March 2009
Vol. 25, No. 1

A Technology Newsletter for Extension Specialists

About ETCS
ETCS Staff
Help Desk
CEIS help
S Drive
Contact ETCS
News & Notes
Search for
IC Articles:

Extend Your Laptop Battery Time
by Joe Lear Associate Director/Systems Administrator

Weíve had a few questions on how long the batteries should last on the new laptops.  The not so simple answer is, "it depends."  What you do with the laptop while itís on batteries will determine how long youíll be able to run without finding an outlet.  Here are a few tips to extend your time on battery.

First donít attach any USB devices such as flash drives or mice.  These use power from the computer and drive down the time youíll be able to run on batteries.  Copy files to the computer to work on them and use the built in touch pad as much as possible.

The same can be said for the CD\DVD drive.  Donít use it while on battery and youíll be able to work a lot longer.  Copy files to the hard drive from CD while plugged in, then work on the files from your hard drive.

If you do not need to access the Internet while on batteries, you can, extend battery life by turning off the wireless card in the laptop.  On the new laptops, (D830, D630, D820 and D620) there is a switch on the left side of the computer.  Pushing this switch to the back of the computer turns off the wireless card.  Just be sure, when you want to connect to the Internet again, that you pull the switch forward to reactivate the wireless.  On the older laptops (D600, D800, D610, and D810), you can turn the Wireless card on or off by holding down the Fn key and pressing F2.

You can also dim your screen.  Hold down the Fn key on the laptop keyboard and press the key that has the icon of a sun and a down arrow.  This is usually the down arrow key.  Holding down the Fn and pressing the up arrow will brighten the screen (should have an icon of a sun with an up arrow).

You should use your laptop battery on a regular basis.  Use your laptop on the battery once every week or two.  You should run the battery until itís fairly low, but thereís no need to completely discharge the newer Lithium-ion batteries (The Dell laptops all use lithium-ion batteries).  Older laptops that use a NiCd (nickel-cadmium) or NimH (nickel-metal hydride) require that you completely discharge and recharge the battery on a regular basis.

Make sure the vents on the laptop are clean and free of dust.  Keeping the laptop cool will also help to extend battery life.  Try to operate on hard surfaces as much as possible and avoid using the computer on your lap, pillows, or other soft surfaces which might interfere with airflow.

Donít multitask while working on batteries, the more programs you have running at one time, the less time youíll have to work on battery.  Do one thing at a time and that way youíll get some of the things you want to do completely done instead of having several things partially done if you run out of power. 

If you are running Windows Vista and really need to save power, you can switch to the power saver option by clicking on the battery in the system tray and clicking the dot next to power saver.  This will dim the screen and reduce processor power to help reduce power usage.  Be sure to change this back to balanced (where we have the laptops set by default) or high performance when you are plugged in.

When you are plugged in make sure you defrag you hard drive. There is a disk defragmenter icon on the quick launch section of your task bar or you can access it by clicking the Start Button, Going to All Programs, Accessories, and System Tools.  Keeping the disk defragmented speeds up file access reducing disk usage and saves power.

By following a few of these tips you can extend the time you spend on battery power when you need to get things done and thereís no outlet available.


Last Revised: 03/03/09



MU Extension logo with embedded link to the Extension home page

  The information presented in this website is designed for use in the University of Missouri Extension
 computing environment. This information may not be applicable outside the Extension system.