Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Extend the life of your laptop battery

Ever use your laptop and find the battery seems to die quickly? Well, here is a few tips on how to stretch out your battery life. Now remember, this isn't for everyday use when you are plugged into a wall. This is for those times when you are running on the battery.

1. Brightness: The fastest way to suck the life out of a battery is leaving your brightness high. Turn it down as low as you possibly can without needing to up your glasses prescription. On most latops, using the function key and F9-F10 will set the brightness.

2. Don’t use any external devices. USB and PC-Cards(aka PC-MCIA) use your battery to function, even when you aren’t using them. Have an EVDO card or maybe a USB mouse? Remove them if you can. Even a memory card reader in your PC-MCIA slot uses power just by being in there. The effect varies based on the type of device, but even a few minutes here and there (as you’ll see) add up significantly.
3. Single-task, not multi-task. The more you are doing at the same time with your PC, the more memory and CPU usage increases. Both of which directly use up battery. Close any applications you aren’t using, even the small ones. While your hard drive uses the battery too, if you are doing anything ‘productive’ you are probably hitting the drive on a regular (even if infrequent) basis anyway.

4. Keep it cool. You can take a page out of the extreme gamer’s handbooks, and have your system perform more optimally by keeping it cool. Make sure your air vents (inflow and outflow) aren’t blocked by anything, which often occurs by poorly positioning your notebook on your lap (which is believed to have some other side-effects on men too, by the way). Heavy CPU and memory use all contribute to heat as well, hence my comment on multi-tasking above.

5. Shut down unused services. MSN Messenger, Google Desktop Search, QuickTime, wireless managers, etc. They’ve all gotta go. You probably aren’t going to use them, and they all eat up valuable resources. If you really want to get this one right, a little bit of research is in order. While online, launch the task manager (control-shift-escape) and for each service that has your User Name, google it. There are a few good web sites out there which chronicle what all these mysterious services do, and you should be able to figure out which you need, and which you don’t. Important warning: if you aren’t comfortable with this lingo, you should skip this step, or get some techie friend to help you out. Less important warning: you may end up in a situation where you need to do a reboot after you get to your destination.

6. Hibernate options Do Hibernate, Do Not Suspend. Laptops tend to use way too much battery when in suspend mode. Not sure why, but the ‘instant-on’ effect isn’t worth the extra 30-60 seconds it takes to get out of hibernation. Furthermore, the minor hit to the hard drive is unlikely to have a significant impact to your overall battery time. Also, if you weren’t aware, going in and out of hibernate is much better than a full startup/shutdown sequence.

7. Darker wallpaper. Did you know that by using a darker wallpaper on your desktop, you use less power? Try to find a nice darker colored theme, and use it. This goes hand-in-hand with #1.

8. Choose Wisely. Good: Word, Excel, Outlook, Text Editors. Bad: anything by Adobe (you think Microsoft has bloatware, have you noticed how long even Acrobat takes to launch these days???), all Google plugins, many ‘Widgets’, ‘Gadgets’, etc. All I can say is pick your battles wisely.

9. Watch That Hard Drive. The more it spins, the more power it takes. Make sure you’ve set your basic power option to turn off your drive relatively fast, but not necessarily too fast. Some drives use more power getting started than staying running for short periods of time. At the end of the day, if you are doing anything that prevents the hard drive from spinning down ever, you are draining your battery more than needed.

10. Power alarms Like a Boy Scout, Be Prepared. Make a point of configuring your ‘low power mode’ prior to using it. It may only take 5-10 minutes to get your system setup properly, but that just eats into your battery life if you do it unplugged. Once done with all the settings, the last thing you want to do before unplugging your power supply is hibernating the PC.

By following these steps, you should be able to get another 45 minutes to an hour of life out of your battery. I can stretch my battery from 2 1/2 hours to 3:30.

1 comment:

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