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How to Extend Laptop Battery Life and Avoid Repeated Replacements

Updated on June 6, 2016
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Alfred is a long time teacher and computer enthusiast who works with and troubleshoots a wide range of computing devices.

Laptop reliability is very much synonymous with battery life. In any case, what use is a laptop without a long lasting battery? We all carry our laptops outdoors without the excess adaptor baggage and hoping for maximum hours. That is why it is called mobile, anyway.

A lithium ion battery
A lithium ion battery

Laptop Battery Myths

Remember the old myth that you were supposed to charge your new laptop battery for 12 hours before using the laptop? Yes, reminds me of how superstitious these things can get. Do you really need to do that today? Not really:

The control charge and discharge circuitry in a modern battery works in such a way that when the battery is fully charged to its maximum, the AC power will automatically switch off, thus sending current only to the laptop. How any charging system in the world will last 12 hours to reach maximum charge is un-thinkable.

Battery technology has evolved from Nickel based NiHM and NiCad to the modern Lithium-ion (Li-ion), and despite its shortcomings, Li-ion technology has ultimately softened our approach to handling batteries. Whereas the above ‘myth’ worked with the nickel based battery, the Li-ion battery handles itself rather gracefully; but still needs our assistance.

The whole concept of agreeable charging formula for the laptop battery is still an issue to dissect. No one seems to be right or wrong about how it works, but a simple rule of thumb can save the day for you and me.

At the time of manufacture, laptop batteries are designed to last for a period of about one to three years. The determining factor being the number of cycles allotted to it by the manufacturer. The one to three years lifespan above equals approximately 300 to 600 cycles of recharge and discharge.

Now, what is a charge cycle?

When you charge up laptop battery to full capacity (100%) and thereafter deplete it, your battery will have gone through a full charge cycle. Now, if you keep your laptop connected to power source for a number of days, and never letting its charge to go any lower than 10%, you are probably still operating under one cycle.

It is therefore true that a charge cycle is complete when battery charge goes below 10% and that the more the battery is depleted the more charge cycles It goes through.

Read here what Apple has to say about charge cycle.

Tips to Help Extend Laptop Battery Life

If you understand your laptop battery well, you may probably save yourself the pain of having to replace it every other time, unless of-course you have been hit by the un-controllable battery bug, which seems to be getting chronic of late.

1: Avoid repetitive discharging of li-ion battery

To avoid inevitable battery replacement, watch out how you charge your it. As mentioned above, discharging it to lower than 10% will actually damage your li-ion battery in the short run. Only do this when you have to and as a last resort probably because of your mobile schedule. But at least tag along with its adaptor and make use of it when you get that chance.

Repetitive discharging and charging (calibrating) of the battery actually weakens it and you will notice deterioration in your beloved battery over time.

2: Always use the correct adaptor

It is good practice to always use the correct adaptor for your laptop. Avoid the temptation to go for the nearest adapter simply because it plugs into your laptop.

Different adaptors come set with different voltage and amps. An adaptor with just slight variation in amps may seem to work well in the short run but may actually signal the beginning of the end of your battery, if not the laptop too.

I have seen wrong adaptors kill some old Dell laptops. These laptops weaken pretty fast and begin operating at snail pace. Even acquiring the correct adaptor later on will not reverse the damage.

3: Calibrate your laptop battery

What is calibration?

Calibration involves draining or discharging a battery to its bare minimum or to 0%. Doing this involves disconnecting the AC adapter and using the laptop until power is totally off, due to sleep or hibernation.

  • You may need to do this if you own a malfunctioning battery, or
  • If you run the old nickel batteries.

I know it was almost a must to do this with nickel based batteries, but you rarely will have to do this with your li-ion battery, but just in case.

Yes, just in case a malfunctioning li-ion battery charges up to about 80% and then stays there forever, you may just have to discharge it completely! For this battery, drain it to the lowest power and before it hibernates, take it to the BIOS screen where it should remain until total battery drainage.

It is worth pointing out again that a forced 0% battery drain may actually damage an otherwise functional li-ion battery. This is because li-ion batteries achieve some form of calibration even when they go down to only 10% -20%, and this should be good enough.

You could therefore let your battery drop down to that percentage once in a while or you could do it less if you do not use your laptop quite often. Once a month for a laptop in daily use and once in about three months for a rarely used laptop should suffice.

4: Avoid extreme temperatures

Extreme temperatures are notorious for messing up the life span of laptop batteries. High temperatures cause components within the battery to overheat and thus weaken.

High temperature can be reached when playing highly charged 3D games for longs hours, and for days.

Those who place laptops in car trunks for long hours also leave their batteries vulnerable to overheating.

The heating problem is also compounded when the above usage is being over practiced in tropical climates, where overall temperatures tend to pitch.

If you have stable power at home, and you feel the system is overheating you may consider removing your battery from the laptop periodically: this also preserves battery cycles.

Don’t overdo this if you live in a place with erratic power supply, for your laptop may keep shutting down whenever power goes off. This may even cause more problems when your hard drive data gets corrupted, or dies! You do not want that to happen.

5: Should you disconnect AC power to the laptop when battery is fully charged?

I guess this is a long time question that is motivated by how phones work. We charge and disconnect phones when battery levels reach 100%. Unlike the phones however, laptop batteries do not stretch for days and we tend to use them for dedicated work.

The additional two to five average hours of battery use on laptops are normally saved for assignments outdoors and need not be compromised. What is the point of running on battery power and then having to go and use it out when the battery is done?

Like indicated earlier in the hub, a battery charges up to 100% and the charging system promptly switches off. There is absolutely no harm to the battery staying inside the laptop, unless the laptop itself over heats.

6: Should you remove laptop battery during normal use?

Whether decide to leave the battery or remove it from the laptop during use, is maybe a matter of choice. A battery is not affected in any way by staying in the laptop, unless otherwise. As long as the temperature in and around the laptop is cool, the battery can as well stay in.

If you have to, only remove the battery when you feel your AC power source is stable, and because you are protecting it from heat in the laptop.

As an additional plus, you may actually be halting the charge cycle count. Hahahaha.

Other Safety Measures to Help Extend Laptop Battery Life

The precautions mentioned above are just the basics that can help keep your laptop in tip top condition and prevent a trip down the stores for battery replacement.

Below I have outlined additional supplementary precautions:

  • When buying a new battery for your laptop, always go for li-ion.
  • If you are not going to use your laptop for a long time ( i,e.six months), then re-charge the battery fully or anywhere above 50%, remove it out of the laptop and store it in a dry cool place.
  • And if you have not used your laptop for a long time (i.e. six months), first have the battery fully discharge and then re-charge it when you are to use it again.
  • 64bit operating systems tend to drain your battery faster than 32bit operating systems. Laptops running the former OSes should be plugged into power source more often. Or still, install 32bit OSes if your computer has 3GB of RAM or less. 64bit OSes run better in platforms that have 4GB of RAM and more.
  • Use power management features to enhance the life of your battery. Lower the time your laptop takes to go to sleep or hibernate, so as to help reduce the temperature levels when you are not using it.

Which component in your laptop still lags behind in view of the evolution of technology?

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