Tech Tuesday #6: Battery Basics

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TechTuesdays from Charland Technology

Nadine from Leominster asks, “Should I keep my laptop plugged in or let the battery discharge?”

Laptop batteries have come a long way from the old Ni-Cad batteries of the 1990’s, and (for the most) part Nickel-Metal-Hydride batteries from the early 2000’s.

There are a lot of myths about how to best maintain your laptop and battery. There are also a lot of “best practices” that are not feasible in real life. The average laptop battery lasts about 3 years. This varies widely depending on how you treat the battery.

First Key point: Laptop batteries HATE HEAT. Their ideal storage temperature is ZERO. As in freezing. Every degree above freezing shortens the lifespan of the battery. So use your laptop on a desk, on a table, on a hard surface, or one of those laptop coolers that I always used to make fun of.

Similarly, tossing a running laptop into an insulated bag is not so helpful. Let it get into suspend or hibernate first.

Second key point: Laptop batteries are damaged by full discharge. Which means, turn it off BFORE the battery is completely dead and it shuts down.


Third key point: Laptop batteries have a finite life. That means that the chemicals inside the battfery degrade each time the system is discharged and recharged. So while there’s no “memory effect” per se…a partial discharge of the battery has the same effect as a full discharge. So it makes sense to charge the battery fully, unplug, and discharge it to 5-10% left then do a full charge.

Fourth key point: Today’s laptops are smart. Use the power features. They can shut down the DVD (if there is one), reduce brightness, slow down the processor, and take many other measures…simultaneously reducing power consumption (giving you more time per charge) and heat (giving you more charges per battery).

It can be helpful to remove your laptop battery when running for long periods of time on AC power. This can reduce the battery’s exposure to heat and cut the number of unnecessary cycles.

Got questions? Send them to CharlandTech via Facebook, post as a comment on this article, Tweet ‘em to @gregc00 or @CharlandTech, or find another creative way to get them to us.


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