Friday Donut tip: increase laptop battery life

By: John McGarvey

Date: 30 March 2012

Today's Friday tip explains how to increase your laptop battery life, so you can work away from a power point for longer.

If there's an aspect of business IT you need help with, email [email protected] or comment on this post. We'll try and cover it in a future IT Donut tip.

Increase laptop battery life

Laptop battery life has improved immensely since the days when a battery the size and weight of a couple of bags of sugar barely got you an hour of working time. But flat laptop battery syndrome is still a real problem, and always seems to occur at an awkward time.

These easy tips will help you increase your laptop battery life so you can keep working longer no matter whether you're in a café, on the train or simply forgot to bring your laptop's power cable to work.

Battery power icon

  1. Tweak your power options. Assuming you use Windows, the easiest place to start is with the battery icon in your taskbar. Click this and you'll usually see two or three power plans (see image). The Power saver option offers settings to increase laptop battery life. For fine control over power settings, open your control panel and click Power Options.
  2. Dim your laptop's screen. The screen uses lots of power, so reducing brightness can really increase the laptop's battery life. You can usually change brightness using the keyboard – try holding the FUNCTION key and tapping the up and down arrows, or look for brightness symbols (like a big and small sun) on the top line of keys. You should also be able to find a brightness option in your power options (see item one).
  3. Disconnect external devices. Anything plugged into your laptop is likely to draw extra power, so to increase battery life, only connect essential items. External hard drives without their own power supply and anything that charges from your laptop (like an iPhone) are particularly bad for battery life.
  4. Don't use CDs, DVDs or Blu-rays. It takes considerable power to spin a CD in your laptop, so avoid installing software from CD, watching DVDs or burning files to CD unless your laptop is plugged into the mains. Watching films is particularly bad, because these require a lot of processing power too – placing further strain on the battery.
  5. Keep it cool. As your laptop heats up, it'll turn the fan up to high in order to cool things down. This uses more power, reducing your battery life. Keep air vents clean and uncovered and try not to run too many programs at once, as this forces the processor to work faster, increasing its temperature.

Have you found any good ways to increase laptop battery life? Leave a comment to let us know.

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