There are things you can do to extend your laptop’s battery life. Some you might be doing already, but there are others you may not. Here’s how to improve laptop battery life. Many modern laptops have enough battery power to last all day, but if you’re reading this, clearly your laptop doesn’t last long enough for you. And plenty of laptops don’t even have removable batteries, so swapping the empty one out for a fully charged spare isn’t an option. Here are our top tips on how to improve laptop battery life.

Activate Your Laptop’s Battery Saver or Eco Mode

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Designed with these sorts of circumstances in mind, most Battery Saver or Eco modes will engage a number of automatic changes to lengthen usable battery life—many of the same changes we’ll be making here. This saved profile will adjust your laptop’s settings and shift components into low-power states to help you ration your remaining juice a bit longer. Once you’ve turned on the automatic battery-saver tool, there are still plenty of steps to take to eke out even better efficiency. This is done by turning off unnecessary devices, adjusting settings to reduce power consumption, shutting down unwanted apps and processes, and adjusting your activities to use less power.

Disable Unused Devices and Ports

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The easiest way to reduce power consumption is to simply turn stuff off. Every component in your laptop needs power to function, but that doesn’t mean you need to power all of those components all of the time. Start by disconnecting any unneeded peripherals (like a USB mouse or external drive) and turning off the biggest power hogs, like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios, graphics processors, and unused optical drives.

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WARNING: Before disabling any component or device, make sure that the device is not in use, and that it is not essential to continuing operation of the laptop. For example, you do not want to disable the hard drive that houses the operating system, or the processor the runs the entire laptop. Only disable those devices you are comfortable turning off.

To disable unused devices on a Windows system, open up your system’s Control Panel and find the Device Manager. In the Device Manager, individual components are grouped by category. For example, Network Adapters will often include both the LAN adapter, which provides Ethernet connectivity, and Wi-Fi, for wireless networking.The four standard candidates for saving power are the graphics card (found under Display Adapters), the optical drive (found under DVD/CD-ROM Drives), and the Ethernet and Wi-Fi adapters (under Network Adapters). Find the device you want to shut down within the relevant category. Right click on the device name, and select “Disable” from the drop down menu.

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Adjust Your Settings

While you’ll still have to use the display and the keyboard, you can adjust the settings for each to reduce power consumption. One often overlooked power drain is keyboard back lighting. Unless you’re in the dark and need the back light just to make out each key, turn off the back light entirely. You can typically assign a hotkey for this function. The next power drain is your screen. While you obviously need to keep it up and running to use the laptop, you don’t necessarily need it running at maximum brightness or resolution. Many laptops will have hotkeys for increasing and decreasing the screen brightness, but if not, it can be adjusted in the control panel. Reducing the display to 50 percent when you’re running on battery power can add a significant amount of time.

Turn Off Apps and Processes

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It’s not just the hardware that’s stealing your battery juice. Multiple apps and processes running on your system will also chew through battery life more quickly. As with the hardware, start by turning off anything that isn’t being used. In Windows, start by taking a look in your system tray, the collection of icons in the lower-right corner of the desktop, next to the clock. On the left end of the System Tray, select the icon to display hidden icons. Take note of which apps are running in the background.

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Open up the Task Manager by pressing Ctrl+Shift+Esc, or use Ctrl+Alt+Del and select Task Manager from the menu. Once in the Task Manager, look at the open apps—you may find that a program or two have been left running simply because you forgot to close a window instead of minimizing it. Next, go to the Processes tab. This shows you what processes are currently running on your machine. While some of these are needed, some, like those associated with music and video players or cloud storage services (like Dropbox or Google Drive) can be disabled without causing any problems. 

Simplify

You can also stretch your battery life by simplifying your own activities. Multitasking is nice when you have full power, but running several programs at once puts a greater load on the processor and draws more power. Adjust your computer use by sticking to one application at a time and avoiding resource-intensive programs.

Start by single-tasking—if you need to type up a document, close any additional programs. You’ll get longer battery life by not running Spotify in the background. If you need to keep some tunes going, switch from streaming media to locally stored songs—you’ll still be using some extra power to play them, but streaming media over Wi-Fi also uses the laptop’s wireless radio. You might also benefit from switching to simpler tools for the same tasks, like typing in a basic text editor rather than using Microsoft Word. It may have fewer features and none of Word’s automatic actions (like Spell Check and Autosave), but you can do all the writing you need without using quite so much power. Some applications you’ll want to avoid entirely, like photo and video editing tools, which place a significant load on the processor and graphics card, and are real power hogs.

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Care and Feeding of Batteries

It starts with taking care of the battery itself. If your system has a removable battery, take care not to damage the battery contacts. They connect the laptop to the battery, and if the contacts get dirty or damaged, it can reduce and disrupt the flow of power. You can clean the contacts with a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol, but damaged contacts might need to be professionally repaired. This doesn’t apply to laptops that seal the battery into the chassis.

You may have heard old tips about charging your battery to only 80 percent, and not leaving it on the charger all the time, but most of that advice is outdated, and applies to older nickel metal hydride batteries but not the lithium ion and lithium-polymer batteries used today. While modern laptop batteries don’t require you to be as conscientious about how and when you charge your battery, you should occasionally take the opportunity to let the battery drain completely through normal use. Finally, keep things cool. Heat will shorten the long-term life of the battery, so take steps to provide optimal airflow and cooling. The biggest problems come from physical obstruction of the ventilation ports. Dust buildup is one problem, which you can take care of by cleaning the laptop’s vents and fan. A can of compressed air can be used to blow out some of the dust. The more frequent issue that crops up is using the laptop on a pillow or blanket, which can both obstruct the ventilation fan and retain the heat coming off of the system. This can be avoided by only using your laptop on surfaces like a table or desk, and a lapdesk will make a big difference when using a laptop in bed.

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Tune-Up

The next step is keep your laptop tuned up for more efficient use of power. A few simple maintenance tasks and upgrades will not only help your battery last longer, but they will also result in a faster system overall. For starters, regularly defragment your hard drive to make data retrieval more efficient. An active drive uses more energy that an idle one, and defragmenting your hard drive reduces the amount of active drive time needed to access data. Over time, as you add and remove files from your system, data is haphazardly recorded to the hard drive, scattered in different portions of the drive. This disorderly (or fragmented) data, requires additional time and energy to access that information in the course of regular use. Defragmenting your drive is the digital equivalent of organizing your cupboards, making everything a bit tidier and easier to find. Windows has an automatic tool that defragments your drive on a regular schedule, but you should at least check to be sure that this is enabled and running properly. In Windows 10, search for “Defragment and Optimize Drive” to find it. Note: Do not defragment a solid-state drive (SSD), as it will reduce the drive’s usable life.

Decluttering your drive will also make it more efficient. Practice good computer hygiene and regularly remove unwanted programs, clean out cobwebbed files, and ditch any excess bloatware that came with your system. Your cleanup should also include cleaning out the cache on your Web browser and deleting all of the old files from your downloads folder. Windows also has built-in tools for this (search for “Disk Cleanup”), or there are a number of free and paid system tune-up utilities with even richer capabilities.

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Upgrade Components

Another option is to ditch the hard drive entirely, and upgrade to an SSD. These use flash memory to store data instead of a spinning disk, so there are no moving parts; this automatically makes them more energy efficient. In addition to improving your laptop’s battery life, SSDs also deliver faster performance and boot times than their traditional counterparts, and remove the problems associated with fragmentation.

Finally, add some more RAM to your system. RAM stores data for short-term use in flash modules, much like an SSD. The more data that can be put into RAM, the less reliant the system will be on pulling that data afresh from the hard drive. Again, reducing hard drive activity reduces the power consumption, but like an SSD upgrade, adding RAM also has performance benefits that you will notice immediately.

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Battery Backup

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Finally, the easiest way to ensure that you always have enough battery power is to bring along an extra; either a spare battery or an external battery pack. For laptops with a removable battery, the simplest option is a second battery. These can either be ordered directly from the manufacturer, or purchased from a third-party company, usually for less than $100. Simply swap the old battery for the new once in a while when charging, and bring along the charged-up spare whenever you expect to be away from a power outlet.

Another, similar option is to buy an external power pack. While it is also technically a battery, these external power sources plug in to your laptop the same way your charger does. They generally cost between $100 and $200, but come with adapters for use with many different laptop models, and can be reused on more than one system, and even for other devices, like your phone or tablet. Although these strategies will help you make the most of the battery you have, if you’re in the market for a new laptop anyway, check out our roundup of recent models with the best battery life.

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