Microsoft is investigating reported issues with Windows 7 and notebook battery life. The issue seems sporadic, but fairly widespread. It is unclear whether affected systems are simply misreporting the battery life, or if the battery capacity is actually being permanently affected.
Long before Windows 7 was released for general availability in October of 2009, users were reporting suspicious behavior with battery life, or at least reported battery life, when running the Windows 7 RC (release candidate) version. The Microsoft TechNet Forums thread on the matter dates back to June of 2009.
While some issues seem to be a simple matter of Windows 7 not reporting the remaining battery life correctly, or prematurely warning that the battery is nearly dead, there are users who have reported switching operating systems back to Windows Vista, or even a non-Windows operating system, and still experiencing drastically reduced battery life.
Brian Ehlert, a Microsoft MVP, reported in November of 2009:
"Now, Win7 does include the ability to use Vista drivers - that is built on purpose so hardware manufacturers would not have to turn around and immediately write new drivers.
I am using all stock Win7 drivers. So that tells me that it is a core deficiency / bug - not a driver specific bug. Rather a software interacting with hardware bug.
My battery life went from 8 hours to 15 minutes, with only an fdisk, format, and install in between. Yes, totally unacceptable."
I have been using Windows 7 since before it was available for public beta testing and I have never experienced any battery issues. Granted, my notebook is plugged in at my desk 90 percent of the time. However, I occasionally do roam about and have taken it on road trips and I have been impressed with the power management features of Windows 7, and more than satisfied with the battery life on my Dell XPS notebook.
I asked my colleague, veteran Microsoft guru Mark Minasi, about his experience. Minasi replied "I've been running Windows 7 on my Lenovo since May and haven't noticed any difference in battery consumption."
Microsoft released an official statement on the matter, saying "We are investigating this issue in conjunction with our hardware partners. The warning received in Windows 7 uses firmware information to determine if battery replacement is needed. We are working with our partners to determine the root cause and will update with information and guidance as it becomes available."
The implication is that the issue is related to an error between Windows 7 and certain hardware firmware versions. That theory may or may not support the fact that some users claim the battery itself is being permanently affected.
Do business users need to be concerned? The jury is still out. It all depends on what the actual root cause of the issue is, and whether it is simply a miscommunication between the firmware and Windows 7 resulting in misreporting the remaining battery life, or if there is something more insidious going on that actually causing the battery capacity to dwindle permanently.
Obviously, if notebook battery life is being permanently impacted so that it lasts a meager 15 or 30 minutes rather than the six to eight hours you might expect, there is reason to be concerned. Once the dust settles on Microsoft's investigation into the issue, business users may need to look to Microsoft or notebook vendors to replace batteries if it is determined that the issue is more than simple mis-reporting.