get miscalibrated after a lot of shallow discharges. So, manufacturers recommend fully discharging your battery once a month to make sure this stays accurate.

Some other things that I did

I cleaned the battery’s metal contacts because WikiHow says clean contacts increase the energy efficiency. Also, if I wanted to listen to music, I used an MP3 player instead of my computer. I also stopped using CDs and DVDs and switched to USB hard drive or thumb drive. Optical drives consume large amounts of power to spin up CDs and DVDs. Finally, remember that your battery is going to die in a few years, no matter what you do – even if you just let it sit on a shelf. These guidelines are to keep it healthy for as long as possible. Don’t compromise your work to save your battery.

Advertisements