The autonomy of an electronic product is a highly valued section in an era of mobility where we use a large number of devices anywhere and we cannot afford to be “tied to a plug”, which, moreover, is not always available in all use sites. The autonomy of smartphones has been debated for a long time and the same can be said of laptops, the best sellers among the large group of PCs.
The situation has (relatively) improved in recent years. The improvement of battery capacity and efficiency of the latest generations of laptops; the use of low voltage processors; solid state drives for storage; the new low power states or the improvement of the energy management of the latest operating systems, has made it possible to achieve the dream of obtaining “autonomy for a whole day of work” without having to use additional batteries or connect them to power networks.
Although integrated batteries have ended up imposing themselves on all products, complicating its replacement by the user, PC manufacturers are paying special attention to the autonomy section of their mobile devices, aware of its importance. Especially for mobility professionals, but in general for any user. There are devices specially prepared for this, such as ultraportables, Chromebooks or others that, based on low-consumption ARMs, can offer 12, 14 and up to 16 hours of autonomy.
How to improve the autonomy of a laptop
In addition to specialized hardware and software work, it is also important that the user himself practices a minimum maintenance of his equipment in a few simple steps that can make a difference in preserving and prolonging autonomy. We remind you of them in case you need them, and I’m sure it will because ‘Murphy’s Law’ is usually fulfilled here: how much more you need it is when you run out of battery.
– Battery status. The battery is obviously the most important component in this matter and before trying to maximize its power, the first thing is to determine its condition. There are free tools that can verify it, offering information on its charge and recharge cycles, its capacity, temperature, age or voltage.
– Battery maintenance. The battery is a consumable material that we will have to replace at some point, but good maintenance can help improve its useful life before it penalizes our autonomy. One of the fundamental steps is its calibration, a function that resets the load indicator so that it shows the values correctly.
– Power saving options. As important as having an energy store in good condition is controlling its consumption. All major operating systems offer ‘Power Options’ which allow you to configure a number of parameters to manage how a laptop uses this power. There are special low power modes that save a lot of consumption and allow you to increase autonomy when necessary.
– Screen. As in other devices such as smartphones, this component is -by far- the one that consumes the most in a laptop. Decreasing its brightness and/or contrast level through the ‘Display’ options of the operating system control panels or from the physical buttons on the keyboard that many of them include is a direct and forceful way to increase autonomy.
– Networks and connectivity. Radio modules are one of the components that consume energy permanently. In such a connected world it will be difficult to do without these options, but if at any given time you don’t need to connect to the Internet, activating “airplane mode” can give you extra power to complete an urgent job. Another module that can be disabled to save battery life is the Bluetooth module. Related to the previous one, although done via software, occasionally turning off services such as network discovery or file and printer sharing is another measure to save energy.
– CPU and GPU. There are portable computers such as those for games that are focused -in general- on replacing desktop machines and therefore always using them plugged in. But many users allocate our laptops to various uses and when it is not necessary and we are working on the move, we can manage that the processor works at the minimum frequency or that the graphics subsystem uses the integrated one and not the dedicated one. An example of management is offered by the NVIDIA Optimus function that allows you to run one or another GPU depending on the task to be performed.
– Peripherals and drives. Do not leave SD memory cards or USB flash drives inserted in their locations beyond their use. They will increase consumption and reduce autonomy. Same for other media. Connected network drives or discs in optical drives such as DVDs also consume, so it is worth removing them when not in use.
– “Turn off the lights”. Dimming or turning off the keyboard backlight is another method of saving power. You should also disable the screen saver. After adjusting the power saving to default settings, the screen will turn off so there is no need to activate that saver that keeps consuming power.
– Other connections. It is also advisable to block incoming connections to prevent certain applications from ‘waking up’ the computer and running in the background consuming battery power. Pausing backup and synchronization services are important tasks and it is worth thinking about when we can do without them, but it can temporarily free us from another part of energy.
– Monitor your laptop. Some runaway processes can drastically reduce battery life. We can see them in the task manager and in the resource monitor of the advanced tools of the control panel of systems such as Windows. Usage details like using pre-downloads instead of streaming is key. The consumption of multimedia content through streaming is brutal and will drain the battery quickly. If you plan to view videos, it is better to download them beforehand if you have the chance.
And enjoy your team… The above maintenance and care will improve autonomy and lengthen the useful life of the battery, but they will not work “miracles”. The battery is a consumable material that does not last forever. It has a limited number of charges and recharges and there will come a time when its useful life will end or its efficiency will be so low that there will be no choice but to change it. Take advantage of the capabilities of your laptop in mobility and when the day comes, you will have to buy a battery to guarantee the capacity, efficiency and safety of use.