8 Tips For Better Notebook Battery Life
1. Power down all nonessential functions. Switch it off if you're not using it. Many business travelers already know that you don't want to take the DVD player for a spin on the plane, and that every time you hit "save" it can set the hard-drive whirring, which devours even more power. "But users often also forget to turn off their wireless card when they are no longer using it but are still using their computer," notes Mike Fuller, executive vice president of PC Laptops, a Sandy, Utah, laptop manufacturer. "When the wireless card is on, it still continually searches for networks." In Windows XP, click on "Power Options" in your control panel. It allows you to reduce the power consumption of any number of your computer devices or of your entire system.
2. Stay out of extreme temperatures. The technology that powers you battery isn't terribly complicated. But it's important to understand a little bit about the chemistry behind batteries, and how that can affect your work. Specifically, temperatures can affect the performance of your battery. It's best to use (and especially charge) your batteries at room temperatures. Extreme conditions can drain your battery quickly. Also, avoid partial charges and use the battery until it is dead. Battery experts liken partial charges — and discharges — to eating a cup of lard every day. It significantly shortens your battery's life. Considering that a lithium-ion battery can explode if it's improperly used, it could also shorten your life.
3. Let your laptop do the saving. Not every computing device handles a power source in the same way. Some of the more sophisticated laptops, which are designed with business travelers in mind, are misers when it comes to using power. And that's a good thing — if you can remember to take advantage of it. "Most users make the mistake of simply not choosing to use a product's built-in ability to conserve battery life," says Dan Coffman, a senior product manager for PC manufacturer ViewSonic. How do you harness your PC's built-in ability to save? Consult your user manual. Often, calibrating your laptop is as easy as double-clicking on the battery icon in the toolbar.
4. Always, always carry a spare device that uses batteries. How obvious is that? Well, if you're trying to keep under the onerous new airline weight-limits, it isn't. But as Rick Thompson, director of engineering at Valence Technology in Austin, Texas, observes, "the availability of 'free' power outside of your hotel room is not predictable." That's a nice way of saying it. In fact, I sometimes think airport terminals, car-rental facilities and hotels try to hide the power outlets from us to keep us from accessing their free power. Thompson recommends a system that can simultaneously charge a second portable device such as a cell phone or PDA, allowing you to multitask your battery operations.
5. Rechargeable batteries will give you their longest charge when you've fully discharged and recharged them several times in a row. It may be a pain, but a day or so before your trip, let your laptop run until the system shuts down. Then recharge it and, if you have time, discharge and recharge it a second time, preferably overnight. This is easier to do at home before a trip, but remember to do it at the hotel before your return flight as well.
6. Windows XP and Macintosh OS X both have accurate battery-monitoring software. Each operating system can display how many minutes of remaining battery life you have. Do some experimenting with the screen settings and watch how your battery life increases. Other tips to save power include turning off wireless networking, removing PC cards and not using floppy or CD drives.
7. The best advice I can give is to buy a second battery for your laptop. Paying $75 or $125 for another battery will instantly double your movie enjoyment.
8. Add more RAM! Shhh. This one is a secret of the pros! If you have only 256MB of RAM, your machine is sure to write temporary information to the hard drive constantly. Boost that up to 512MB or even better 768MB+ and you will be sure to minimize this issue, thereby keeping hard drive access to a minimum. No matter what kind of "power saving technology" your processor has, your hard drive is a leech on your battery.
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