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Make Your Laptop Batteries Last Longer

About all the electronic gadgets we use today are powered by batteries. From your Blackberry to your iPod to your laptop, we rely on these batteries to keep our devices working when we are on the go. Even though the use of tablet PC’s, smartphones, and netbooks are becoming rife, it would be a while before any device can replace the laptop (except, maybe, the recently announced highly-anticipated Surface tablet from Microsoft).

Photo: neon computers.com

About all the electronic gadgets we use today are powered by batteries. From your Blackberry to your iPod to your laptop, we rely on these batteries to keep our devices working when we are on the go. Even though the use of tablet PC’s, smartphones, and netbooks are becoming rife, it would be a while before any device can replace the laptop (except, maybe, the recently announced highly-anticipated Surface tablet from Microsoft). There’s just something about the regular laptop that spells durability, capability, and reliability. With manufacturers making them lighter and in smaller sizes (12 – 14 inches), with advanced features, faster processors and larger RAM’s, the laptop is here to stay—for a long time.

The main component of the laptop that ensures it works when you’re on the go is the battery. Having your battery serve you for a long time takes much more than charging and discharging. Until a new technology is invented which can make laptop batteries last a minimum of about 10 hours, with uninterrupted use, you can save yourself a lot of money in battery replacements and a lot of time before your battery drains by adhering to good practices.

Nickel Cadmium (NiCad) batteries are barely used anymore so your laptop would likely have a lithium-ion battery. Here are a few things you should know about rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and how you can improve battery life.

Use your battery

One of your major worries would be power failure and in an attempt to beat PHCN at their game you may be ruining your batteries. The process of leaving your laptop plugged in – with your battery in it – when there’s power is a bad one. Lithium ion batteries last longer when you use them. So discharge your batteries partially and recharge. The ideal is to leave a minimum of 40% charge in it before recharging. Do this regularly and after every 30 – 40 cycles, discharge it completely and recharge to recalibrate the batteries. This may be a tall order, given the epileptic power situation in the country, but it’s an essential one, nonetheless.

That said, don’t abuse the “use your battery” rule

If you are sure about your source of power supply, there’s no need to keep your laptop plugged in with a 100% fully charged battery. The best thing to do would be to discharge it to a 40% – 60% level, remove the battery, and store it in a cool dry place. Some people recommend storing it in an airtight bag in the fridge. That’s fine, as long as you get a bag that’s totally airtight, but I think any “cool dry place” will do just fine. If you’re worried about power going off unexpectedly, it is advisable to plug your adapter into a UPS.

Optimise the settings of your operating system

Your screen may be set too bright, your wireless devices may be perpetually on, and you may be switching off or hibernating when all you need to do is make the computer sleep. You will have to tweak the settings on your laptop to get the best performance. If you are using Windows, Control Panel is a great place to start. For Windows users, select a plan like Power Saver, dim your screen after a few minutes, turn of your wireless devices and programs that run in the background using up battery power.

Keep away from heat

Ever heard of laptops catching fire? Nothing deteriorates batteries like heat. There’s a reason your laptop has little legs on all four bottom edges, and why there’s a cooling fan in the system. This is so that it can stand a bit elevated above any platform, so air can flow underneath it. If you are working with your laptop placed upon your lap, you’ll notice that it gets warm after a while and hot if you stay that way for long. Always try to use your laptop on a hard, level surface. If otherwise, try putting it in a position where the air vents are not blocked. Or you may invest in a laptop cooling device.

Switch off and disconnect external and peripheral devices

Your mouse, PC Card modems, USB modems and flash drives, and Bluetooth devices all use up battery power when they are connected to your laptop. You need to disable them when you’re not using them. As well as optical drives. Activities like burning or playing CD’s and DVD’s consume a lot of battery power when used—try to do this when plugged in. It’s better to copy the contents of the disk into the computer’s hard drive and work from there.

The Phillips Portable Power Pack, when fully charged, can give up to 60 hours of uninterrupted power to your laptop. Photo: shinyshiny.tv

Some quick tips to adhere to when you’re running on battery

1. Invest in a power pack which can give you extra hours for all your electronic devices.

2. Stop multitasking. Turn off scheduled tasks like system updates and virus scans, and close all unnecessary programs.

3. Reduce your media usage. Graphic and sound programs drain the battery faster, especially on laptops with dedicated graphics and sound cards.

4. You don’t have to use your computer’s speakers all the time. Use some good headphones to minimise power consumption through sound.

5. Using a mouse may be more comfortable, but it drains the battery. Try getting used to your trackpad when you’re running on battery.

6. Hibernate, do not standby. In standby mode, you can instantly resume where you left off, but hibernating will save more power by saving your laptop’s state as it is, and shutting itself down.

7. Keep your operating temperature cool. Clean out your air vents with a cloth or keyboard cleaner.

Note for HP/Compaq users

If you use a HP/Compaq laptop and are thinking about purchasing authentic replacement batteries – or other accessories – you can check out the HP Experience Store at No 13, Idowu Martins Street, Victoria Island, Lagos. Send an email to ugochi@hpexperience.com.ng if you have any issues. Or call any of the following numbers +234 7064000136; 07064000135; 07064000137. You can also obtain from them the list of all authentic HP distributors nearest to you.

If you’ve ever had issues with your laptop battery and, maybe, needed a replacement, leave a comment below and let us know where you got genuine battery replacements for your specific laptop brands (like Dell, Sony, Samsung, Apple’s Mac, LG, Gateway, and IBM) and authorised battery repairs.

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