Charge it! Extending a laptop’s battery life

FI-Log-On-With-Larry-SchneiderDear Larry,

Can you offer any tips for extending battery life in a laptop? —N.G.


Dear N.G.,

As much as laptops and batteries have improved over the years, we still have a long way to go before batteries become a non-issue. In the meantime, here’s what you can do.

No doubt your laptop runs off a lithium-ion battery. You’ve probably read that you don’t have to discharge it completely before recharging it. But, in fact, that’s not always true. You can still extend the life of the battery by letting it fully deplete every couple of weeks. And it goes without saying that just before you leave for a trip, fully charge your battery.

If you’re a heavy portable user or want lots of power for a long trip, consider purchasing one or two extra batteries. Lastly, once a battery reaches three years of age, start thinking about replacing it (assuming your laptop isn’t what actually needs replacing).

Visit the Power Options section in the Windows Control Panel (you can get to it by going to Start, Settings, Control Panel, Power Options) and adjust the battery settings accordingly. Have your screen turn off after no more than five minutes of inactivity and have the hard drive stop spinning after no more than 10 to 20 minutes or so.

Always keep tabs on how much battery power is remaining by checking the battery icon in the system tray in the bottom right corner of the screen. If you hover your mouse over this icon, you’ll find out the approximate percentage of battery power remaining.

Your screen’s backlight is an especially big drain on the battery. Check your manual to find out what keystroke combination on your machine will let you lower the brightness to the minimum readable level.

Turn off all devices and programs you don’t need when running your laptop off the battery. For example, disable your wireless adapter and don’t use your DVD or CD drive if at all possible.

Put your computer in suspend mode whenever you’re not using it for short periods of time. And because suspend mode even uses a small amount of power, have your laptop hibernate if you don’t plan to use it for 10 minutes or more. Also, if possible, reduce the speed of your laptop’s processor.

Finally, if long battery life is important to you, buy the smallest laptop possible. That large 17-inch variety, while powerful and attractive, will deplete your battery in no time.

How you control all of these settings will vary from one laptop to the next so I’m not able to get too specific here. You’ll have to rely on your laptop’s owner’s manual. These days, it’s probably a file on the laptop’s hard drive and not in book form.

With a little bit of cajoling, you can get your laptop to keep going and going and … well, you know.

This is Larry Schneider, logging off.


Larry Schneider is the owner of Accent on Computers, a Greenwich-based consulting firm catering to individuals, businesses and professional offices. Services include computer setup, training, troubleshooting, virus resolution, networking, Internet, database and programming. Call 203-625-7575, visit or send e-mail to [email protected]

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