GBM How-To Series #12 : Maximizing Battery Life

“…I ran out of gas. I, I had a flat tire. I didn’t have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts. IT WASN’T MY FAULT…” (Jake Blues) Oops, it was my fault. Ever had those times when “life” seems to run you over? I do. I did. Did you miss the How-To Monday? The truth of the matter is, I got caught up in “Monday”, and dropped the ball on this How-To. Better late than never I suppose. Today, let’s talk about some ways and things to consider for getting the most out of your battery.

GBM How-To Series #12 : Maximizing Battery Life

Face it, many of us want it all. You know, that whole newest, fastest, biggest and baddest thing. Often when we get it, we are disappointed with the battery life we get in our new purchase. Makes me want to say “Well Duh!”. If we had put some thought to it, we would have realized that we set ourselves up for the problem. I am as guilty as anyone when it comes to this. Here are some things I have learned from past experience about how to maximize your existing battery and some things to consider when selecting that new mobile system.

Processor Speed. Slow it down. The speed of your processor is one of the largest consumers of your battery’s limited power. If battery longevity is a must have for the way us use your system, consider a system that has a slower processor. Remember that unless you utilize your tablet or UMPC for speed intensive applications, slower could be big plus. With a system you already own, slow the processor down in order to conserve those electrons.

LCD brightness. This is another big battery zapper. When on battery, learn to use only the brightness you need. If considering a new system, remember to consider the size of the screen as it relates to battery consumption. Again, bigger is not always better. Remember that most current systems have a hot key combination to adjust brightness on the fly. I have read that backlights on an LCD panel can draw as much as 10-15 watts of power.

Hard Disk Drive speed. If upgrading your HDD or purchasing new, consider a slower HDD to conserve power. That is why we see so many manufacturers offering slower drives in mobile systems. The hard fact is, the faster they spin, the more power they use. The difference may be small, but every little bit counts.

Prevent unnecessary programs from running. Try to prevent any programs that you really don’t need from running. Any processor activity you can prevent will result in less HDD access and processor utilization.

Don’t work your battery in extreme temperature. Trust me on this one. I have seen first hand what extreme cold can do to battery’s. An associate of mine was working in a walk in cooler for a retailer we were servicing, and could not believe that his new battery’s only lasted about half the time. We placed a rubber pad between his system and the freezing metal tray he was using for a desk and his battery jumped to better than normal performance. As I observed, then the battery was insulated from the extreme cold, battery power benefited both from operation at a normal design temperature and due to the fact that the systems cooling fan did not have to run. Conversely, when temperature climbs, the heat that your system generates will require that the systems fans run. Been there, done that as well in a warehouse operation that we were working in. High temp working environments will make your system eat a battery faster than Dennis eating an artichoke. (Side note: If you find yourself around Dennis while he is consuming a grilled artichoke, keep your fingers away.)

Power Plans. Utilize a pre-defined power plan or profile as your operating system and system allow. Adjust your power settings to allow the system to sleep or hibernate in order to conserver power during those times you get distracted.

Power’em Down. Power off any unnecessary hardware devices like radios (WWAN, WiFi, Bluetooth). When shopping for that new purchase, check to see that devices can independently be powered down by means of a physical switch or software interface. Your battery will thank you. If you have any PC cards , USB devices, or extra memory cards installed, pull them as well. If your system has a DVD or CD-ROM, be sure to remove it from your system if possible. As referenced in the Microsoft battery life article below, watching DVD’s will eat up a battery in a hurry. Check it out.

Tips and Notes:

  • Remember to experiment with your battery and power options BEFORE you find yourself needing them.
  • Purchase an extra battery to ensure that you will have the juice when you need it!
  • Lastly, make sure you do your “pre-flight” checks BEFORE you venture out. All the battery life in the world does you no good if you leave your power accessories at home.

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