No matter how efficient, all laptop batteries will eventually run out of power. To extend the time between charging, here is all the information you need to optimize battery life.
No one wants to rush to find a power outlet to save their laptop battery, especially when working and learning remotely with family members in different parts of the house that may not have accessible outlets. Fortunately, modern laptops have improved battery efficiency, making it possible for even affordable desktop replacement and gaming laptops to last over 8 hours on a single charge and ultraportable laptops to endure for 14 hours or more.
Despite the manufacturer’s claims, the battery life of a PC or Mac laptop can vary depending on certain factors such as power settings, running apps, and even room temperature. The good news is that maximizing battery life is easy once you know the right settings to adjust. Here are some simple yet effective ways to extend your laptop’s battery life.
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Utilize the Windows Performance Management Tool
On Windows 11, locate the Windows Performance Management Tool under Settings > System > Power & Battery > Power Mode.
The specific settings controlled by the battery slider may vary depending on the manufacturer of your PC. However, in general, keep the following guidelines in mind:
The “Best Performance” mode prioritizes speed and responsiveness at the cost of reduced battery life. In this mode, Windows does not limit the power consumption of background apps.
- The “Better Performance” (or “Recommended”) mode balances power and efficiency by limiting resources for background apps.
- The “Better Battery” mode provides longer battery life than previous versions of Windows.
- The “Battery Saver” mode, which appears only when the PC is unplugged, saves battery by reducing display brightness by 30%, preventing Windows Update downloads, stopping the Mail app from syncing, and suspending most background apps.
For Macs, utilize the macOS Battery Settings
Recent Mac laptops have various battery and power settings that can be adjusted. To access these settings on macOS Monterey or later, open the System Preferences app and select Battery.
To conserve battery power, ensure “Slightly dim the display while on battery power” is selected and “Enable Power Nap while on battery power” is not selected. This will prevent your MacBook from waking up periodically to check for updates while in sleep mode. On newer MacBook Pro models, if “Slightly dim the display while on battery power” is enabled, the display brightness will automatically adjust to 75% when the computer is unplugged from power.
The options available in the Energy Saver preferences pane may vary depending on the specific model and version of macOS on your laptop. These options can include “Optimize video streaming while on battery” which can disable HDR video playback and “Optimized battery charging.” Some Macs also have an Energy Mode setting, similar to the Windows Performance Management Tool described earlier. If you see the option for Energy Mode in the Battery section of system preferences, you can choose from the following options:
Low Power Mode:
This mode conserves energy to extend battery life.
Allows the Mac to automatically adjust performance level.
High Power Mode:
This mode increases energy usage for improved performance during heavy workloads.
To conserve battery life while working on a single task, consider enabling Airplane mode in Windows or turning off Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in macOS when internet access is not required. This not only reduces distractions but also eliminates a major source of battery drain by disabling wireless radios and the background apps and processes that constantly use them, such as updaters and push notifications.
Terminate Applications That Consume High Amounts of Power
Running multiple apps and processes simultaneously will significantly decrease battery life. To improve battery life, identify and close programs that are not in use. On Windows, the Settings app can be used to locate energy-consuming programs.
To view a list of apps that are consuming the most power on Windows 10, search for “See which apps are affecting your battery life” in the search bar. In Windows 11, this list can be found under the Power & Battery settings pane in the Battery Usage section. If you notice an app that is not frequently used consuming a large amount of power, close it. These apps are usually those that have been opened in the background and forgotten, such as Spotify or Adobe Reader.
To view a list of processes that start automatically when Windows starts, search for “See which processes start up automatically when you start Windows” in the search bar, or open the Task Manager app. In the Startup tab, you can see all the utilities that run as soon as the PC is turned on. Any items with names like “Download Assistant” or “Helper” are usually safe to disable. For example, unless you often open Spotify playlists, tracks, or albums from links in a web browser, you can disable the Spotify Web Helper.
In macOS, to remove unnecessary apps from running in the background when the Mac starts, search for Users & Groups, then click the Login Items tab to view a list of apps that are set to run in the background.
Modify Graphics and Display Configuration
If your laptop is equipped with a powerful graphics processor (a discrete GPU), you can optimize the use of the GPU by allocating it only for games or other graphics-intensive apps, while all other apps can use the more efficient on-CPU silicon for graphics processing. On Windows 11, you can adjust the graphics processor used by each app or let Windows automatically decide the best option, by navigating to Settings > System > Display > Graphics. Note that this option may not be available on all Windows 11 laptops with dedicated GPUs.
On a Mac, you can accomplish a similar task by opening the Battery preferences pane as previously discussed, and ensuring that the “Automatic graphics switching” option is selected, as shown in the screenshot from macOS Big Sur. Unlike Windows 11, Mac does not provide the same level of control over each program, so you will have to trust macOS’s decision on which app should use which graphics accelerator.
Pay Attention to Airflow
Current laptops are equipped with lithium-polymer batteries that require minimal maintenance compared to batteries from the past. This is due to advancements in software and firmware, as well as the battery technology itself. There is no need to frequently perform a full discharge to calibrate the battery, and draining the battery completely will not harm the laptop.
To ensure the longevity of your laptop’s battery, it is important to avoid overheating. Blockages in ventilation ports and grilles, such as dust buildup or using the laptop on soft surfaces like pillows or blankets, can impede airflow and retain heat, hastening the battery’s deterioration. To prevent this, clean the laptop’s vents and fan regularly and use compressed air to remove dust buildup. Additionally, use the laptop only on firm surfaces, such as a table or desk, that won’t block airflow or cooling.
Regularly Check the Condition of Your Battery
It is important to keep in mind that all batteries will eventually lose their ability to hold a charge, and will need to be replaced. Regularly checking the health of the battery can help you stay aware of when it may need to be replaced.
To check the status of your battery on an Apple MacBook laptop, hold down the Option key and click the battery icon in the menu bar. If you see a message such as “Replace Now” or “Service Battery,” it is an indication that your battery is no longer performing at its original capacity and may need to be replaced.
To get a more detailed understanding of how much your battery has been used, you can check the number of charging cycles it has gone through. To do this, open the System Information app and navigate to the Power tab. Compare the cycle count value to the maximum rating listed by Apple to determine the remaining life of your battery.
To check the health of your battery on a Windows 10 or Windows 11 device, you will need to use the command prompt. You can follow a guide on how to generate a Windows battery report to check the status of your battery.
Check the Battery Management Configuration
Recent laptops are equipped with advanced battery management features that can track the temperature history and charging patterns of the battery. These laptops can use this data to adjust the charging level to below 100% if the battery is not frequently used. This can help prolong the battery’s life by reducing the number of charging cycles it goes through.
While monitoring battery usage is beneficial, some users may prefer to charge the battery to its maximum capacity. Many laptop manufacturers offer the option to disable the battery management software. On an Intel-powered MacBook running macOS 10.5.5 or later, you can go to System Preferences in the Apple menu, then select Battery > Battery Health, deselect the “Manage battery longevity” option, and click OK. However, it’s worth noting that Macs with Apple Silicon have permanently enabled battery management.