Save battery life on your laptop Don’t get caught short! We explain how to get the most from your laptop battery. The manufacturer’s specifications for your laptop will often indicate how long your battery should last. While the print may read between two and two-and-a-half hours, the reality can often be a great deal less. There’s nothing more frustrating than being partway through a task when the battery indicator flashes and there’s no mains electricity connection in sight. If your battery lifetime appears to be significantly less than your laptop manufacturer would have you believe, it’s due to a number of different factors. Obviously, the more tasks that you’re attempting to carry out on your laptop, the more resources your system is going to use. For example, multi-tasking will place a heavy load on your CPU, memory and hard disk, which in turn will use up valuable battery power. Furthermore, there are several best practice techniques you can employ which will combine to help extend the lifespan of your battery. Longer lasting battery When you’re using your laptop from a mains power supply you should always try to remove the laptop battery if you’re not charging it. If you do leave it in for long periods of time it will discharge. The battery will be in charging constantly which in turn will result in a reduction of its lifespan. It will be capable of a finite number of charging cycles so only connect it to your laptop when absolutely necessary. In addition, remember that you should run the battery down as low as you can before charging it up each time. If you’re working with a new battery pack then it’ll need to be fully charged and discharged before it works to capacity. Usage tips When you're on the road you’re going to be wholly reliant on your battery powering the laptop. You can certainly feel the pressure when you’re attempting to complete a task in the knowledge that all the time your battery power is gradually diminishing. The icon in your System tray serves to reinforce the fact that only a limited amount of time remains. Fortunately, there are techniques that you can use to extend the life of the battery and ensure you make the most of its power. First and foremost you should optimise the power management features of your laptop. This can be achieved through Power Options in Control Panel. Under Power Schemes there will be two different settings, one for when your computer is plugged in and the other for when it’s running on batteries. There are a number of pre-defined Power schemes that can be used for different situations. Click the drop-down box and you’ll be able to choose from schemes such as Portable/Laptop, Minimal Power Management and Max Battery. Each one enables you to apply a different group of settings to correspond to different situations. Alternatively, you can choose the settings you’d like to use instead. For example, if you’re running on battery power you can make your own changes to the time after which the monitor should be turned off or the hard disks powered down. It’s also possible to preserve the changes you make and create your own power schemes for use in the future. Once you have your preferred settings in place click Save As and give your new power scheme a name. Top tips 1. Graphic-intensive applications, such as games, or even watching DVD movies on your laptop, will place significant strain on your battery. Avoid these pursuits until you’re able to hook it back up to a mains power supply. 2. Your laptop will sound a warning when your battery starts running low on power. You can adjust the point at which the alarm sounds using the settings under the Alarms tab in Power Options. There are two settings you can activate: Low battery alarm and Critical battery alarm. Once you’ve selected your options you can choose what type of alarm action is used, such as an audible alarm and/or a message. 3. Some laptops come with settings or a built-in utility to change the display brightness. The LCD screen is one of the biggest users of battery power so any reductions you can make here will help extend battery life. 4. You can use Hardware Profiles to disable specific devices that may not be required for a particular session. For example, you may not need your CD/DVD drive, so you can create a profile to exclude it and save power. 5. Another way of ensuring maximum performance from your batter is to disconnect all unnecessary peripherals from your laptop. For example, if there are USB devices that you’re not using then unplug them. 6. Take a look at the Advanced tab of Power Options and you can choose what action takes place when you close the lid of your laptop or when you press the power button. 7. If you’re storing your battery and not using it, try and keep at 40 per cent charge rather than running it right down. 8. Don’t keep too many program windows open at any one time. Close those that aren’t required and you won’t use as much CPU and memory power. 9. Add more RAM to your system if possible, because this will reduce the amount of strain that’s placed on the hard disk. Paul Townsend What’s the difference between Standby and Hibernate? When you’re not using your laptop and want to power it down without turning it off completely, you have two options at your disposal: Standby and Hibernate. Hibernation works by creating an image on your hard drive and memorising the files, folders and applications that are open at the time you choose to Hibernate. When you switch your PC on again your system will boot up and go back to its original state with those same items on screen. It depends on how much data has been saved to your hard disk, but you’ll generally find that starting your PC from hibernation is much quicker than performing a normal boot. When it comes to choosing between the two main power saving options, Standby is probably better if you’re going to be leaving your PC unattended for a couple of hours or so. This will send your system into a reduced-power mode with the benefit of a fast resume time for when you want to start working again. If you wish to put a hold on your work activity for a longer period of time, say overnight for example, then Hibernate is probably going to be your best bet.