How Do I Extend My Laptop's Battery Life?

Maybe you’ve spent a family reunion, long plane ride, or seemingly endless wait in a lobby the same way I have – with your nose buried in a laptop hoping that no one tries to engage you in idle chit-chat. Your excuse, however, has one fatal flaw – a battery, which will probably die when you need it most. Luckily, you can extend your laptop’s battery life an extra hour or two with a few minor sacrifices.

1. Switch Windows to Power Saver mode. The Power Saver mode will shut off the screen after a user-defined period of inactivity, and will put the laptop into sleep mode if it isn't used again within a certain period of time. Click the battery icon on the right-side of the desktop menu, then click More Power Options. Select the radio button next to Power Saver. If you don't want to use the default settings, click Change plan settings next to the Power Saver option, and choose custom time durations for the Screen Off and Hibernate options.

2. Reduce the backlight. This is especially true for laptops that don't have an LED backlight. Operating at max screen brightness probably isn't necessary in most of the situations you use your laptop, especially indoors. Though the screen may seem too dim when you first lower it, give it a few minutes - it might seem like a perfectly comfortable level of illumination after your eyes have adjusted. To reduce the backlight, press the Fn and Lower Brightness hotkeys on your keyboard.

3. Shut off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth when not needed. Having Bluetooth and Wi-Fi turned on can drain your laptop battery a significant amount. If you're using your laptop in a location where one or both wireless connectivity features aren't needed, disable them by selecting the correct hotkeys on your keyboard or pressing the dedicated Wireless and Bluetooth buttons on your computer.

4. Avoid heavy processes. Playing a game, downloading files, watching a DVD... these are all activities that require your laptop to run under a heavier CPU load, which drains the battery faster than normal.

If you don't have a CPU monitor on your desktop, you can view the current processor load by right-clicking on the taskbar and choosing Start Task Manager. The bottom of the Task Manager lists percentages next to the CPU Usage and Physical Memory items. If CPU Usage displays a high percentage, scroll through the list of running processes in the Task Manager and terminate any that you don't need (right-click on the process and choose End Process). Don't terminate any process unless you know for certain it is not essential to the operation of your PC. Terminating relatively low-impact processes won't lower the CPU load significantly.

5. Throttle your CPU. Some laptops are loaded with CPU throttling software, which allows users to reduce the machine's processor speed to conserve battery life. Throttling the CPU can significantly increase battery life, but will limit the processes you're capable of running, so only use this feature if you're performing light tasks, such as moderate web browsing or word processing. The location of the throttle feature (if your laptop has it) will vary based on your machine's specific make and model; consult your laptop's manual, or check out the manufacturer's website for more info.

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