Feeds

Zen and the Art of Laptop Battery Maintenance

Keep your notebook or netbook's power pack in tune

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

Laptop batteries won't, of course, give you two days of usage, so it's not necessarily practical to follow that charge-discharge-recharge pattern exactly, but you can get close. Make sure you regularly use your laptop on battery power. Don't work on it with it always plugged into the mains.

Ubuntu Power History

Not a well-tended battery

If you do use the mains as your primary power source - as you might well if the notebook's your main machine - at least make sure you use your laptop on battery power a couple of times a week. This is what we didn't do with the netbook. It has stayed attached to its AC adaptor for most of its life, with the battery barely being used.

The connected battery will charge to 100 per cent and then the battery pack's electronics will ensure the cells receive no further charge. At this point, the biggest threat to the battery is heat from the laptop's internals. Make sure your laptop's vents don't become covered. Beyond the heat generated by its operation, a laptop can safely be left connected to the mains.

There's no harm in removing the battery from a laptop that's going to stay connected to the mains for a while. Just make a note of the optimum battery storage conditions - more on this later - and don't inadvertently yank the power cable. With no battery, there's no back-up for your laptop's memory.

Apple machines are an exception, and others may be too: they auto-underclock the processor when the battery's removed, so despite being connected to the mains, they won't run at full strength. We think that's daft, but that's Apple for you.

When you use your laptop on battery power, make sure its charge drops to at least 80 per cent. But don't let it drop to zero. Depending on which operating system you use and how its power settings are configured, you'll get a low-power warning first and, later, your machine will sleep, hibernate or shut down.

At this point, your battery should still be charged to 5-10 per cent of its capacity, and you should now charge it, whether you want to continue working or not. If you're not going to be able to do so for some time, make sure you've saved your work and your laptop's shut down or hibernating rather than sleeping. These two modes turn the laptop off whereas sleeping just keeps it ticking over, but power is still being drained and you run the risk of emptying the battery.

Completely draining the battery is a no-no. Battery manufacturers and laptop makers say that it's a good idea to drain the battery as far as the laptop will allow every so often and to then charge fully in order to synchronise the various capacity monitors within the power pack and the laptop. That ensures that your capacity read-outs are as accurate as they can be.

There seems to be a consensus that daily-use laptops don't really need this, and certainly not on even a monthly basis. Occasional-use laptops, on the other hand, may benefit.

Eking out the charge while your using your computer on battery power is simply a matter of disabling Bluetooth and Wi-Fi if you don't need them, making sure your system spins down the hard drive when it's not required, and - perhaps best of all - dimming the screen's backlight.

How temperature affects a battery's capacity decline
Battery capacity after one year

Capacity decline by temperature

Source: Battery University

If running to empty or never discharging at all are to be avoided, high temperatures are right out. Batteries' inevitable capacity decline can be slowed by keeping the battery cool.

According to website Battery University, a battery kept full will see its capacity drop by six per cent after a year if it's kept at freezing point. Kept at 60°C, however, the same battery will lose 40 per cent of its capacity to hold charge after just three months.

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Apple's iWatch? They cannae do it ... they don't have the POWER
Analyst predicts fanbois will have to wait until next year
Barnes & Noble: Swallow a Samsung Nook tablet, please ... pretty please
Novelslab finally on sale with ($199 - $20) price tag
Apple to build WORLD'S BIGGEST iStore in Dubai
It's not the size of your shiny-shiny...
Just in case? Unverified 'supersize me' iPhone 6 pics in sneak leak peek
Is bigger necessarily better for the fruity firm's flagship phone?
Steve Jobs had BETTER BALLS than Atari, says Apple mouse designer
Xerox? Pff, not even in the same league as His Jobsiness
Apple analyst: fruity firm set to shift 75 million iPhones
We'll have some of whatever he's having please
TV transport tech, part 1: From server to sofa at the touch of a button
You won't believe how much goes into today's telly tech
The agony and ecstasy of SteamOS: WHERE ARE MY GAMES?
And yes it does need a fat HDD (or SSD, it's cool with either)
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?