Who remembers the song “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor On The Bedpost Overnight?”
Well, I just read an article on maximizing laptop battery life, and somehow that reminded me of the song (I know, twisted mind!) There are few things as frustrating as running a laptop off the battery and having it die on you. Why does it always happen at a critical moment?
Murphy’s Law of laptop batteries states that if you need to run your laptop from the battery, that is the time the operating system will decide that you need to make an immediate critical update. If you try to ignore it, it will keep reminding you that it is going to shut down your computer any minute. So you frantically try to save everything you need so that you can shut it down yourself, because you know the battery will expire in the middle of the update!
The article described five things you can do to help the battery last longer. Here they are, together with my comments and a bonus item.
A fragmented drive uses up battery power fast, so defragging (when you’re on external power!) will help the battery last longer. If you’re using Windows 7, this is done automatically for you (unless you’ve turned it off), and I’m told that Mac systems have less of problem with fragmentation anyway. Presumably OSX has a better algorithm for handling it.
Cut Back on External Devices
They burn up the power, so it makes sense to minimize their use when you’re on battery. If you’re like me, all your USB ports are full whenever you’re connected to the power, so it makes sense to remove unnecessary devices when you’re on battery (including the mouse). Wi-fi also puts an extra load on the battery. Turn off your bluetooth, too if you’re not using it.
Memory costs a lot less than it used to, and maximizing your RAM will reduce the amount of disk activity, lessening the load on the battery. The extra RAM will use more power, but unless you’re not planning on doing much computing it will be less than the disk thrashing will use. And if you’re not doing much computing (including watching movies) you’re not worried about battery life!
Dim Your Screen
Laptops provide a simple way to do this for “power saver’ mode. The screen uses a lot of energy. Some other tricks may be available in your power saver mode, such as cutting back on the fan: use all the tricks you can.
Clean the Contacts
When did you last take the battery out and clean the contacts? This is one of those tips that is so obvious that we tend to forget it. A cloth moistened with rubbing alcohol works fine: just do it every month or so.
Exercise the Battery
I used to find that whenever I decided to run off battery it was totally dead, having been on charge since the day I bought the computer. I think maybe batteries have improved now, but they still need exercise, just like the rest of us. So run them down to exhaustion once in a while. Next month, I’ll be taking a long flight (about ten hours) so it will be interesting to see how long my battery will last after trying these tips.
On second thoughts, maybe I’ll just sleep …