How to get the best from your Laptop Battery

Keeping your laptop running for longer without recharging...
The beauty of notebook PCs is the portability, making them an essential device with an obvious advantage of mobility over desktop computers. Of course, after several hours, you will need to recharge your laptop's battery, plugging an AC charger from the mains into your laptop, which means, for a short period of time, it's fixed to one place, making it effectively a desktop PC for a short while. Annoying, but with the incredibly increased run times from new laptop computers on the market, the need for recharging is less frequent, as battery run-times have significantly increased over the past few years. It's not uncommon to have a laptop that can run for a working day without recharge, making it ideal for those on the move.

Of course, if you're demanding a lot of performance from your machine, the battery will drain faster than normal. Your system might be running unnecessary programs right now, which creates a burden on the battery run time. We have a few tips for you to get the absolute potential from your laptop and its battery. These tips apply to old as well as new laptop computers, for the now ubiquitous Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) batteries, the Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) batteries and the virtually obsolete Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries.

1. Essential treatment of a new battery
Whether you have a new battery, or a totally brand new laptop system, the most important thing to do before normal usage is to fully charge the laptop battery to 100%, then deliberately discharge it completely. Then, charge it up again, and use your laptop normally. Why do this? Well, this method allows your battery to 'learn' how much electrical charge it can hold. Without this important treatment, you won't be getting the potential out of your battery's life span. Also, ensure that when you charge your battery, it reaches 100 percent.

2. Turn down your screen brightness!
The LCD display is quite a big drain on your battery power. Do you really need the brightness on the highest setting? Adjust your display so that the screen is not fully lit, but comfortable enough for your viewing. This will help increase your battery run time.

3. Use power wisely
Unused devices are also a drain on your system's power. Remove USB devices and other connected units when they're not needed. Try to only use your CD/DVD drive when necessary. If you need to repeatedly access files/music from a disc, it helps to copy the material to your hard disk - the spinning of a CD/DVD to read files is a huge factor in battery drainage, whereas hard disk access is a significantly lighter burden. If you're not using your laptop, put it into sleep mode, which keeps enough power running to maintain minimal function, so you can resume full power when you're ready to return to your work or play. Also, close programs you're not using. If you don't have a net connection, you won't be needing a web browser or an Instant Messenger running, for example.

4. Streamline your system's hard drive
If you've been using your computer quite a lot, it helps to defragment your hard drive. This cuts out a lot of work your computer must do when accessing files. You can do this in Windows XP by clicking on the START button, All Programs, Accessories, System Tools and selecting Disk Defragmenter. It's simple to use, and should be performed regularly to get the most out of your system. Doing this will ease stain on your hard drive, and thus will make the battery run time last longer.

5. Remove start-up items
When you switch on and run Windows, start-up items load into memory, adding to the load on your CPU. It's possible that you may never use any of these programs in your session, but with them hanging around ready to be used, your battery will be drained further. You can review and remove selected programs from the start-up process by clicking the START button, selecting RUN... and type MSCONFIG into the prompt.

6. The heat is on...
High temperatures are not good for laptop batteries. They work at their best in cold conditions, although they are optimised for great usage at room temperature, so you don't have to worry about taking your laptop into an igloo to have it running! Where possible, keep your laptop battery away from excessive heat and/or hot weather - which is also vital for the safety of batteries. Having your battery relatively cool will increase its total lifespan. It can help to remove the battery and utilise AC power from the mains when possible, to keep the battery lifespan safe.

7. Power up frequently
Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) batteries should be charged as soon as possible, and often. (The exception to this rule if you're not using them for a longer time, in which case you should bring them to a charged level of 40%.) Get your battery charged up before it hits 0%, this will prolong the battery lifespan and avoid major problems.

8. Storing spare or rarely-used batteries
We're not kidding, the best place for a rarely used Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) laptop battery is in your refrigerator - the benefits for the battery lifespan are at the best! At 0°C, the battery loses less charge than at higher or lower temperatures. Before doing this, we recommend the charge to drop to 40%. We also highly recommend that when taking a battery out of such a cold condition, that you let it remain in room temperature for at least 24 hours before using it in any laptop.


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