When you arrive at a meeting, airport terminal or business conference, we'd bet the first thing you do is seek out an outlet so you can plug your laptop into the wall. But when a co-worker or other guest beats you to it, you may be wondering how long your laptop will last. If that sends you into a state of high anxiety or forces you to add battery pack weight to your shoulder, you're doing it wrong.
There are plenty of long- and short-term strategies to prevent your laptop from running out of juice – from preventive measures to salvaging those last bits of battery life at the end of the cycle. Here are some tips on how to get the most time out of your laptop battery so you can concentrate on your work, instead of the power indicator.
Run the latest OS
Laptop operating system updates often contain enhancements to energy-saving technologies, so make sure to update whenever you receive a notification to do so.
Use Hibernate mode
On Windows, there's a difference between Sleep and Hibernate modes. If you're leaving your computer for a couple of hours rather than just a few minutes, Hibernate is the next best thing to shutting down for salvaging battery life.
In Sleep mode, battery resources are still powering the RAM, keeping the system loaded into memory for instant resumption of work – preserving settings, applications and open documents. Hibernate, in contrast, powers the system off while saving current data to disk. You can even cut power to a system in hibernation because when you reboot, it reads the data from the disk and sends it to the RAM. Windows 10 offers a specific and direct Hibernate mode. It's the optimal choice if you're working off your laptop battery.
On a Mac, Sleep mode is your only viable choice, unless you want to shut down. Mac laptops manufactured since 2005 automatically go to sleep when you close the cover or press the power key. Macs from 2013 or later enter standby after being in Sleep mode for several hours. If you leave a Mac laptop asleep until the battery drains, it automatically goes into Hibernate.
Use Battery Saver
With Battery Saver enabled, your Windows laptop automatically shuts down items like email and calendar sync, apps not currently in use, and other background processes. You can use the automatic slider to decide how low you want the charge to drop before the mechanism is triggered. The control is accessible from the start button under Settings, from which you choose "battery."
Recharge before your battery dies
Laptop batteries aren't called consumables for nothing. Made of lithium ion or lithium polymer, most batteries do not need active tending. Nonetheless, they do have a finite life span that supports a specified number of charge cycles – and they conk out sooner than you might expect. One charge cycle represents a full 100-to-0-percent discharge, followed by a recharge back to 100 percent. A discharge down to 50 percent and back to 100 percent equals half a cycle. Throughout the life of your laptop, each charge cycle decreases the battery's capacity. The less you drain the battery to zero, the longer it lasts.
Keep your laptop cool
Lithium-ion batteries don't handle heat well. Anything above 86 degrees Fahrenheit is considered an elevated temperature, which could cause it to deplete sooner. According to Apple, the optimal temperature range for Mac laptops is 50 to 95 F (10 to 35 C). The optimal storage temperature ranges from -4 to 113 F (-20 to 45 C).
Disable nonessential peripherals
All ports eat up power, so if you're down to the last few drops of juice, disconnect USB peripherals such as your mouse or external hard drive. Whenever possible, turn off Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and graphics processors – making sure that none of those elements interfere with your workflow or operating system. On Windows, open the control panel to find the device manager, where components are grouped by category.
Check items you have in standard categories, such as display adapters for graphics cards or network adapters for Ethernet and Wi-Fi. Find the devices you want to shut down, right-click on the device name, and choose "disable" from the menu. On a Mac, you can disable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi from the menu bar or preferences pane.
Tweak routine settings
Nothing eats up battery life like a bright screen – and it's not so great for your eyeballs either. The first thing to do is dial down the screen brightness, but don't stop there. Keyboard backlighting is unnecessary unless you are working in a dark or dimly lit space, so feel free to turn that off too.
If you're working on standard typed documents, another way to save energy is to pay a visit to your display preferences and scale back screen resolution, which lowers the amount of power needed for graphics processing. As for sound, lower the volume, use earbuds or set the laptop to mute.
Use integrated graphics
If your laptop is equipped with an AMD or Nvidia graphics chip, it probably has integrated graphics as well. In optimal operation, the powerful graphics chip kicks in only for demanding apps or games, but it's worth double-checking your own system to make sure that's working properly. Sometimes, a utility is available that lets you manually switch between graphics chips, either via reboot or on the fly. Use the lowest-end graphics system that suits your needs.
Set up a power plan
In Windows, you don't have to reinvent the wheel, but you can certainly tweak it. Windows offers power plan options in the control panel's Power Options window that automatically operate your laptop's power setting profiles. Using the control panel, you can set up a power plan to meet your specific needs. This pane shows you the manufacturer's recommendation, which balances performance against consumption on your model. It also includes the Power Saver mode, as well as a high-performance option. Each represents a group of settings that you can save – including when to turn off the display, when to put the computer to sleep, and how much to adjust brightness – to ration energy use.
You can set your computer to the recommended Balanced Performance mode most of the time, but switch to Power Saver to conserve while you're out of the office. You can also modify each power plan setting to suit your specific workflow both when the laptop is plugged in and when it's working off the battery. Granular advanced settings are also available.
Trim startup apps
We all love flying toasters (well, some of us, anyway), but if you want to bolster your battery, ditch the screen saver and run fewer programs in the background by disabling or uninstalling programs you don't need. You don't want them starting up with your computer.
Reduce the stress on your CPU by running lightweight programs while you're on battery power: Substitute a text editor for Microsoft Word or an online photo editor for Photoshop. Get the lowdown on your CPU and RAM usage in the Windows Task Manager. The Mac's Preferences also let you choose login items to run in the background.
Manage your memory
Unless you install more memory, keep only the bare minimum of programs and tabs open to conserve battery life. If you're the type who has a lot of browser tabs open at once, try to be more conservative when you're working off battery power. Run fewer apps simultaneously, keeping open only those you absolutely need. With lots of open tabs, apps and photos, your multitasking ways will likely consume more free system memory and work against battery longevity.
For Windows 10, Microsoft highly recommends using its new Edge browser. It says Edge will prolong battery life by 36 to 53 percent per charge, as opposed to browsing with Chrome, Firefox or Opera.