Make Your Laptop Battery Last Longer: 3 Tips

Can you get more juice from your trusty laptop PC battery? Bill Snyder of CIO.com shares three pieces of practical advice.

By Bill Snyder
Mon, August 16, 2010

CIO — I never give the battery in my laptop much thought. I charge it when I need to and forget about it. That changed a couple of weeks ago when I couldn't get to the Web at home, and was reduced to working at an Internet café. Since there's lots of competition for seats with power outlets here in blogger-heavy San Francisco, I made sure my laptop was charged before I left the house.

Ooops. Ten minutes of use and my PC shut down. It was out of power. I charged it again, same thing happened. Yes, the battery was DOA. Humble as a battery may be, you won't get much work done without a good one.

[ Check out CIO.com's battery life tips for BlackBerry and iPhone devices, plus more laptop tips and tricks. ]

After shelling out for a new one, I asked around and found a battery expert who has some solid tips on how to give laptop batteries a long and energy-rich life.

1. Keep the Laptop Off Your Lap

"Batteries like to be at room temperature, and I don't mean like a room in the tropics," says John Wozniak, a distinguished technologist for Hewlett-Packard (HPQ).

Although most of us call our portable PCs laptops, today's high-performance notebooks aren't designed to sit on your lap. Sure, they get warm and you may start to feel uncomfortable after a while, but that's not the point. Most laptops have little legs on the bottom, designed to let a bit of air flow underneath. When you're working on a hard surface, like a desk, there's no problem, but when the notebook sits on your lap, it sinks down a bit and air can't circulate.

That can become a real issue rather quickly if you're watching a movie, since playing a DVD keeps both the CPU and the graphics chips busy and running fairly warm. You can avoid the problem by working on the folding tray if you're flying, or spending $20 or so on a pad stiff enough to give the laptop a bit of clearance.

Keeping the vents on your laptop clean does a lot to keep heat from building up. A simple, but effective method is to buy a can of compressed air from any computer shop or hardware store and blow out the dust.

2. A Little Unplugging Helps

Not so long ago, most laptop batteries were NiCads, that is, nickel cadmium based. That design had a fairly major flaw: if the battery was consistently charged before running most of the way down, it would no longer take a full charge, no matter how long it was plugged in. That was called battery memory, and the solution was to drain them every now and then and be sure they got a full charge.

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