Boost your laptop’s battery

If your laptop seems to run out of juice far too quickly, try these nine power-stretching tips to help make the battery last longer

Battery technology has improved considerably over the last few years, but few laptops can still last a full working day between recharges.

There are some steps you can take to stretch out battery life for as long as possible when you’re away from a power socket, and while this list of tips won’t have a dramatic effect, they will still make a noticeable difference.

Check out the video above to find out more.

Tip 1: Reduce the screen brightness

The bright lights behind a laptop screen are one of the biggest power drains, so keep the brightness low when running on battery alone.

Laptops have keyboard shortcuts to adjust screen brightness, usually accessed by pressing the Fn key, so learn them and use them.

Tip 2: Reduce the screen time-out

Set the screen to turn itself off after one minute or so of inactivity. In Windows 7 and Windows 8, search for Power options from the Start menu or Start screen, then select Choose when to turn off the display in the dialog box that opens. Go to On battery – Turn off the display and select 1 minute or 2 minutes.

Tip 3: Set the standby time

Leaving a laptop running when it isn’t being used also wastes battery power, so set it to go to sleep after a short period of inactivity – it will wake up as soon as you press a key. In the same Power options dialog box opened in Tip 2, change the Put the computer sleep option to around five minutes – anything shorter risks the laptop sleeping while you’re trying to use it.

Tip 4: Turn off wi-fi and Bluetooth

Unless you’re connected to a wireless network when you’re out and about, turn off your laptop’s wi-fi wireless network connection – it’s another power waster.

There may be a keyboard shortcut for this, or you can right-click the wi-fi icon in the Windows Notification Area at the bottom left of the screen (switch to Desktop mode in Windows 8 for this) and select Open Network and Sharing Center.

When the dialog box opens, click Change adapter settings on the left, then right-click the icon for Wireless Network Connection and select Disable.

You can disable Bluetooth in the same way — and reverse these steps to re-enable wireless connectivity.

Tip 5: Close unused applications

Just because Windows can run several applications at the same time doesn’t mean you should. Keeping several applications open at once places an extra burden on the laptop’s processor and uses up valuable memory.

Windows will start to use hard disk space as ‘virtual’ memory when the laptop’s actual memory is full, and this too uses extra power. Close any applications and web browser tabs that aren’t being used, and consider a memory upgrade if your laptop only has 2GB RAM – this will make it feel a bit faster, too.

Find out how much RAM your computer has by heading to Control Panel –System and Security – View amount of RAM and processor speed.

Tip 6: Keep cool

Laptops usually have no problem keeping cool when they’re working hard, but having fans spinning to suck fresh air through the case take their toll on battery life. So always ensure your laptop is well ventilated when running on battery power and that any vents on its sides and underside aren’t obstructed.

Keeping these vents free from accumulated dust also helps ensure the laptop’s cooling system runs efficiently, which in turn improves battery life.

Tip 7: Unplug peripherals

It goes without saying that not using an unplugged laptop’s built-in CD or DVD drive when running on battery power will extend battery life, but so will unplugging any other peripherals.

Anything plugged into a USB port, for example, uses a small amount of power, so use the trackpad when you’re on the move rather than plugging in a mouse. Disconnect USB flash drives as soon as you’ve finished using them, too.

Tip 8: Carry the mains adapter with you

One sure-fire way to make your laptop last longer when you’re away from home or work is to plug it into a power socket. It’s surprising how many businesses will let you do this if you ask, and some trains and planes also have mains sockets just for this purpose.

This does mean carrying the power adapter with you when you go out, but the bit of extra weight could be well worth it if you’re likely to be away for longer than your battery might last.

Tip 9: Check your battery’s age

Finally, if your laptop battery doesn’t seem to last as long as it used to, it could be that it’s nearing the end of its life. All rechargeable batteries have a finite lifespan and this is reduced each time it’s recharged.

If your laptop is more than a couple of years old and you frequently use it away from mains power, then the battery could be on the way out as the constant recharges and drains take their toll. A new replacement will work wonder.

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