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Ways to Extend Laptop and Tablet Battery Life

If you use your laptop or tablet on battery power, you'll know how annoying it is to lose battery power at the "worst time". While I can't guarantee your PC will lose power at a more convenient time, I can offer 14 ways to improve your battery life. Learn, in this guide, how to save power when running on batteries.

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Note: This guide is written for Windows 7 but most tips apply for Windows Vista

Save Battery Power

Here are some ways to save your battery's power. You don't need to apply all these tips but every little helps.

1. Turn Down Screen Brightness

To turn down screen brightness, click the battery icon in the system tray and click Adjust screen brightness.

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Slide the brightness slider to the left until you can comfortably see the screen and it's dimmest setting.

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2. Cut Down on Background Applications

Many background applications don't need to run and only increase CPU cycles and, in turn, the demand on your battery. Here's a couple of things you can do to cut down on background applications:

¤ Disable Windows Sidebar Gadgets

If you don't use the sidebar, you probably have it disabled already (right click the Windows Sidebar icon in the system tray and click Exit.)

If you use the Windows Sidebar, do you really need all your gadgets running when you're on battery power? To disable Windows Sidebar gadgets:

Click the Start button and click Control Panel. Type gadget in the top-right search box, and click View list of running gadgets.

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Next to the running gadgets, click remove.

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Diable Startup applications

To disable uneccessary startup applications, follow this guide.

3. Disable Your Wireless Internet & Bluetooth

If you're not using the internet or Bluetooth, consider disabling the hardware to save battery power. To disable your wireless, bluetooth, or both cards, either:

A. Locate the switch on the side of your laptop (many now have this) and turn your wirelesss cards off.

B. Click the network icon in the system tray and click Open Network and Sharing Center.

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In the left-hand menu, click Change adapter settings.

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Right click your wireless connection and click Disable.

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4. Disable Screensavers

Screensavers use CPU when your PC is idle. To disable your screensaver:

Right click the Desktop and click Personalize.

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Click Screen Saver.

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In the drop down list, select (None) and click OK.

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5. Change Power Options

You what your computer does to save power when idle. To do so, click the battery icon in the system tray and click More power options.

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Select Power saver and click Change plan settings.

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Lower the time it takes for your computer to dim the display, turn off the display, and sleep when on battery.

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Click Change advanced power settings to fine tune your power-saving preferences.

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6. Adjust Visual Effects

Visual effects also use CPU and memory and this drains your battery. To lower the effects and save battery power:

Click the Start button, click Control Panel, and type visual in the top-right search box. Click Adjust the appearance and performance of Windows.

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Select Adjust for best performance and click OK.

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7. Turn off Windows Aero

Windows Aero enables the glass effect you see on your Windows. This (surprise surprise) also uses CPU and memory and should be disabled to save battery. To disable Windows Aero:

Right click the desktop and click Personalization. Click Window Color.

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Uncheck Enable transparency and click OK.

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8. Disable the Search Index

The search index indexes your files for quick searching. This is a convenience but comes at a great cost to battery life when it's running. To save power, consider disabling the search index. To disable the search index:

Click the Start button, click Control Panel, and type index in the top-right search box. Click Change how Windows searches.

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Click Modify.

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Remove all locations by unchecking them and click OK.

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9. Keep Your PC Cool

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The hotter your PC gets, the harder your fans have to work to keep it cool. To minimize the power drawn by your fans, keep your PC cool. If using it on your lap or on a pillow, ensure there is proper ventilation. Never use your PC on a blanket or soft surface where airflow is restricted. This will also keep your hardware working longer as hardware is less likely to overheat and fail.

10. Only Use Your Screen When You Need it

This tip links back to tip number 5. When in the power options, click Choose what closing the lid does. I always set the lid closing to do nothing and the power button to put the laptop to sleep. This way, when I'm taking a break, I can put my laptop lid down (which turns off the display and saves power) without my laptop going to sleep. I'm also lucky because my laptop has a Display button that, when pressed, turns off my display. I found this button very useful when I sat in class and didn't need to use my laptop but didn't want to close and open the lid repeatedly.

11. Disable Automatic Program Updates

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Many programs like iTunes, Java etc. come with their own auto updating software. These programs frequently communicate with update servers and, collectively, can take a toll on battery life. It's important to keep software up to date; however, you should consider disabling update checkers for software installed on your PC. Good software lets you disable this behavior when you install it; some software may require a little bit of digging to disable automatic update checking.

Here's how to stop Java checking for updates:

Click the Start button and click Control Panel. When the Control Panel loads, type java in the search box, and click Java:

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On the Update tab, uncheck Check for Updates Automatically:

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Click Never Check:

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Note: I've noticed the scheduled task for Java update checking is often left behind.

To remove the task:

Click the Start button, type task, and click on Task Scheduler

When the task Scheduler loads, click Task Scheduler Library in the left pane

In the right pane, look for the Java Update task, right click it, and click Disable:

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12. Remove Peripherals and Media

CDs spinning in drives, external hard disk drives, memory cards in slots, and even a plugged in USB thumb drives all drain power at varying levels. Remove all external drives, cards, and CDs to save battery power and the life of your machine.

13. Add more RAM

I just added 1GB of RAM to a netbook and I noticed the battery life is quite a lot better. This is because when you run out of memory, application data is written to the hard disk (virtual memory), which requires the movement of mechanical parts and not just electrons alone. By adding RAM to a computer that is always swapping/thrashing, you'll save a noticeable about of battery life.

14. Use Hibernate not Sleep/Standby

If you want good battery life that spans multiple sessions, consider hibernating your PC instead of putting it to sleep/on stand by mode. Hibernation mode stores all volatile memory on disk and requires less power than leaving volatile memory in RAM for quick access when you turn your PC on. You can easily use a whole battery in two weeks or less of sleep mode, so you could be losing around 10% of battery life each day your laptop is sleeping instead of hibernating (if you're not using hybrid sleep mode.) For more details on sleep vs hibernate,

To hibernate your PC, click the Start button, click the arrow next to Shut Down, and click Hibernate:

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If you do not see the option to hibernate, press the Windows Key + R (or click Start > Run), type the following, and press Enter:

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If the option is still not available, a reboot is required to show the Hibernate option on the start menu.

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