Zen and the Art of Laptop Battery Maintenance
Keep your notebook or netbook's power pack in tune
We all own more battery powered products than ever before, and in most cases those batteries are rechargeable. Laptops, music players, phones - they all have rechargeable power packs, almost all of them using lithium.
These batteries don't last forever. No matter what you do, their capacity to hold charge will decline over time, typically down to 80 per cent after 12-18 months in the case of laptop batteries.
Be nice to your battery and it'll be nice to you
Image courtesy iFixit.com
That's a range, not an absolute cut-off point, so how can we make these batteries last as long as possible? Ignoring the exceedingly rare risk of a fire, is there any way to ensure we get the best performance from our portable power supplies?
Follow some basic rules, and the answer is yes.
The model usage pattern is the mobile phone. Of all the rechargeable batteries we've used, the ones in phones have always proved to retain their capacity longer than batteries in laptops, cameras and MP3 players. It takes a long time, generally speaking, for a phone battery to reach the point where no matter how long you charge it, it goes from full to empty in a very short space of time.
Contrast that with the netbook battery sitting next to us, which although less than a year old will discharge from full in under 20 minutes. That's with the netbook just sitting there, screen on, connected to the internet. It should last eight times that.
The keys to battery longevity are regular usage and making sure cells are recharged before they become empty. Phone batteries typically take a couple of days to run down and tend not to be constantly on and off the charger during that period. Rather than waiting until the phone has so little power it switches off, most handset owners recharge their phones when they get a low-charge warning, usually around ten per cent capacity.
Store carefully... but not in the freezer
This ensures a steady, even cycle of charge and discharge, and if there's an operating condition lithium batteries respond well to it's regularity.
High heat kills batteries...
...and is a particular problem if you own an Apple laptop which seem to be made for climates with an average temperate of 15C or assume that everyone will be using their laptop in a (cold) airconditioned office.
I live in the sub-tropics and given Apple's unhealthy obsession with 'thin', there is simply no way to keep their batteries cool, even with a cooling pad, a bit cooler yes, but cool, not possible. In the sub-tropics, these batteries get super-hot.
My oldish 17" Powerbook (1.33GHz G4) will quickly build up so much heat it will freeze or shut down entirely if I don't have it sitting on a cooling pad. Even with the cooling pad it killed a new battery within 6 months.
Just out of curiosity, has anyone else had this problem with this laptop model?
Apple: Time to seek treatment for anorexia nervosa.
23 months old
100% capacity available
I have a 3 and a half year old Compaq R4000 which is a desktop replacement laptop with a full desktop Athlon 4000 cpu in it (no sexy low power mobile CPU here).
It also has the standard 6 cell battery and not the bigger capacity which is available.
I use it on power regularly but I always make sure at least once a week I use it on battery till it hits around 15-17% battery left and then charge it up the next time.
After all this time I still get around an hour battery life. Not bad for its age and power usage.
I will get a new battery some time in the future.
Since when did rapid warming cause condensation?
>Rapid warming could cause condensation, and you don't want moisture forming inside your battery pack or laptop
Since when did rapid warming cause condensation?
You're taking a cold battery from a fridge into a warm and possible humid room.
The moisture in the air will condense on the cold battery. Warming it rapidly will actually reduce the amount of condensation present as the evaporation due to heat will start sooner.
However there is no way of telling how much condensation has formed inside the battery, rapid warming or not. Leaving the battery for a few hours first gives it time to warm up to room temperature and also for the condensation to evaporate.
Now all that's needed is putting it into practice
Fascinating. My first laptop was invariably kept with the battery left in and the notebook used on mains charge. Then I took it away and tried to use it on the battery - it lasted about 5 minutes. And THEN I discovered how much Sony charged for replacement batteries.
Since then I have (i) avoided Sony notebooks (and after other experiences, nearly all Sony products) and (ii) tried to preserve the life of the battery by leaving it out of the laptop except for the occasional need to take it off the mains.
Sounds like that's as bad as leaving it in all the time :(
However, I can't help wondering whether the procedures described in the article don't come under the heading of "more trouble than they're worth." Though, I suppose we should all be doing everything we can to maximise resources, and I do hate the thought of shelling out for a new battery to keep an old laptop running.
There's also the question of how welcome a spare battery would be in the fridge ...