Microsoft tests show no Win 7 battery flaw
Replace battery warnings correct, says Redmond
Microsoft says that extensive testing and conversations with OEMs indicate that Windows 7 is handling notebook batteries exactly as intended - despite user claims that upgrades to the new OS have caused significant degradation to battery life.
As we reported in late January, various laptop owners - including a string of posters to Microsoft's TechNet forum - have said that after upgrading their laptops to Windows 7, they've seen a decrease in battery life. The claims involve a new Windows 7 tool designed to inform the reader when tlheir battery needs replacing.
According to some users, Windows 7 is displaying the message "Consider replacing your battery" even though their batteries are brand new, and some say that this message pops up in tandem with sudden battery life reductions. But in a Monday post to the Engineering Windows 7 blog, Windows and Windows Live president Steven Sinofsky says the notification tool is operating as designed.
"To the very best of the collective ecosystem knowledge, Windows 7 is correctly warning batteries that are in fact failing and Windows 7 is neither incorrectly reporting on battery status nor in any way whatsoever causing batteries to reach this state," the post reads. "In every case, we have been able to identify the battery being reported on was in fact in need of recommended replacement."
Windows 7 taps into circuitry and firmware in today's laptop batteries that reports power capacity in Watt-hours. The OS then calculates how much this figure has decreased from the capacity provided by the battery's original design specs. If the capacity reading drops below 40 per cent of the original design capacity, Windows 7 notifies the user.
This tool was not available with Windows XP or Vista, and Microsoft says that according to its testing, Windows 7 is simply providing information that previous OSes did not. "It should stand to reason that some customers would be surprised to see this warning after upgrading a PC that was previously operating fine. Essentially the battery was degrading but it was not evident to the customer until Windows 7 made this information available.
"We recognize that this has the appearance of Windows 7 'causing' the change in performance, but in reality all Windows 7 did was report what was already the case."
Some posters said they were seeing significant battery degradation on new batteries, but Microsoft says it has not found any reports where the hardware was in fact new. "We have seen no reproducible reports of this notification on new hardware or newly purchased PCs. While we’ve seen the reports of new PCs receiving this notification, in all cases we have established that the battery was in a degraded state."
That said, Microsoft adds that if you receive Windows 7's battery replacement notification and you believe it's in error, you should contact your PC maker. You can also seek help in the forums at TechNet or Microsoft Answers or by sending the Engineering Windows 7 team an email through the blog's contact form. ®
Update: This story has been corrected to show that Windows 7 notifies the user if it calculates that a battery's capacity reading drops below 40 per cent of the design capacity - not 60 per cent.
Maybe part of the problem is also people buying dodgy "new" batteries from Chinese suppliers? It could very well be that their "official" battery is a cheap knockoff that really is putting out less than 60% of its claimed capacity and this new monitor is essentially tipping people off to the swindle.
Yeah, I'd buy this. I mean, people will claim equipment is "new" because it's only several years old. Unfortunately, a lot of batteries are crap and will be on the way out in just a year or two. The other factor is these computers that will fast-charge the battery in like 45 minutes or something.. this drastically shortens the life compared to slow-charge systems (which are virtually non-existent now) that would take maybe 3-4 hours to charge. This is anecdotal, but I had a P2 Gateway that was nearly 10 years old, and held around a 50-60% charge. it took hours to charge the battery. The newer Dells I've seen, they seem to get to a 50% charge within 2 or 3 years.
The big test really is to boot some other OS (OSX, or XP with a battery life monitor, or Ubuntu, etc.) and see what the battery life estimate is? Does it agree with 7? OK, your battery is shot and XP or whatever didn't tell you. Does the number disagree? Then 7's battery monitor is faulty as people have claimed.
Dodgy replacement batteries
I wholly agree on that. I have a HTC TyTN whose battery generally degraded after 3 years of heavy usage. Having budget issues at that time, I bought a no-brand replacement battery (well, actually, Sanyo-brand replacement battery. Still Made in China tho) for it.
The first one died completely within 4 days.
Since it's still under warranty, I took it in to have it replaced. The second one still delivers, but is showing signs of degradations very fast. Right now it's 6 months down the road and the battery is already struggling to last over a day.
These batteries need better QC...
If it was "previously running fine"
then I'd suggest that their warning is, at best, scare-mongering.
"We recognize that this has the appearance of Windows 7 'causing' the change in performance"
So there is a perceptible change in performance then, which happens just around the time you install Windows 7? What a coincidence.
Windows 7 does a lot of irritating things (it's a shame, because it's otherwise a very stable OS). It refuses to work with most DVI KVM switches, because it's doing something that previous OSs didn't do. Microsoft's fix? Spend another $200 on a new KVM. Gee Bill, thanks.
I thought those who said they'd wait for the first service pack were silly - now I agree with them.
Not a general Windows 7 flaw, either
Lots of changes were made to the kernel and services in windows 7 which significantly improved battery life for most people. A few people might have config problems, but I'd put good money on most people who report these problems finding their battery life in windows 7 much better than in XP or Vista, if they dual-boot.
Certainly in XP at least I've found most of the batteries sold with big-name laptops die after a year or two. Certainly no more than that. Some of them (a four-letter word starting with D) even put re-certified batteries in new laptops, and then have their 3 or 4-year warranty only cover the battery for one year in the fine print.
As far as Microsoft's involvement, I'd say don't shoot the messenger, until you're sure the messenger is actually at fault.