Chromebooks have typically fared pretty well in the battery department, thanks to running a much less resource-intensive operating system than Windows- or Mac-based computers. Nonetheless, there are always a few tweaks you can employ to keep chugging through the end of the day. We’ll show you where to dig into Chrome’s settings and use workarounds if you’re in desperate straits—or if you just want to optimize your Chromebook’s battery life.
Let’s start with the simple stuff—settings that are pretty standard for saving battery life on any computer, though this may be the first time you’re learning where they’re at on a Chromebook.
1. Turn off Bluetooth
Disabling this feature always helps if you aren’t actively using it. You’ll find the Bluetooth settings under Settings > Advanced Settings in Chrome’s options menu.Then scroll down to the Bluetooth section and uncheck the box.
Don’t feel like fiddling in submenus? Keep in mind that you can always use the search field at the top of the Settings menu. Just type in the box for the feature you’re trying to find, and Chrome will find it for you automatically.
2. Turn off Wi-Fi
The next tip may sound like crazy talk, but if you’re in a pinch and need every last ounce of battery you can always shut off Wi-Fi. Wait, isn’t this a Chromebook? Yes, but don’t forget that you can perform many tasks offline with a Chromebook—Gmail, Google Docs, and many other apps have offline capabilities. When you reconnect to the Internet your services will sync back up with Google’s servers.
3. Cut down on your Chrome tabs
Also, don’t get lazy about closing your Chrome tabs. The more you have open, the more memory your Chromebook consumes, which means it’ll also eat through more battery power. Want to clear the deck? Two finger-press your trackpad (or right-click if you’re using a mouse) on a tab, and select Close other tabs to quickly shut down the other ones that are open.
5. Turn down screen brightness
And it may sound obvious, but turn down the screen brightness. It’s easy to fall into the trap of just cranking it up and basking in the beauty, but dimming the screen can noticeably extend your juice. One daily Chromebook user at PCWorld habitually runs her screen at 50% or even less (if ambient lighting permits) to save battery.
6. Fire up the Task Manager
Now that the basics are out of the way, Chromebooks offer a few extra battery-saving capabilities if you’re willing to do some digging.
First off, Chrome’s Task Manager offers a wealth of helpful information. You launch it by opening Chrome’s option’s menu, then selecting More tools > Task Manager. You’ll then see another menu with a breakdown of all the apps and services running on your Chromebook.
Anything on your Chromebook that’s tapping into the memory resources is going to eat up battery life. If you’re plugged in it’s not a problem, but when you’re facing impending battery death you may need to sacrifice some things to squeeze out extra life.
The major hogs tend to be Google’s core services, like Drive and Gmail. But Chromecast and web chat can quickly gobble up the memory, too. Any web apps or extensions you install may also run in the background.
From the Task Manager you can disable any service that you wish—but keep in mind, this can cause things to go a little wonky. If you disable the Save to Drive or Pocket extensions, for example, you won’t be able to perform those actions. Proceed with caution if this is new territory for you.
You can two-finger-press or right-click on each of these processes to get more information, though some of it is pretty technical. It’s also handy to sort the process by memory use to focus on the biggest offenders. Just click on the memory tab at the top right to do so.
There’s another option if you’re really looking to dial back battery life: Sign in to your Chromebook in Guest Mode. The advantage here is that Chrome won’t load all the extensions and apps you have installed under your main profile, leading to a leaner build.
First, I left my Chromebook using its standard settings, turned the brightness all the way up, and ran the longest YouTube video ever until the battery died. The video can go for days, so it’s a solid test method for checking out your Chromebook’s battery life.
Then I repeated the process in a battery-saving optimized state. Bluetooth was turned off, brightness was set to 50 percent, and the video was played in an Incognito tab in Guest Mode. This meant fewer services were running, letting the Chromebook devote its energy to playing the awful-looking video.
With the standard settings, my Toshiba Chromebook 2 managed just four hours and 18 minutes before giving up the ghost. Using the battery-optimized settings brought it up to 6 hours and 47 minutes—a difference of more than two hours. That’s not a bad round of battery life for a relatively inexpensive laptop! Now imagine I was just working on Google Docs. The battery life would likely jump up even more significantly.
What are your go-to tips for saving on battery? Be sure to share them in the comments!
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Derek Walter is a freelance technology writer based in Northern California. He is the author of Learning MIT App Inventor, a hands-on guide to building your own Android apps.