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Top 10 Ways to Maximize Battery Life Without Installing Anything

written by: Brian Nelson•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 6/12/2009

You can buy a bigger battery. You can install special utilities and software. You can even go into Control Panel and configure all kinds of power settings. But, these 10 Power Saving Tips will give you a lot more time on that same amount of battery juice.

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    Powerful Tips to Use Less Power

    If you use your laptop without plugging in, you know how frustrating it can be to run out of power. The sad fact is that batteries grow weaker over time. Every laptop manufacturer will tell you that batteries are "consumables" meaning that just like toner or ink, they are going to run out of functionality sooner or later. Yet, even fresh new batteries often don't seem to last as long as they should. Chances are, these 10 tweaks will give you a lot more time on battery power.

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    Top 10 Power Saving Tips

    1. Reduce your screen brightness. Sure, when you are plugged in, you can jack up the brightness all you want, but when you are running off of battery, a brighter screen is a battery drainer. There is more strategy to this than just turning down the brightness. You still have to see your screen, so location selection is important. Choose a spot away from bright windows. In fact, the dimly lit corner will allow you to use the darkest screen setting.
    2. Stop Using the CD-ROM Whether you are running a game or playing movie, keeping that CD spinning at several thousand RPMs takes a lot of juice and sucks the life from your battery. Install everything you will need to use when unplugged to the hard drive, and save your CD based things for when you are plugged in.
    3. Bring Along Your iPod. Yes, your laptop has your music collection installed, and yes, Media Monkey is awesome, but playing music burns the juice. Run your music collection off your MP3 player instead and save your battery.
    4. Use The Table. Every notice how warm your laptop gets on your lap? That's because your body is a great insulator, and chances are your body is blocking one or more of the vents needed to cool your laptop. This means that your laptop has to run the fan to stay cool. Put it up on the table, and you'll get the airflow your laptop was designed for which will minimize the use of the fan and save power.
    5. Disconnect Your Accessories. All of those devices connected to your PC are sucking battery life like leaches on an open wound. USB devices are setup to draw power via the USB connection. Unfortunately, they all consider your laptop the equivalent of a wall socket, so they just take all the juice they want without regard to your battery life. The PDA you plugged in an hour ago has been charging the battery, lighting its screen at maximum brightness, and syncing every 15 minutes. Drain, drain, drain.
    6. Pick a Cool Spot. Not only does sunlight wash out your screen making you use a brighter setting, it also warms up your laptop faster requiring more running of the fan. A cool spot will let you use a darker monitor setting, and keep that fan off.
    7. Turn Off Your Utilities. Ok, you need your resident virus scanner because you never know what might be out there, but you do not need to be running a full hard drive scan when you are unplugged. I don't care if it is Thursday at 3:00 PM (or whatever your automatic drive scanning is set to.) Likewise, no defragging, no file syncing. If you aren't running it manually, close it down.
    8. Set Your Wireless Power. If you ever have trouble connecting to a wireless network, chances are you jacked up the transmission power of your wireless adapter. That is a good move. But, if you are in the middle of Starbucks and the wireless router you are connecting to is right overhead, you don't need the higher setting. Lower your transmit power to the lowest setting you can while still maintaining a connection.
    9. Save Your High Power Applications. You know what I'm talking about. Those programs that when you run them light up your little hard drive light like a stuck green light at a busy intersection. Digital photography programs are a big culprit, as is anything that renders, compiles, or otherwise nails your system resources to the wall. Keep the use of those programs to a minimum.
    10. Plan Ahead. Kirk wouldn't always need more power from Scotty if he wasn't always getting stuck in a jam. Make sure your laptop has a full charge before you head out. If you are going to be somewhere for a while, look for a power outlet when choosing your seat and plug in right away so someone doesn't string their cord across the room to "your" outlet.
    11. 3waypowersplitter BONUS TIP! Put a power plug splitter in your laptop bag. This tiny device means you can share an outlet with anyone. No one's laptop turns off the second it is unplugged, so you don't even have to ask. Just go to the outlet, unplug their cord, and stick the splitter into the wall. By the time they complain, you've already got them plugged back in. Be a real hero and take one that has 3 plug-ins and someone else can use the power too.