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How to Tweak Your Laptop CPU for More Battery Life

written by: •edited by: Bill Fulks•updated: 6/30/2010

Who doesn't want their batteries to last just a little bit longer? This article outlines some basic ways to tweak your laptop CPU to help save power.

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    Laptop Batteries

    Ever wonder why batteries on older laptops seem to last longer than these days, despite apparent improvements in battery technology such as the popularization of lithium batteries? A lot of this is because newer laptops simply require more power—especially when it comes to the CPU—in order to keep up with increasingly CPU-intensive programs. This article attempts to outline some basic methods to both cut back on CPU usage and make your CPU more efficient at what it does.

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    Powersaving CPU Habits

    The single best thing you can do to save power? Start developing good power habits, such as reducing CPU usage as much as possible. This means lessen the demand for CPU by using fewer CPU intensive programs. Make a point of completely exiting programs when not in use, as programs running in background saps processor resources.

    You might also notice that by eliminating excess active programs, your computer will appear to run faster. This is because the CPU resources are no longer being shared with unnecessary applications. While this doesn't contribute to powersaving until this reaches the point where all memory demands are met that can slow down the CPU, this is still a nice benefit.

    Another handy side effect is that your laptop won't run nearly as hot. Overheating can lead to a number of issues other than general discomfort during use, including decreasing your battery life overall.

    Also, resist the temptation to overclock your laptop--yes, even if it will make your computer games run faster. In fact, what you're after is the opposite of overclocking, underclocking, if you really want to be efficient!

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    CPU Software

    Want to know which programs suck the most power? There are numerous programs designed to help you manage your CPU more efficiently, and each of them is designed to do slightly different things.

    Some, as mentioned previously, are designed to create awareness of your power consumption by displaying the number of watts you use, or by displaying the actual frequency of the CPU.

    Others attempt to slow down the CPU for when its top speeds are unnecessary, such as when running older applications. Others attempt to underclock and undervolt the CPU, which slows down the computer, but takes up considerably less power.

    A particularly good program is RMIClock, a review of which may be found here, along with some general cautionary notes regarding the quality of most CPU software tweaks.

    Here and here are links to listings of various CPU tweaking software, primarily focused on Windows. Here is another one that is focused on Windows 7.

    This article provides a listing of various adjustments you can make largely via command line in Ubuntu Linux, for example.

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    Know Your Settings

    However, just because you have the right software in place doesn't mean that your laptop is going to get faster on its own. You have to be familiar with the various settings, both those that come standard with your particular operating system as well as those on any powersaving software you have. Actually use those settings, and at that, use the most power-efficient ones that you can whenever possible.