laptop tips

Stop Killing Your Laptop Battery Life

Stop Killing Your Laptop Battery Life 150 150 Greenlight Managed IT Support Services | Sydney | Melbourne
laptop-battery-life-sucksImagine the following scenario. You’re headed to the airport, on your way to an important meeting. You feel excited, maybe even a little confident. As always, you want to be able to put the finishing touches on a proposal you will deliver in about two hours’ time. You arrive at the terminal and pop open your laptop. Dread hits you.
You have 6% laptop battery life remaining, and all the power outlets are in use. It happens to the best of us, and it is one of those frustrating situations that always seem to happen when we have a looming deadline.
How would you feel if I told you there were some tricks to avoiding this problem, and even avoiding feeling that frustration again?

How Do Laptop Batteries Work?

Before we delve into tips to making the most of your battery life, it’s important to know HOW batteries work.

Most laptops use lithium ion batteries, which come with a shelf life measured in ‘total cycles’. Most modern batteries will charge about 500 times (or ‘cycles’) before it is time to replace the battery.

Have you ever complained to your IT guys that your laptop battery life was bad, only to be flashed that empathetic look? You know, the one that tells you they’ve heard it a thousand times from a thousand people, and they’re so sorry they can’t help you out? Well here is how you prove you’re NOT crazy, and that your battery really IS bad.
If you use a Mac, here is how you can find out how many ‘cycles’ you have used up, as well as the condition of your laptop battery life.
Mac OS X 10.6.8 Snow Leopard or earlier – Click the Apple icon near the top left hand side of the screen, and open the “Apple System Profiler”. Then, click “More Info”.
OS X Lion 10.7 or later – Click the Apple icon near the top left hand side of the screen, click “About This Mac”, and then click “System Report”
A window will open with a contents list. Select ‘Hardware’ and ‘Power’ from the list. It should look something like this:
 mac-laptop-battery-life-cycle-count
If you are running Windows on your laptop, finding out battery life information is a little more tricky. If your IT team aren’t on hand, type “CNET BatteryCare” into your search engine and download this great, free little software which will provide the same information.
laptop-battery-life-batterycare

Getting the Battery Serviced or Replaced

So you’ve followed the steps above and discovered that yes, your battery is on its way out, and needs urgent tender love and care. Most laptop manufacturers will have service centres that can take care of you for a nominal fee, and the rest of this guide should help you make the most of your shiny new battery. If you’re one of our IT Support Sydney or Melbourne clients, we can most likely get very competitive prices for spare and replacement batteries. Otherwise, we at least strongly recommend you deal directly with your hardware manufacturer, and never buy second hand batteries.

Taking Care of Your Laptop Battery

1. Don’t Overcharge Your Laptop

A common reason why batteries start to suffer is that we are constantly plugging our laptops into power sources during the day, regardless of how much juice is left in the tank. You may not realise this, but each time you do this counts as a ‘cycle’. If you use a laptop at work every day, the number of cycles can quickly add up.
“Does that mean I need to buy a desktop pc?” I hear you ask. No, not necessarily.
If you want to keep using your laptop every day, an alternative is to remove the battery and keep the laptop plugged into an AC outlet. As long as there is current flowing to the laptop, you can keep working away. The downside to this is that if power is removed from the laptop, it will switch off, potentially losing your work.
Make sure that whatever applications you are using are configured to auto-save your work at regular intervals– most applications allow you to customise this interval, and if you are running applications in the cloud, this is normally done every few seconds.

2. Get a Spare Battery

Having a second battery fully charged at all times is arguably the most convenient option for most people. Take a label maker and mark your ‘every day’ and ‘mobile’ batteries, and only use the ‘mobile’ battery while you’re out of the office. The cost of a second battery usually pales in comparison to lost productivity and heart palpitations.

3. Turn Off the Laptop Every Now and Then

This is more of a habitual tip, and the majority of people aren’t so hot on turning off their laptops. Heck, even I only turn my laptop off every few weeks, when operating system update reminders eventually drive me mad enough. I know that even laptops need a little down-time, and turning it off at the end of the day can mean better performance in the long run.

4. Dim the Screen

The latest laptops have bright, beautiful screens that are surprisingly energy efficient compared to a few years ago. Still, if you are staring down the barrel of a dead battery, dimming the screen to 50% or even 30% can mean adding up to another 30 minutes to an hour to your battery life. Most laptops have a function key or a button to dim the screen, making it easy to adjust brightness on the fly.

5. Turn Off Connectivity Features

The bells and whistles that make laptops so versatile, such as its Wi-Fi and Bluetooth adapters also contribute to draining your laptop’s battery life. If you are working offline, temporarily disabling these can buy you another 30 minutes to an hour of battery life.

6. Get a Solar Powered Bag

One of the latest trends is to sport backpacks and satchel bags that charge your laptop using solar power. I coerced a friend of mine into lending me one of these bags out of pure curiosity, and found that they work quite well. The only downside is that the majority of us don’t really get enough sunshine for ourselves on our way to work, let alone for our laptops. If you walk or ride a bike to work however, this could be an interesting option.
So there it is. Provided you follow these tips, you will be able to make the most of your laptop battery life– or at the very least, avoid that sinking feeling during your next commute.