Nine tips to getting the most life from the right technology
Where would you be without your laptop? Virtually tied to your desk, for one thing. Much less efficient at your job, for another. When you have the right technology working for your business, it’s a blessing, but the last thing you need is for it to run out of battery at inopportune moments.
There are, of course, a number of things to keep in mind about that wonderful stick-shaped block of metal under your keyboard. It’s not eternal, and like everything, needs a bit of care. But treat it well, and the two of you will get along for years. Here are some ways to keep your notebook’s battery (and yourself) running at peak efficiency.
1. Understand its limitations
First things first: laptop batteries don’t last forever. When it needs replacing, you’ll need to replace it, not squeeze every drop of life from it.
The typical unit, when new, may run for two or three hours (probably less); an ‘extended life’ battery might go for up to eight – meaning you need to be careful with how you use your operating minutes.
On top of that, a battery’s capacity to hold a charge declines over time, typically dropping to about 80 per cent of normal after 12 to 18 months of service. But you won’t even get that kind of mileage if you’re always hooked up to a charger. At least once a week, work off battery power for as long as possible (burn off at least 20 percent of the total capacity in any event).
2. Change the settings
Your notebook’s Power Options setting may give you the option of using a pre-selected Maximum Battery Life setting that self-adjusts items such as display lighting, hibernation and sleep modes. If you have the option, select Hibernate instead of Standby. Standby mode saves some power and allows you to instantly resume where you left off, but the hibernate function saves more energy because it stores your PC’s current state before completely shutting itself down.
Laptops that use Windows 7*, XP* or Vista* have a few predetermined power plans for users to choose from as well as a Custom option. To view these plans, open Control Panel from your computer's Start menu. Choose Power Options from either the System and Maintenance (Windows 7 and Vista) or Performance and Maintenance (XP) menus.
The Power Options menu offers both simple and advanced settings. Some laptops have a special eco-friendly plan, which limits screen brightness while lowering the time it takes for a computer to go to sleep or hibernate. Choosing custom options will allow you to choose each setting separately, so sleep and hibernate times can be manually set.
To get really great better battery life, laptop users should lower their screen brightness through the Display menu in the Control Panel. Some laptops also have special graphics card programs which can be used to minimise power consumption while a computer's unplugged.
Laptop settings in Mac OS
Apple laptops have similar power settings, although changing them is a bit different. Go to your computer's Apple menu and select System Preferences. The Hardware tab has several power-related settings that can be changed by computer users. Sleep settings can be changed under the Energy Saver tab. Processor performance can also be changed. Lower processor speeds mean a slower computer, but can also mean better battery life.
With all modern laptops, it's a good idea to set power settings as soon as possible after buying a computer. When a computer is unplugged, running down its battery completely before recharging may extend battery life. Check your computer's manual to find out if this is the case.
Making these simple adjustments to a laptop's power settings is a great way to keep a battery running for longer and to reduce your power bill. With a slightly dimmer screen and manually adjusted sleep settings, a computer can often get 20 per cent or more battery life. It's well worth the time to make a few key adjustments, especially if you frequently use your laptop on battery power.
3. Charge me up
If your battery is new, keep it plugged in for at least 12 hours before use. You’ll want to cycle the battery (drain it completely, then fully recharge) three times before you can be a little more flexible with its usage. The cycling is also recommended if you have stored the battery for a few months. Keep note of how often you have to charge your battery; if the battery does not have a charge after 12 hours of charging, or if you find yourself recharging the unit several times a day, it should be replaced.
4. Keep on top of maintenance
Regular upkeep of your notebook will keep it rolling along with minimum strain on its battery. At least once per week, defragment your hard drive. However, don’t do this when you’re only on battery power.
Also, keep the machine clean. Use a can of compressed air to clean the notebook’s fans and vents at least once a week, and clean the battery’s metal contacts every month or so with a rubbing alcohol-moistened cloth.
5. Keep it breathing
Consistent airflow is a necessity to keep the notebook from running hot. Avoid merely placing the unit in your lap when you work, or setting it down on a blanket or pillow ‘for a few minutes’ when you tend to something else. Try to keep the notebook elevated and well-ventilated while working, such as with a cooling stand or portable/laptop desk.
6. Don’t cook or freeze it
Extreme temperatures – too hot or too cold – can have a major impact on how fast your battery drains. When storing the notebook, don’t keep it in a hot car interior or in direct sunlight, or leave it in the vehicle during extremely cold weather. If you do the latter, remove the battery and let it warm up to room temperature first (this may take several hours) to avoid internal notebook damage from rapid condensation.
The same goes for spare batteries, which can be wrapped in plastic and stored in the refrigerator (drain battery to 50 per cent power first) to prolong their lifespan. The preferred temperature for lithium-ion batteries is 60 degrees to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
7. Give it less to work on
Turn off any unused applications and avoid several power-eating habits, such as multitasking, unnecessary use of the CD/DVD player and internal speakers, and downloading or installing major applications while living off the battery (this will also speed up your notebook’s performance). Also, dim the screen a bit, by 10 per cent to 25 per cent, to give you a few more minutes of power.
8. Don’t play doctor
It should be obvious, but every so often someone feels the need to crack open a battery just to “see what’s inside.” Don’t. Lithium-ion batteries contain safety mechanisms that can ignite or explode if damaged. Also avoid crushing or puncturing the battery, or disposing of the battery in fire or water.
9. Replace me with one of my peers
When the time comes to finally put a new battery in your notebook, only use the recommended model(s) for your machine.
Published on: Thursday, October 06, 2011