Monday, June 14, 2010

How to Extend Your Laptop Battery Life


2:15 AM |


Learn how to extend the life of your battery for your laptop or MacBook Pro with these tips.

It’s happened to many a traveler: You’re onboard a flight from, say, New York to Los Angeles, with plans to finish a stack of work along the way. After all, an airplane is often a great place to be productive, thanks to the absence of nagging colleagues, email and ringing phones. Except you’re barely over Minnesota and your computer warns you it’s about to “hibernate” as your battery power is hovering somewhere around just five percent. Now how exactly do you plan to finish that sales report before you land?

Sadly, as far as we’ve come in terms of cramming better microprocessors, sharper graphics and beefier storage into netbooks and laptop computers (including both Macs and PCs), energy management has plagued portable computing since its inception. On the bright side though, thanks to more powerful batteries, processors with clever energy management and smarter software, the situation is getting better all the time. You can help, too. Aside from lugging a spare battery, which isn’t a bad idea, the following are a few tips for squeezing more juice out of your laptop.

1. Turn down the brightness of your monitor a great deal as it will help preserve battery life. This can usually be found on your laptop’s secondary keyboard commands (such as blue icons that look like little suns). Slider bars and other easily-understood controls should then give you the option to reduce brightness. On a related note, if you’re shopping for a new laptop, keep in mind that the bigger the laptop screen, the faster the battery drain will be in most cases.

2. Eject any discs you aren’t currently using: Your battery will drain faster if there’s a spinning disc in your optical drive such as a game/music CD or DVD movie. In addition, some PC games offer you the choice to install the entire program to the hard drive, so choose this option whenever possible, as you’ll get more life out of your laptop. Ditto for music and movies. Needless to say, your laptop battery will last much longer when using programs that require less physical hardware response and therefore put a smaller drain on system resources, such as word processors and web browsers.

3. Make sure you have no devices plugged into the laptop that can be draining its power, such as a webcam, USB thumbstick or a wireless PC card. Connected peripherals can be a factor in eating away at any system’s battery life, so get used to employing your notebook’s touchpad instead of using an external mouse on the plane. Wireless connectivity options such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi can also quickly drain your supply, so be sure these radios and hands-free earpieces are turned off.

4. Windows users can also click on Power Options in the Control Panel to manually reduce the power consumption of your laptop. Some may turn off your monitor when not in use for, say, 3 minutes, but it will turn on instantly again when a key is touched. Also, you can also set alarms when the battery is about to die (say, at 5 percent) so you can safely save your information before powering down.

5. While not cheap, you might want to consider a better battery than the one that shipped with your PC. For example, some laptops typically ship with a regular 6-cell battery that can deliver up to four hours of battery life, depending on the application. But you can optionally choose to buy an 8- or 12-cell battery that can last up to four times as long.

*Extra: HP breaks 24 hour laptop battery barrier

HP recently announced it can squeeze up to 24 hours of laptop computing on a single charge. Specifically, the HP EliteBook 6930p (from $1,199; hp.com), when configured with an optional ultra-capacity 12-cell battery ($189), can deliver up to a full day of battery runtime, says the company. The 4.7-pound laptop features a 14.1-inch widescreen LCD display (or an optional mercury-free Illumi-Lite LED display), Intel Core 2 Duo processor, shock-resistant 160GB hard drive and up to 4GB of system memory. Naturally, what you use your laptop for can affect battery performance greatly – word processing, for example, doesn’t eat away at system resources compared to, say, online gaming, video editing or animation rendering.

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