9 Ways to Get Better Battery Life


Last summer, I did a post on the best ways to get the most battery life you can with portable computers. Since then, I’ve had a lot of good alternate suggestions come my way from readers, and I’ve had a chance to try some of the suggestions.

With many web workers probably traveling to CES, Macworld and other shows this month, here is an updated list of  nine suggestions that can make a big difference.

Carry an Extra Battery. This is something I’ve been doing for years, and is a great way to get all day power. You can get an extra battery for your notebook for around $100 typically. If you spend around $200 to $300, you can get very long lasting power sources, such as Electrovaya’s.

Remove PC Cards When Not in Use. Many PC Cards draw a little power continuously even when you’re not using them. Remove them when not in use.

Defragment Your Hard Drive. Hard drive access taxes your battery substantially. Especially if you haven’t defragmented your drive in a long time, use one of the many freeware utilities to do so, for faster access.

Turn Off Wireless When Not in Use. Most notebooks have integrated Wi-Fi these days, and they tend to be continuously connected when around a signal. It’s easy to shut Wi-Fi down if you’re going to, say, work on a long document for an extended period.

Limit Use of Optical Drives. CD/DVD drives are big energy consumers, so tread lightly with them.

Hibernate. Set the timer for your computer’s hibernate mode so that only a couple of minutes after you stop using it, it’s hibernating. Usually this, just pops up a power saving screensaver.

Turn Off Bluetooth. It’s just another energy hog. Along the same lines, limit use of all external peripherals to just what you need.

Conserving Power in Vista, and Brightness. Vista has received much negative press for draining battery power quickly on notebook computers. You can get your battery to last a lot longer than it otherwise will by turning down the brightness, which especially makes sense if you are, say, just doing word processing and e-mail. Go to Control Panel/Power options/Advanced Settings/Display and cycle down brightness to 50 percent or lower. Turning down brightness on all portable computers makes a huge battery life difference.

Use AC Power Outlets in Airports and Hotspots. You’d be surprised how easy it is to find these if you look around. AC outlets are often found around food service areas in airports and hotspots, and elsewhere. They’re at every gate at some airports.


Mike Spence

Another tip: In nearly all Windows based systems, the audio codec and amplifier together burn up to a watt of power even in idle mode. If you are not using your audio system and don’t rely on audible alerts, place your speaker on mute. Muting the speakers powers down these devices saving the power and extending the battery life.


It’s strange that you would show a pic of an Apple laptop and talk about defragmenting your drive. I never do it with my MacBook Pro. So I also don’t use Vista.
However, I ALWAYS have a few extra batteries and an adapter.
Having your portable computer die on you while on the road is a disaster.
Great tips for PC users but I would say: Get a Mac : )

Jonathan Cohen

Some more tips:

1. Sit in a shady part of the office/coffeeshop/etc., so you can turn the brightness down.

2. If you’re in the habit of listening to music on your laptop, bring your MP3 player and listen to it instead.

3. If possible, use lighter-weight programs (Wordpad instead of Word for simply viewing documents, for example).


Keep batteries warm, they hold their charge for longer!

Admittedly, this doesn’t really apply to laptops as they generate loads of heat anyway but for cameras and other small items it can really prolong the charge.

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